The ongoing investigation of scam PAC-linked practitioners entered a new phase Tuesday when the Department of Justice announced that a longtime treasurer for myriad groups pleaded guilty to a federal charge.
During an appearance before U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady in Alexandria, longtime scam PAC treasurer Scott B. Mackenzie, 66, pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the FEC.
In the court filings, the feds note that Strategic Campaign Group “managed and operated” many of the 52 scam PACs that Mackenzie was treasurer for, including Conservative StrikeForce, Conservative Majority Fund, Tea Party Majority Fund and others. The dates noted in the charging documents run from 2011 to 2018.
On Sept. 17, Strategic Campaign Group President Kelley Rogers pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in relation to a scam PAC operation. He’s set to be sentenced in January.
Unlike previous releases relating to enforcement in the campaign industry — including another sent on Tuesday announcing criminal charges filed against Imaad Shah Zuberi, a Southern California campaign fundraiser — the Justice Department issued no comment in its Tuesday announcement.
Still, it did credit trial attorneys Bill Gullotta and John Taddei of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section (PIN), and former PIN attorney Molly Gaston, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Pedersen of the Eastern District of Virginia for prosecuting the case.
The FBI’s Washington Field Office, which has led the investigation of bad actors in the campaign industry, is investigating the case.
As in the Rogers case, the filings in Mackenzie’s case include reference to an anonymous individual identified as Person A. According to the release, between October 2011 and June 2014, Mackenzie “caused approximately $32,500 in payments to Person A from bank accounts belonging to Conservative StrikeForce, Conservative Majority Fund and Conservative Majority SuperFund.
Mackenzie falsely reported to the FEC that Person A received these payments for work that Person A had purportedly provided to Conservative StrikeForce and Conservative Majority Fund.”
The funds were deposited into a Wells Fargo bank account that Mackenzie shared with Person A, according to the feds. The payments Person A received from Conservative StrikeForce, Conservative Majority Fund and Conservative Majority SuperFund were for services like “consulting-administration,” “clerical services” and “caging and data entry & list maintenance.”
Mackenzie also made false statements to the FEC to conceal the unlawful use of funds raised by Conservative Majority Fund and Tea Party Majority Fund to pay some $172,200 in legal fees that Conservative StrikeForce and SCG incurred from the lawsuit brought by former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
The Republican, who now serves as the acting head of USCIS, sued SCG after Conservative StrikeForce raised $500,000 from donors with the promise of it going to his 2013 gubernatorial campaign, but only $10,000 was forwarded. The PAC, which raised $3.38 million between 2013-2014, and Strategic Campaign Group settled with Cuccinelli for $85,000 and a copy of its donor file.
Like Rogers, Mackenzie also admitted to using straw donors “to make contributions to candidates running for federal public office,” while evading campaign finance limits on individual contributions. In the court filings, the feds say that Mackenzie used Person A to donate to an unnamed candidate for federal office from Utah.
The court filings note that on May 4, 2012, Mackenzie wired $3,000 from a Conservative StrikeForce account to Person A, and state that on the FEC report that money was for “consulting-administration.”
Rather, the money was meant as a contribution to the Utah candidate. On May 5, 2012, Mackenzie “caused a personal check in the amount of $2,500 to be written from Person A’s account to the UT-CC.”
Mackenzie then caused the filing of another false FEC report on May 15, 2012 with Person A identified as contributor of $2,500 to the Utah candidate. FEC records show the straw donation went to Cherilyn Eagar, a candidate for Utah’s 2nd House district in 2012.
The court filings also detail a $2,700 donation channeled to an Indiana federal candidate in 2015. FEC records show that Mackenzie made a donation in that amount on Sept. 10, 2015 to Brent Waltz, an Indiana Republican who ran in the state’s 9th House district in 2016, but lost in the primary to Trey Hollingsworth, who went on to win the seat. The court documents state that Mackenzie agreed to conceal that the money actually came from SCG.
A similar arrangement was made when Mackenzie contributed to a PAC “purportedly formed” to assist a federal candidate from Maryland. Ultimately, Mackenzie “filed numerous false FEC reports to conceal the source of at least $8,750 worth of campaign contributions,” according to court filings.
As part of his guilty plea, Mackenzie agreed to pay $172,200 “in restitution to victims of his scheme to illegally funnel money between PACs to pay legal fees,” according to the release.
As part of the agreement, Mackenzie paid a bond of $10,000 and surrendered his passport to his lawyer. He must notify current, future customers, donors, vendors and clients of the offense — and provide proof that he has done so. A sentencing hearing is set for Feb. 21, 2020.