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Stolen checks, fraudulent activity: three major trade association PACs fell victim to theft in what's become a political epidemic

cyber theft
  • The PACS of three trade associations each reported tens of thousands of dollars in stolen funds.
  • Dozens of candidates and committees have fallen victim in recent years to fraudulent disbursements and theft.
  • Victims include the 2020 presidential campaigns of Joe Biden and Kanye West, now known as Ye.

The political action committees of three major trade associations each reported falling victim to stolen checks and fraudulent bank activity this election cycle, according to an Insider analysis of Federal Election Commission records.

An Insider review of FEC filings shows that the National Association of Manufacturers' PAC reported eight instances of stolen and fraudulent checks and bank transfers, amounting to more than $10,000 in losses.

A separate filing from NAM-PAC notes that it "notified its bank and law enforcement of this fraudulent activity." The PAC added that some of the funds have since been recovered and others are still in the process of being rectified.

NAM officials did not respond to Insider's request for comment.

According to NAM's website, the trade association represents more than 14,000 companies or more than half of all Fortune 500 manufacturers. Its leadership includes executives from pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, chemical manufacturer Dow Inc., oil company ExxonMobil, and construction vehicle leader Caterpillar Inc.

NAM-PAC contributed $392,500 to federal candidates this election cycle, according to OpenSecrets, the majority of which went to Republican candidates for the US House and US Senate, however, the group did donate to some Democrats, including Reps. Abigail Spanberger and Josh Gottheimer.

NAM PAC filing
A filing with the FEC from NAM-PAC explaining how it fell victim to thieves.

Another trade association, the National Association of Home Builders, reported three instances of "fraudulent debit" during the 2021-2022 election cycle, amounting to more than $20,000 in lost funds. According to a filing with the FEC, the PAC filed a claim with Bank of America in October over the fraudulent transactions but has yet to be refunded. 

National Association of Home Builders
A filing with the FEC from the PAC of the National Association of Home Builders that details money lost from fraudulent disbursements.

The National Association of Home Builders represents more than 140,000 members who construct close to 80% of all the new homes built in the US, per the association's website.

OpenSecrets data shows that the National Association of Home Builders donated more than $1.2 million to federal candidates this election cycle, with more than three-quarters of this spending benefitting GOP candidates such as House Republican leaders Reps. Elise Stefanik and Steve Scalise, in addition to supporting failed US Senate candidates Mehmet Oz and Blake Masters.

The National Association of Home Builders did not respond to Insider's request for comment.

Meanwhile, the Consumer Technology Association, whose member companies constitute about 10% of Fortune 500 companies — including Netflix, Adobe, and Alphabet — reported more than two-dozen instances of theft from its PAC this election cycle.

Total loss: $36,743.22.

According to a filing with the FEC, the malicious activity was the result of an "unknown individual" who "created, forged and cashed six fictitious PAC checks totaling $25,673.12 and initiated 20 fraudulent ACH debits totaling $11,070.10."

After reporting the fraudulent disbursements to Truist Bank, FEC filings indicate the committee was able to recover the more than $36,000 of illicit spending.

The PAC of the Consumer Technology Association spent more than $175,000 supporting federal candidates this election cycle, OpenSecrets records show, with just over half going to Democratic Senate and House candidates like Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Rep. Eric Swalwell.

Michael Perticone, the PAC's treasurer, did not respond to Insider's request for comment.

Epidemic of political theft

It's not entirely uncommon for political action committees to report misappropriated and stolen funds to the FEC — Rep. Diana Harshbarger, a GOP congresswoman from Tennessee, for example, reported this election cycle that her campaign lost close to $186,000 to a cyber thief. 

Presidential campaigns, such as those of President Joe Biden and Ye (formerly Kanye West), have also fallen prey to scammers and thieves in recent years, as well.

James E. Lee, the chief operating officer of the Identity Theft Resource Center, told Insider in a statement that campaigns are especially susceptible and enticing to cybercriminals as they "often lack the training, awareness, and tools to fight against the well-organized, highly skilled, and relentless cybercrime groups that specialize in phishing

"Campaigns also have two things that financially motivated identity criminals want – cash and the personal information of donors," Lee added. "Nation/state threat actors may also be interested in the donor information, depending on the candidate and office the candidate is seeking."

The FEC declined to comment on the filings of any specific committee or candidate but pointed Insider to its policies on misappropriated funds. The commission has a "safe harbor" policy in place that, as long as committees follow a series of protective regulations, grants them general amnesty from facing civil penalties for any misappropriated funds.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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