- Political committees reported at least $2.7 million in 2020 losses from theft and fraud, per federal disclosures.
- At least $71,000 was swiped from accounts belonging to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.
- Many of the affected committees told Insider they’re instituting new security protocols.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
Joe Biden enjoyed some of the nation’s finest security as a presidential candidate. But apparently no one could stop thieves and fraudsters from raiding his presidential campaign committee.
Last March, an unauthorized “external actor” used the Biden campaign bank card to spend $6,000 at a Philadelphia interior-design company, according to federal disclosures reviewed by Insider. Then, in June, “fraudulent activity” caused a nearly $65,000 Biden campaign payment to be “misdirected” from a vendor to an “unknown account” at Bank of America.
The criminal incidents that befell the campaign of the future president of the United States are among several dozen examples of bad actors plundering political committees during the most recent election cycle. In all, federal political committees together reported at least $2.7 million worth of initial losses, Insider’s analysis of campaign income and spending records shows.
Some of the methods used to pilfer political campaigns are decidedly digital — cyberattacks and stolen credit-card numbers — while others are overtly old-school, such as forgery and paper-check tampering.
Together, the thefts underscore an open secret in politics: that some political committees’ operations are far from secure, potentially exposing them to other kinds of trouble beyond the financial, such as meddling by foreign actors or the hacking of sensitive information.
More than a dozen political committees told Insider they strengthened their financial protocols only after experiencing a theft. But there are also numerous steps some political committees — and even Congress — could take to tighten their security even more. They just haven’t yet.
“The lack of internal financial controls at campaign committees has been a problem for a long time,” said Brett Kappel, an election law and ethics attorney for Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg LLP.
Several congressional candidates and state or local political parties are among those affected. So, too, are the political committees of various corporations, labor unions, trade associations, and advocacy groups including Google, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, and The Humane Society.
Some committees have recovered at least a portion of the money lifted from them, particularly if the theft involved a stolen credit-card number or an unauthorized bank transaction.
But others say they’re still out the cash — and may be for good.
Red? Blue? Thieves just want green.
Why might thieves target political committees?
Recall the quote attributed to the bank robber Willie Sutton about why he robbed banks: “Because that’s where the money is.”
There’s certainly a lot of money in politics: The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics pegged the overall price tag of the 2020 US election at $14 billion.
While $2.7 million may represent only a small fraction of that big number, that’s still $2.7 million that American political donors expected would go toward promoting a political candidate or cause of their choosing.
And even relatively modest thefts can cause major headaches for candidates in the midst of campaigning.
For Biden, a White House representative told Insider…