Cyberthieves stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the campaign committee of U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), and the FBI is investigating, according to a federal document reviewed by Raw Story.
It's the latest in a series of thefts from the political accounts of prominent politicians, party committees, trade associations and advocacy groups representing all points across the political spectrum. Together, the money lost early in this decade has already soared into the millions of dollars.
In a letter to the Federal Election Commission dated Dec. 8, Moran for Kansas campaign treasurer Timothy E. Gottschalk told federal regulators that the campaign received — and paid — two pricey invoices that appeared to come from a campaign vendor.
But the invoices, which totaled $690,000, were actually fraudulent, Gottschalk said. Moran's campaign has yet to recoup most of the money it ultimately lost, he wrote.
Moran's campaign reported the incident to the Republic County Sheriff's Office in Kansas on Nov. 16, and from there, "the case was transferred to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is currently being investigated," Gottschalk continued.
So far, the Moran campaign has recovered $168,184.03 of the lost campaign funds, Moran's campaign treasurer told FEC officials.
Reached by phone Friday, Gottschalk referred questions to the Moran for Kansas committee, which confirmed the theft occurred.
"Cybercriminals targeted the accounting firm employed by Moran For Kansas and money was wired to fraudulent bank accounts," Moran for Kansas spokesman Tom Brandt said in an email. "As soon as a discrepancy was realized, it was reported to law enforcement. We are currently pursuing all avenues available to recover the money and there is an ongoing investigation with the FBI. The campaign also consulted with the FEC on how to transparently report the unauthorized expenditures."
Asked what steps the Moran for Kansas committee had taken to defend against future theft attempts, Brandt said that "due to the ongoing investigation with the FBI, we have no further comment at this time."
Republic County Sheriff's Office representative Beth Ball referred Raw Story's questions about the Moran campaign theft to the FBI, which did not respond to a request for comment.
As of late November, the Moran campaign reported having about $3.4 million cash on hand and just under $48,000 in debt, according to FEC records.
A member of the U.S. Senate since 2011, Moran served last session on the Senate Appropriations Committee, where he's earned a reputation as a fiscal hawk who, in his own words, wants government to enact "spending cuts, tougher funding standards and broad reform."
Moran also served in the U.S. House from 1997 to 2011 and is a former chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the GOP's Senate-focused party fundraising committee.
Joining Moran among the federal-level politicians to experience thefts from their campaign accounts in recent years is President Joe Biden, whose 2020 Democratic presidential campaign committee lost at least $71,000.
The Republican National Committee, Rep. Diana Harshbarger (R-TN), former Democratic presidential candidate and congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and rapper-turned-2020 presidential candidate Ye, formerly Kanye West, are among others who reported money stolen from their political accounts.
Meanwhile, the political action committees of Google, National Association of Manufacturers, Consumer Technology Association, National Association of Home Builders, National Air Traffic Controllers Association, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, MoveOn.org, and law firms Akerman LLP and Blank Rome LLP have also experienced theft of various kinds, be it cyber theft, forgeries or check tampering, according to Insider.
The FEC, spokesman Christian Hilland said, has instituted a "safe harbor" provision that encourages political committees to establish "internal controls" that help "prevent misappropriations and associated misreporting" of their campaign finance accounting.
Per the FEC's "safe harbor" provision, the commission "does not intend to seek civil penalties against a political committee for filing incorrect reports due to the misappropriation of committee funds if the committee has the specified safeguards in place.”