Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the 2013 Republican nominee for governor, is celebrating a court victory over a PAC that raised money using his name without his permission.
In a signed settlement dated May 20th, the Conservative Strike Force PAC (CSF) has agreed to pay the Cuccinelli campaign $85,000 and turn over ownership of its mail and email donor list.
Cuccinelli lost the race for governor of Virginia to Democrat Terry McAuliffe 48 percent to 46 percent in November 2013.
In a complaint filed in Federal Court in September, Cuccinelli’s attorneys argued that: “Over a period of several months leading up to the Virginia gubernatorial election on November 5, 2013, the Defendants in this case engaged in a national fundraising scam aimed at small donors supportive of Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign.”
According to the complaint, “In this scheme, Defendants explicitly promised donors that all money donated in response to Defendants’ solicitations would either be contributed by Defendants directly to the Cuccinelli campaign or spent by Defendants as independent expenditures in support of the Cuccinelli campaign. “
“Upon information and belief,” the complaint continued, “a substantial proportion of the approximately $2.2 million that Defendants raised through political fundraising in 2013 was directly attributable to solicitations invoking Ken Cuccinelli, as Virginia’s gubernatorial election was the marquee contested race of American politics in 2013.”
In an exclusive interview, Cuccinelli tells Breitbart News he never authorized Conservative Strike Force to use his name in the solicitation of donations.
“They raised $430,000 [from July to November of 2013] … from many email messages, 300 pages of which we got in discovery, in which they were very explicit, including saying that all of your donations will go for Ken Cuccinelli,” Cuccinelli tells Breitbart News.
Cuccinelli notes that the CSF ultimately donated $10,000 to the his campaign, but “the only reason that $10,000 got to us . . . is that one of their email solicitations was sent to one of our donors who recognized the name of the defendant who signed the solicitation, that donor then called up the defendant directly and asked that CSF contribute to a fundraiser for my campaign.”
“After election day they sent an email out to their donor list, saying CSF donated over $15,000 to Ken, did all these things for his campaign, just preening for their donors. None of it was true,” Cuccinelli says.
“We were nothing but a vehicle for them,” Cuccinelli says. “They tricked some people who thought they were donating to me.”
Initially, Cuccinelli tells Breitbart News, his team approached the CSF and asked them to open their books. They refused to do so.
That’s when, in September 2014, the Cuccinelli campaign filed a lawsuit against the CSF and key members of its management team, alleging false advertising and violations of the Lanham Act, a federal statute, as well as the Virginia False Advertising Statute.
“Defendants, however, have admitted that they did not use the money raised invoking Ken Cuccinelli to actually aid the Cuccinelli campaign, either through direct contributions to the campaign or through independent expenditures in support of the campaign, other than a single $10,000 contribution to the campaign on October 4, 2013—which amounted to less than one-half of 1% of the approximately $2.2 million that Defendants raised in 2013,” the complaint alleged.
“Instead,” the complaint continued, “Defendants used the balance of the money so raised to enrich themselves. In short, Defendants’ political fundraising in 2013 invoking Ken Cuccinelli was not a means to the legitimate end of supporting the Cuccinelli campaign, but rather was an illegitimate end in itself, with the Virginia gubernatorial election merely serving as ‘cover’ for Defendants to prey on unsuspecting small donors across the country.”
In the complaint, Cuccinelli presented a copy of an email sent out by CSF on July 30, 2013:
Conservative superstar Ken Cuccinelli is in real trouble in his race to be Virginia’s governor.
Money is pouring into his opponent, Terry McAuliffe’s campaign at an unbelievable pace. He just unleashed a new negative ad against Ken. This conservative hero needs your help NOW!
Please make an urgent contribution of $25, $30, $50, $100, $250, or more to help elect Ken Cuccinelli.
* * *
Please, please help Ken by making the most generous contribution vou possibly can today. This is urgent.
* * *
Without the help of independent conservative groups like Conservative StrikeForce, Ken Cuccinelli could be outspent by over two to one by McAuliffe!
* * *
McAuliffe and his liberal allies have more money for hate ads than they know what to do with.
That’s why I am begging vou to please make vour very best donation to Conservative Strike Force to help elect Ken Cuccinelli today.
We MUST come to Ken’s aid if he’s going to stand a chance in this race. He’s already falling behind, and we have to help him get back in the fight before it’s too late.
Ken has no chance without the help of independent grassroots conservative groups. NONE.
We must pay for phone banks, get-out-the-vote programs, mailings, rallies – whatever it takes.
Please donate whatever vou can right now. Ken Cuccinelli needs vou!
But CSF failed to deliver any of the promised support to the Cuccinelli campaign.
“Contrary to the representation contained in the 7/30 email, Conservative StrikeForce [CSF] never paid for any ‘phone banks, get-out-the-vote programs, mailings, [or] rallies’ to support the Cuccinelli campaign,” the complaint read.
In addition to CSF, “an unincorporated association operated and controlled by Defendant Strategic Campaign Group,” according to the complaint, Dennis Whitfield, chairman of CSF, and Scott Mackenzie, treasurer of CSF, were named as individual defendants in the law suit. Two additional individuals associated with CSF, Kelley Rogers and Chip O’Neil, were also named as defendants.
According to its website, CSF was created in 2009 by a small group of devoted conservatives who wanted a way to effectively support candidates by motivating like-minded voters at the grassroots level.
The chairman of CSF, Dennis Whitfield, has a respectable conservative pedigree. According to the website, “Mr. Whitfield served as the executive vice-president of the American Conservative Union from 2008-2011. Before ACU, he served as the senior vice president for the National Federation of Independent Business from 1998-2002. Prior to NFIB, Mr. Whitfield was the former deputy secretary of labor under President Ronald Reagan from 1985-1989.”
The website also states that “Conservative StrikeForce [CSF] is advised on compliance matters by the leading authority on election law matters, E. Mark Braden of the law firm of Baker Hostetler.”
Baker Hostetler is a high powered Washington, D.C. based law firm co-founded in 1916 by Newton D. Baker, who soon after the firm’s founding took a leave of absence to become Woodrow Wilson’s Secretary of War during World War I. Its representation of CSF in the settlement agreement with the Cuccinelli campaign was handled by Elizabeth A. Scully, a partner based in the Washington, D.C. office.
With this settlement CSF is, in effect, out of business.
Breitbart News attempted to reach Dennis Whitfield, chairman of CSF, for comment, but has not yet received a response.