Whittemore Trial Starts With Opening Statements

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RENO, Nev. (AP) - The trial for an ex-Nevada developer and once-powerful lobbyist accused of breaking campaign finance laws opened Wednesday with lawyers arguing whether there were any strings attached to money Harvey Whittemore gave his employees while suggesting they contribute to Sen. Harry Reid.

Prosecutors said Whittemore wrote checks up to $10,000 only to workers at his Nevada Wingfield Group that he knew would not refuse the request partly because most were dependent on the multi-millionaire for their livelihood.

But defense lawyer Dominic Gentile said it's not a question of whether they would refuse, but whether they could.

He agreed Whittemore probably sought out people who wouldn't say "no" and anticipated most would end up helping Reid. But he says they did so voluntarily and never feared for their jobs if they didn't.