You can buy a lot of khakis for $12,200.
That's how much money State Farm Insurance's federal political action committee lost in January to "unknown" thieves, according to a letter the company's PAC sent Wednesday to the Federal Election Commission and reviewed by Raw Story.
It's the latest in a string of high-profile and costly thefts from federal political committees, which together have lost millions of dollars in recent years to cyber criminals and other fraudsters who've found such committees to be easy targets.
The thieves that struck the State Farm Federal PAC "created, forged and cashed three fictitious PAC checks," which the PAC said it did not discover until mid-February.
"The Committee discovered this fraudulent activity while completing the monthly bank reconciliation process," State Farm Federal PAC wrote to the FEC, which regulates and enforces the nation's campaign finance laws. "Immediately upon realizing what had transpired, the Committee contacted its bank, J.P. Morgan Chase, on 2/14/2023. The Committee reported the fraud, acted to prevent further fraud from occurring, and has attempted to recover the money lost."
Federal records indicate that three individuals cashed the bogus State Farm Federal PAC checks, although the PAC itself indicated it's not certain the people named on the checks are responsible.
"Research indicates those named recipients on the checks are various college-aged individuals with no apparent ties to a campaign or committee, and are possibly identity theft victims themselves," State Farm Federal PAC told the FEC.
A representative for State Farm, as well as the people listed in State Farm's disbursement report, could not immediately be reached for comment.
At the time of the thefts, the State Farm Federal PAC said it did not have in place a "positive pay" system to deter check fraud. Such a system, used by financial institutions, flags suspicious checks for further review — often at a small cost to the check issuer.
"The Committee immediately took steps to set up a Positive Pay system," State Farm Federal PAC wrote the FEC, noting the system went into place on March 2. "During the interim between when the fraud was discovered and Positive Pay was put in place, daily monitoring of the PAC checking account occurred to identify and prevent additional fraud."
And while some political committees that find themselves victims of fraud are able to recoup lost money, State Farm Insurance PAC has not — yet.
"Chase Bank has opened an investigation into this matter, which may take as long as six months to resolve," the PAC told the FEC. "However, based on the facts of this case and those of similar situations, the money may eventually be refunded to the PAC."
The State Farm Federal PAC reported $493,093 cash on hand as of January 31, according to federal records. During the 2021-2022 election cycle, the PAC donated to Republicans and Democrats almost evenly, spreading $429,000 among dozens of congressional candidates, according to nonpartisan research organization OpenSecrets.
State Farm is the nation's largest property and casualty insurance company, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
Its advertisements, featuring khaki pants-wearing "Jake from State Farm" and parade of A-list athletes including Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, have for years been omnipresent on Americans' television and device screens.
Epidemic of political committee fraud
Raw Story in recent weeks has identified several current and former Republican members of Congress who’ve been victimized by fraudsters in what’s fast becoming open season on politicians’ campaign accounts.
Money losers include Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas ($690,000), Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas ($157,626), former Rep. John Katko of New York ($14,000), Rep. Neal Dunn of Florida ($10,855), Rep. Russell Fry of South Carolina ($2,607.98) and Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida ($362.04).
The Republican National Committee and Rep. Diana Harshbarger (R-TN) also experienced recent campaign cash thefts.
The problem isn’t unique to Republicans, either: President Joe Biden’s 2020 Democratic presidential campaign committee lost at least $71,000.
One-time 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.
And late Wednesday, after initial publication of this article, the federal PAC of McKesson Corporation, a pharmaceutical and medical supplies company, informed the FEC that it, too, had fallen victim to someone who "created, forged and cashed a fictitious PAC check for $12,000" on Nov. 7.
The McKesson Company Employees Political Fund notified its bank "immediately upon discovery of the fraudulent activity" and attempted to secure return of the lost funds.
"To date," the committee added, "the bank has not returned the stolen funds."