(CN) – When a former Republican candidate for Congress solicited donations for two political action committees supposedly created to keep the House of Representatives in Republican control, he neglected to mention he spent most of the fund’s $1.6 million on himself.
Harold Russell Taub, who ran for Congress in Rhode Island as a Republican in 2016, pled guilty in federal court on Thursday to wire fraud and violating the Federal Election Campaign Act.
In December 2016, about a month after Democratic incumbent David Cicilline soundly defeated Taub in the race for Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District, the failed candidate set up two organizations — Keeping America in Republican Control and Keeping Ohio in Republican Control.
Despite telling prospective donors the groups were political action committees, Taub never registered them with the Federal Elections Commission.
“Neither KAIRC or KOIRC were registered with or made reports or receipts and disbursements to the FEC, as required by the Election Act,” prosecutors wrote in their 11-page indictment.
Instead, Taub established independent websites and began soliciting donations, misrepresenting the organizations as Super PACS with a roster of employees. In fact, Taub was the organizations’ only employee.
“Taub used funds contributed to (the organizations) for personal expenses and Taub was the only person working for (the organizations) and he paid himself substantial amounts of money,” the prosecutors wrote.
Those “personal expenses” indicate that Taub lived the high life on his misbegotten funds, spending on plane tickets, hotels, cigars, adult entertainment, escort services and restaurants.
To lend his operation an air of credibility, Taub used the name and image of former secretary of the Navy William Mittendorf in his literature and on his website.
According to the indictment, Mittendorf sent Taub a cease and desist letter in July 2018, but Taub continued to use the former Navy secretary’s image through November 2018.
Taub also insisted all the donations went to political candidates. And while FEC records do show Taub contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates during the run-up to the 2018 Midterm Elections, he also paid himself a large salary and funded his own expenses with donations.
Taub swindled donors out of about $1.6 million over two years, much of which came from an Ohio married couple. According to the indictment, he kept more than $1 million for himself.
The issue first came to light after the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a nonpartisan ethics watchdog, filed a complaint with the FEC.
Taub could face prison time and a substantial fine. His sentencing is scheduled in Rhode Island federal court on July 12.