HARRISBURG — It was late November 2014 when Rob McCord, state treasurer at the time, walked into the office of a Chester County businessman and donor, asked for a cup of coffee — black — and bluntly asked for campaign cash in exchange for help with landing state contracts.
All the while, McCord was secretly recording the conversation.
“Would it be fair for me to ask you for an extra hundred" thousand, McCord asked businessman Richard Ireland, who wanted McCord’s help in getting business with the state’s major retirement fund.
Ireland’s response: “Let’s work on it.” Seconds later, he added, “I’m with you. You’ve been a great friend. I’m with you a hundred percent. And, you know, let’s … like we tell everybody, we’re on Broad Street.”
"Broad Street," according to federal prosecutors, meant a two-way street — as in, you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.
The recording was among several played for a jury Thursday in Ireland’s pay-to-play trial before Judge John E. Jones III in federal court in Harrisburg, where McCord is the prosecution’s star witness.
Prosecutors have charged Ireland, 80, with attempting to bribe McCord, who was secretly cooperating with federal authorities, through campaign contributions as well as a job in the private sector, in exchange for helping him rake in millions of dollars in state business.
McCord, 58, agreed to cooperate after federal prosecutors recorded him trying to shake down campaign donors during his unsuccessful bid for governor in 2014. He resigned his position in early 2015 and pleaded guilty to extortion. He is awaiting sentencing.
Ireland’s lawyer, Reid H. Weingarten, has countered that there was never any quid pro quo between his client and McCord, and has suggested that McCord would say and do anything to save himself from going to jail for his crimes.
On Thursday, prosecutors played a series of recordings McCord agreed to make with Ireland in November and December 2014, during which the two talked about finance, gossiped about politics and politicians. and plotted ways to make money off state government.
“We try to teach the politicians, either put your friends in or the bureaucrats are going to put their friends in,” Ireland told McCord during a Nov. 25, 2014, conversation.
Earlier that day, Ireland told McCord: “Just remember, one good thing about us, we never get a politician in trouble.”
Few big political names were spared in their discussions, at times laced with salty language, as Ireland and McCord boasted of their alleged connections with some of the most prominent names in politics, from former Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, to Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) and Bob Asher, one of the state’s top Republican fund-raisers.
Interlaced in those conversations is talk about state contracts. Prosecutors Michael A. Consiglio and William S. Houser have said Ireland was desperate to get a chunk of the billions of dollars in business at the State Employees Retirement System (SERS), and was hoping McCord, as a member of the board, could help him.
McCord also offered to continue helping Ireland make money off the state Treasury. Among other ventures, Ireland was a middleman of sorts, making millions off helping financial firms gain access to contracts for managing public dollars.
“A little push from you would be a help,” Ireland told McCord in late November in a recorded conversation.
McCord promised to help, and then asked for campaign cash.
“Just don’t worry, relax,” Ireland responded. “We’re not just friends, we’re good friends.”
In a December 2014 conversation, he asked McCord: “Would it help you more … if we put you on the payroll after you left Treasury?”
McCord is expected to return to the stand Friday.