- A GOP super PAC lost more than $158,000 in an email hack, filings with the FEC indicate.
- The PAC, Secure Our Freedom Action Fund, is run by two former high-ranking NRA executives.
- Dozens of political committees have been victims of theft — most recently, the campaign of Rep. Diana Harshbarger, a Republican from Tennessee.
A conservative super PAC run by former National Rifle Association executives lost more than $158,000 in an email hack, records filed with the Federal Election Commission indicate.
In a letter to the FEC, Secure Our Freedom Action Fund’s treasurer, Colleen Nunnelee, explained that a hacker in June compromised the email account of a “principal” at the super PAC.
After obtaining access to the email account, she said the hacker impersonated the principal, sending two invoices to the committee’s accounting personnel.
Secure Our Freedom Action Fund is led by Chris Cox, who served as the executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, the NRA’s political and lobbying arm, and David Lehman, who was the chief counsel for the NRA-ILA, according to Politico.
Unaware of the breached account, Nunnelee wrote that the committee’s accountants ultimately approved the two invoices and sent two wire payments, which were worth more than $158,000 combined.
Since discovering the hack and accounting mistakes, Nunnelee reported that the committee has since recovered the value of one of the wire transfers, or about $87,000. The other disbursement — worth just over $70,000 — is “still under review by the receiving financial institution to determine whether it is recoverable,” she wrote to FEC officials.
Jessica Furst Johnson, counsel for Secure Our Freedom Action Fund, told Insider in a statement that after discovering the fraud, “the Fund immediately reported the theft to law enforcement, implemented additional, enhanced security protocols to prevent future cyberattacks and worked tirelessly with the banks involved to recover the stolen funds.”
Johnson confirmed that the “majority” of the funds have been recovered as the PAC continues to try and obtain the rest of the stolen money and that despite the cyberattack, the committee was still “able to fully deploy the resources budgeted to carry out its mission.”
She said the committee hopes “this serves as a warning to other PACs – regardless of political affiliation – to recognize the prevalence of these threats and prepare accordingly.”
Big player in two GOP primaries
The Secure Our Freedom Action Fund ultimately spent almost $1.1 million to advocate for or against candidates during the Republican primary phase of Election 2022, according to nonpartisan research organization OpenSecrets.
This includes more than $410,000 to support of failed Senate candidate and current Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri and $198,000 to back Katie Britt’s successful US Senate campaign in Alabama. The PAC also spent more than $500,000 in opposition to current Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who defeated Hartzler in Missouri’s Republican primary for the US Senate.
Dozens of federal political committees have lost money through theft since 2020, according to an Insider analysis of federal campaign finance records. The political action committees of three large trade associations reported stolen checks and fraudulent activity this election cycle as well.
Rep. Diana Harshbarger, a Republican from Tennessee, recently reported that her campaign had more than $186,000 stolen earlier this year.
And Kanye 2020, the former campaign committee for the failed presidential campaign of Ye — formerly Kanye West — has also reported stolen funds on several occasions.
The FEC declined to comment on any individual case, but pointed Insider to its online documentation of its rules on misappropriated funds, which includes a “safe harbor” policy to protect committees from civil penalty in the event of misallocated funds as long as they follow a series of regulations.
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