Conservative Virginia political consultant admits diverting money, filing false reports

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP/WHSV) — A northern Virginia political consultant has pleaded guilty to diverting tens of thousands of dollars from conservative political action committees and filing false reports to cover it up.

According to a release from the Justice Department, 66-year-old Scott Mackenzie, of Arlington, was the treasurer for 52 PACs, including the Conservative StrikeForce, Conservative Majority Fund, Tea Party Majority Fund, and Conservative Majority SuperFund.

In those roles, he was "responsible for complying with campaign finance laws and regulations and for filing accurate disclosure reports with the FEC that detailed the PACs’ true income and expenditures."

Conservative StrikeForce has been under scrutiny since 2014 when Republican Ken Cuccinelli sued the PAC after his losing 2013 gubernatorial campaign in Virginia. Cuccinelli said the group raised more than $2 million invoking his name and campaign in solicitations, but his campaign only received $10,000.

In a plea deal announced Tuesday by federal prosecutors in Alexandria, Mackenzie admitted directing $32,500 from the PACs to a Winchester woman with whom he had a relationship. Election reports falsely claimed she earned the money doing political work.

The Justice Department says Mackenzie served as treasurer for the varying PACs from 2011 to 2018. He diverted the $32,500 to the Winchester woman from October 2011 to June 2014.

During that time, attorneys say he shared a joint bank account with the woman.

The money belonged to Conservative StrikeForce, Conservative Majority Fund and Conservative Majority SuperFund.

Mackenzie pleaded guilty to falsely reporting to the FEC that the woman received payments for work with the Conservative StrikeForce and Conservative Majority Fund, but "in fact, as Mackenzie knew, Person A—an umbrella retailer with no experience in political fundraising—did not provide any of the purported services to these PACs. The funds were deposited into the bank account that Mackenzie shared with Person A."

He also admitted to making false statements to the FEC to hide the unlawful use of funds raised by the PACs to pay at least $172,000 in legal fees incurred from a civil lawsuit brought "by a former gubernatorial candidate for Virginia," according to the Justice Department.

In addition, he admitted to using straw donors to make contributions to candidates running for federal public office in order to evade limits on individual campaign contributions.

Mackenzie agreed to pay $172,200 in restitution to victims of his scheme to illegally funnel money between PACs to pay legal fees.

He'll face sentencing on Feb. 21, 2020.