Republican Strategy Firm in Maryland Raided by FBI: Reports

May 11, 2017, 4:38 PM EDT May 11, 2017, 5:53 PM EDT

The Federal Bureau of Investigation carried out a raid on a Republican fundraising firm in Maryland that had been accused in a 2014 lawsuit of defrauding political donors, according to several area news outlets.

The target of the raid was Strategic Campaign Group Inc. in Annapolis, the Baltimore Sun reported on Thursday, along with local television stations. Nicole Schwab, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Washington, D.C., field office, told Bloomberg News that agents had executed a court-approved search warrant in the vicinity of Main Street, Annapolis, where the fundraising firm is located.

Kelley Rogers, the president of Strategic Campaign Group, confirmed that his firm was the target of the raid, the newspaper reported.

It’s unclear what the FBI was seeking at the offices of the group, which advises Republican candidates. Calls to several of the group’s officials weren’t immediately returned.

Strategic Campaign Group and its affiliates have been accused by various campaigns, including President Donald Trump’s, of raising money without the candidate’s approval.

Former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli of Virginia, a Republican who ran for governor in 2013, filed a lawsuit against the group and its Conservative StrikeForce PAC, accusing the organization of fraud, for allegedly making unauthorized fundraising pitches. The suit was settled in 2015 and the PAC, which listed Scott B. Mackenzie as its treasurer, was required to pay Cuccinelli $85,000.

Patriots For Trump, a PAC run by the same treasurer, shut down in 2015 after the Trump campaign sent a letter demanding that it stop raising donations without its authorization. According to Federal Election Commission filings the committee raised more than $131,000 and spent $122,000 to promote Trump’s campaign.

While there’s no indication that the raid was related to Cuccinelli’s lawsuit, the litigation sheds some light on the firm’s previous legal troubles. Cuccinelli said in his complaint that Strategic Campaign Group used national lists of conservative voters to seek cash for phone banks, rallies and voter-identification efforts.

“Defendants donated less than one-half of one percent of their total receipts in 2013 to the Cuccinelli campaign, and spent no money in support of the Cuccinelli campaign in the form of independent expenditures,” the lawsuit said.

Rogers’s clients have included numerous campaigns for president, Congress and statewide office, as well as conservative business groups and political action committees, according to the group’s website.

Strategic Campaign Group’s vice president is former congressional aide Chip O’Neil, according to the group’s website. Its senior adviser is Dennis Whitfield, who served as chief of staff for the U.S. trade representative and then as deputy secretary of labor under President Ronald Reagan.

Whitfield has also provided political and communications advice to U.S. and foreign corporations, and was executive vice president of the American Conservative Union, which organizes the annual American Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC.

Whitfield was also a director at BKSH and Associates, where he provided strategic government relations counseling. That firm was formed in 1996 when Paul Manafort and Roger Stone left Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly and it merged with Gold and Liebengood. Manafort and Stone both went on to become close advisers to Trump. They had departed by the time Whitfield joined the firm.