According to the Associated Press, Hackers have stolen $2.3 million from the Wisconsin Republican Party’s account that was being used to help reelect President Donald Trump in the key battleground state.
Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt, noticed the suspicious activity on Oct. 22 and contacted the FBI on Friday.
“We have been in contact with the state party and are assisting them through this process,” said Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Ahrens. “The RNC never left Wisconsin after 2016, and we are confident that our ground game and the millions we are spending on TV and digital will deliver us another win there in 2020.”
There have been more than 800 attempted phishing attacks for financial gain targeting the Wisconsin Democratic Party this campaign cycle, but none has been successful, said party spokeswoman Courtney Beyer.
Hitt said the hackers manipulated invoices from four vendors who were being paid for direct mail for Trump’s reelection efforts as well as for pro-Trump material such as hats to be handed out to supporters. The invoices were altered to show a different payee so that when the party paid them for the services rendered, the money went to the hackers instead of the vendors, Hitt said. This left the vendors unpaid.
The hack was discovered after someone noticed that an invoice was generated that should not have been, he said.
Hitt said it appears the attack began as a phishing attempt, and no data appears to have been stolen, said party spokesman Alec Zimmerman.
It is unclear if there have been other attacks in different locations, but the republican party did warn the state campaign offices this summer that attacks such as this could happen.
The attack and subsequent theft was discovered less than two weeks before the election. Wisconsin, which brings 10 electoral votes to the table, was a state in which Trump won by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016. President Trump has planned his third visit in seven days on Friday. Biden also planned to campaign in Wisconsin on Friday. Polls have consistently shown a tight race in the state, usually with Biden ahead by single digits and within the margin of error. Wisconsin is considered a swing state.
This is not the office’s first brush with financial issues. In 2018 the Wisconsin GOP office overspent and failed to properly account for those funds, which led to shakeups in top party leadership for the state.