FBI conducts raid at GOP consulting firm in Annapolis

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — FBI agents raided the office of a Republican consulting firm in Maryland on Thursday in connection with an investigation into the 2013 Virginia governor's race.

The FBI confirmed it served a search warrant in Annapolis, Maryland, but declined to elaborate. Kelley Rogers, president of Strategic Campaign Group, told reporters the investigation relates to work the consultant did for former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the GOP's 2013 gubernatorial candidate.

Rogers told reporters that his firm settled a lawsuit brought by the Cuccinelli campaign after he lost the governor's race to Democrat Terry McAuliffe. Roger said the investigation appears to have stemmed from allegations in that lawsuit.

EXCLUSIVE: Ken Cuccinelli relieved to hear about FBI raid at Republican consulting firm

The firm's website describes Strategic Campaign Group as "a full-service Republican political consulting firm able to design, manage, and execute every aspect of political and fundraising campaigns for Republican politicians, conservative political action committees, and conservative organizations of all kinds."

The windows in the firm's doors leading into its third floor suite in a building on Main Street in Maryland's capital were obscured as FBI agents served the search warrant. Rogers did not immediately return a phone call or email from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Cuccinelli sued Strategic Campaign Group in 2014, alleging that the company and a political action committee duped donors. Cuccinelli said the Conservative StrikeForce PAC raised $2.2 million in 2013, largely by promising donors the money would help Cuccinelli in his ultimately unsuccessful Virginia campaign against McAuliffe. The PAC only gave $10,000 to Cuccinelli's campaign, which was heavily outspent by McAuliffe.

Cuccinelli's lawsuit described the StrikeForce PAC as being "controlled by" Strategic Campaign Group. The company and the PAC settled with Cuccinelli in 2015, agreeing to pay his gubernatorial campaign $85,000.

Several political campaigns in recent years have complained of so-called "scam PACs" that purportedly raise money to help a political campaign, but instead enrich consultants and others with the bulk of the funds. Such groups have become more prevalent in recent years after a series of court rulings, including the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decisions, reshaped the campaign finance landscape and boosted the prominence of groups not directly associated with a candidate.  

Cuccinelli said Wednesday in a statement to The Associated Press that he'd not spoken to any federal law enforcement officials about Strategic Campaign Group but is "curious" to see where the case goes.

"It was my hope when we brought our lawsuit to cast light on the dark practices of scam PACs.  I think we did that successfully," Cuccinelli said. "Any cleaning up of these practices would be good for our political system.


Associated Press reporter Eric Tucker contributed to this report in Washington.