FBI raids office of GOP consulting firm in Maryland


The FBI has raided the Annapolis office of Strategic Campaign Group, a Republican fundraising and campaign consulting firm in Maryland, according to a local news outlet.

The firm, founded during the 2008 election cycle, has represented Republican candidates around the country. While the firm is based in Annapolis, Md., the investigation is being run out of Washington.

Founder Kelley Rogers credits himself with leading the charge in using technology in political campaigns, including holding allowing candidates and lawmakers to hold “telephone town halls” with constituents.

“Today, Strategic Campaign Group is the largest provider of Telephone Town Hall technology for Republican campaigns and conservative organizations in the United States,” its website says.

WBAL-TV, a local news station, first reported the raid on in the early afternoon on Thursday. A reporter for the television station posted a picture of FBI agents covering windows at the firm with trash bags as they began searching the office. 

It is unclear what the FBI is investigating and what prompted the search warrant.

The firm has worked for Republican candidates for Congress, but has also had clients whose fundraising efforts raised concerns among campaign finance watchdogs. In recent years, those questionable groups began to represent a larger portion of its balance sheet.

Strategic Campaign Group worked for Conservative Strikeforce, which was formed during the 2008 presidential election cycle and lists Scott B. Mackenzie as its treasurer. Dennis Whitfield, a senior advisor at Strategic Campaign Group, is chairman of the political action committee (PAC). 

Whitfield has held many senior roles in Washington, including serving as executive vice president of the American Conservative Union (ACU), senior vice president at the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), and as chief of staff for the U.S. Trade Representative and as deputy secretary of the Labor Department during the Reagan administration.

However, critics labeled the Conservative Strikeforce a “Scam PAC” — a political action committee that raises large sums and spends very little on campaigns, candidates or the causes it espouses. All of that is totally legal, though, as there are no federal guidelines for how unaffiliated PACs ought to spend their war chests.

“At the Conservative StrikeForce PAC we are dedicated to replacing the Obama administration with a strong conservative willing to make the difficult decisions necessary to steer our country in the right direction,” its website declares. The PAC “assists candidates in two ways. We make direct cash contributions and we do independent expenditures on behalf of selected conservative candidates whom we support.”

From 2010 to 2016, Conservative Strikeforce raised $12 million, with only a small circle of firms receiving the cash. Strategic Campaign Group earned $579,000 from the PAC during that time, and the PAC spent more than $8 million on efforts to raise more funds. It gave $320,000 to state and federal candidates over the last seven years.

In 2014, Ken Cuccinelli, who had just waged a campaign for governor in Virginia, slapped the group with a lawsuit. The former Virginia attorney general alleged that it had used his name to fundraise without authorization. The PAC ultimately settled with the Republican politician, including paying $85,000 and handing over its distribution lists.

The Virginia lawsuit said Strategic Campaign Group is a part owner of the PAC, and Federal Election Commission (FEC) records show that the Conservative Strikeforce paid Strategic Campaign Group $10,000 in 2015 for “reimbursement for legal settlement.”

Strategic Campaign Group’s client list also includes a PAC called Conservative Majority Fund, which also lists Mackenzie as a treasurer.

It ran ads during former President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign questioning the authenticity of Obama’s birthplace and perpetuating claims that the president “is not who he says he is.” 

From 2012 to 2016, Conservative Majority Fund raised $8.4 million, and spent more than $3 million on its fundraising efforts during that time, according to records tallied by The Hill. 

It spent roughly $13,000 on donations to campaigns in those four years, and paid the firm Infocision Management more than $7 million, according to both FEC records and the Center for Responsive Politics. Strategic Campaign Group, meanwhile, earned just less than $256,000.

Last November, the PAC donated $5,000 to President Trump’s campaign, but FEC records show the check was returned without being cashed.

CBS News interviewed Mackenzie last year about claims that the committees he manages are murky fundraising vehicles.

Mackenzie told the network that he takes “all the heat for decisions that other people make,” while serving as a treasurer for about two-dozen PACs.

– This story was updated at 5:37 p.m.

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