FBI Raids GOP Consultant Organization Accused of Being a ‘Scam PAC’

Federal agents exit the back of an office building after the FBI served a search warrant at the office of Strategic Campaign Group on Thursday, May 11, 2017, in Annapolis, Md. (MATTHEW COLE/THE BALTIMORE SUN VIA AP)
Matthew Cole/The Baltimore Sun via AP
WARNER TODD HUSTON
Annapolis, MD

The Maryland offices of a Republican political action committee and fundraising outfit accused of being a “Scam PAC” was the subject of an FBI raid on Thursday.

On May 11, the FBI served a search warrant on the Strategic Campaign Group’s Annapolis office. The fundraising group has raised millions for political candidates and causes, according to WBAL TV 11 of Baltimore.

Founded in 2008 by consultant Kelly Rogers, the PAC has been involved in fundraising for such groups as The Conservative Strikeforce, Tea Party Majority Fund, and Conservative Majority Fund, among others. Many of these groups share the same treasurer, Scott Mackenzie.

In 2013, the group ran afoul of Republican Ken Cuccinelli who was running for Governor of Virginia at the time. Cuccinelli sued the PAC claiming that Strategic Campaign Group raised up to $2.2 million during the 2013 campaign but failed to follow through with promises to spend the money on a media campaign for his election.

“It was my hope when we brought our lawsuit to cast light on the dark practices of scam PACs. I think we did that successfully,” Cuccinelli said in a statement reported by the Baltimore Sun. “Any cleaning up of these practices would be good for our political system.”

For his part, Rogers insisted that Cuccinelli’s lawsuit was “frivolous.”

Rogers told the media that he settled the lawsuit and also volunteered that his firm raised $300,000 for the 2013 campaign and donated $10,000 to Cuccinelli.

“I feel like we did everything in our power,” Rogers said of the Cuccinelli campaign. “Had he been a better candidate, I think we could have done better.”

But according to the Annapolis Capital Gazette, Thursday’s raid may be connected to Cuccinelli’s case against the fundraising firm.

Cuccinelli is not the only Republican to criticize Rogers’ organization. Others have also called the PAC a fundraising scam operation.

In 2015, Politico described the efforts of Scott Mackenzie — treasurer of many of the organizations Strategic Campaign Group is linked to — as work that “will not provide a good return on investment.” At the time, Politico claimed that the fundraising spearheaded by Mackenzie spent up to 92 percent of donations on operating expenses but less than 1 percent on donations to candidates or advocacy ads.

Another of the PACS funded by Rogers’ group is Conservative Strikeforce, a group founded in 2008. The Conservative Strikeforce described itself as an organization “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.”

But after raising $12 million, critics say that the Strikeforce only gave a small amount to causes and candidates but spent over $8 million on efforts to raise more cash, The Hill reported.

In another case, the Conservative Majority Fund, which also listed Mackenzie as its treasurer, raised $8.4 million but paid $7 million to an information management and call-center company and gave only about $13,000 to candidates and causes.

Other such accusations of curious spending abound against the dozen or so PACS fronted by Mackenzie and Rogers. But so far, the PAC has not been convicted of any wrongdoing.

The FBI said the raid on Strategic Campaign Group was coordinated out of the Bureau’s Washington D.C. field office which usually only handles cases in D.C. and Northern Virginia. FBI spokeswoman Lindsay Ram did not explain why the D.C. office was handling the case but noted that sometimes offices cross over into areas controlled by other field offices. Ram also declined to elaborate on what the warrant was for.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston, or email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com.

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