Federal political committees, campaigns lost $2.7M to theft, fraud in last cycle: report

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Thieves stole at least $2.7 million from political committees and $71,000 from then-candidate Joe Biden’s campaign in 2020, according to a Business Insider analysis of federal disclosure records.

The disclosures indicated that an “external actor” spent $6,000 at a Philadelphia interior design company on a campaign bank card without authorization. They also showed nearly $65,000 was “misdirected” from a vendor to an “unknown account” in June as a result of “fraudulent activity,” according to the publication.

Numerous political committees told the publication they had responded to thefts by strengthening financial security protocols, but experts told Business Insider there were further steps the institutions could take but have yet to implement.

“The lack of internal financial controls at campaign committees has been a problem for a long time,” Brett Kappel, an election law and ethics attorney for Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg LLP, told the outlet.

A White House representative told Insider that on one occasion someone gained access to a campaign vendor’s email account and then emailed the Biden campaign with a false account number. As a result, the Biden campaign paid the thief when it tried to pay an invoice from the vendor in June.

“This is an example of an unfortunately common business-email compromise,” the White House representative told the publication. “The campaign put in place additional protections to prevent a recurrence.”

Former Rep. Doug Collins’s (R-Ga.) 2020 Senate campaign encountered similar fraud, costing it more than $15,200. Campaign manager Scott Paradise said his committee immediately tipped off the bank and law enforcement over the theft, but much of the money was never recovered.

Insider noted that $13,500 was also embezzled from the Lafayette County, Miss., Democratic Party in 2019, with the outlet reporting that party treasurer Hunter Davis Pace was suspected in the matter, removed that August and arrested in October 2019 on “fugitive from justice” charges.

In another incident in late October, the Wisconsin Republican Party reported that $2.3 million was stolen by hackers.

“Cybercriminals, using a sophisticated phishing attack, stole funds intended for the re-election of President Trump, altered invoices and committed wire fraud,” Wisconsin GOP Chairman Andrew Hitt said in a statement provided to The Hill at the time. “These criminals exhibited a level of familiarity with state party operations at the end of the campaign to commit this crime.”

Around the same time, The Wall Street Journal reported hackers had published numerous stolen election-related documents from Hall County, Ga., in an attempt to force election officials to pay a ransom.

Tags campaign account cyber crime Cybercrime Donald Trump Doug Collins Federal Election Commission Joe Biden Phishing

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