PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A watchdog group has filed a complaint against a former Rhode Island congressional candidate for allegedly running a “scam” political action committee that claims to have raised more than $1.5 million.
The complaint argues that H. Russell Taub, a Republican who lost to Democratic Congressman David Cicilline in 2016, is violating federal law by failing to register the Keeping America in Republican Control (KAIRC) PAC with the Federal Election Commission or contribute any of its money to candidates. Taub is the PAC’s executive director.
The watchdog group, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), is asking the FEC to conduct an “expedited” investigation. FACT cited an email from Taub’s PAC claiming it had “helped over 85 candidates, scheduled multiple fundraisers to help candidates in 2018, raised over $1.5 Million as of June 30, 2018 and launched 9 support Ads to help our candidates.”
“There is no doubt KAIRC PAC and its executive director are engaged in some very nefarious and potentially criminal behavior,” Kendra Arnold, executive director of FACT, said in a statement.
“How an organization can claim to raise over $1.5 million and spend it with no public accounting or paper trail of any kind leads to just two conclusions,” she said. “Either KAIRC PAC didn’t actually raise the money it claims it raised or it is being spent on non-political activities. Either way, an investigation is needed immediately.”
Taub did not respond to a request for comment on Friday. Politico Pro said Taub sent an email to the news outlet describing the federal PAC as a “test run.” The PAC’s website was no longer online as of Friday.
Rhode Island GOP Chairman Brandon Bell said in an email, “Russell Taub is not directly involved in the RIGOP and as such we have no involvement with him. While he did run for office as a Republican he has not been active in the R.I. Republican Party with regard to fundraising or any other supporting role.”
Records show Taub, 29, has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to GOP politicians in recent years, and he has previously been in the news for bringing prominent out-of-state Republicans to Rhode Island. Earlier this year, reporters in Iowa discovered Gov. Kim Reynolds had come to Newport for an unannounced fundraiser because Taub posted a picture of the two there on Facebook.
Other Republicans Taub has taken credit for bringing to Rhode Island include South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu.
FACT also questioned Taub’s description of himself as an “ambassador” of the International Human Rights Commission.
“Clearly trying to mislead donors into thinking [Taub] has ties to the UN’s Human Rights Council, KAIRC PAC instead highlights its ties to a Ukrainian organization,” the complaint alleges. “Indeed, the International Human Rights Commission is a Ukrainian organization founded in 2014, only a short time prior to the creation of KAIRC PAC.”
“Given [Taub’s] clear ties to Ukraine as proudly stated on the KAIRC PAC website, it is especially important for the Commission to investigate KAIRC PAC and ensure that the funds raised did not come from any foreign nationals,” the complaint continues.
A news release on the website of Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says Taub assisted Republican Congressman Steve King, an Iowa conservative, in hosting a December 2015 meeting of the country’s ambassador with GOP lawmakers at the National Republican Club. Taub has said he also hosted an event in Rhode Island to raise money for King.
A financial disclosure form Taub filed in 2015 said he worked for the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council at the time. He also listed himself as Jewish outreach coordinator for the state GOP and a board officer for an organization called “Gaspee Think Tank.”
Bell, the GOP chairman, disputed Taub’s assertion. “He has not been an ‘outreach coordinator’ at any time within the state party,” he said. He added that he believed Taub had been a registered Democrat from New Jersey when they first met in 2015.
Arnold said an investigation is needed to ensure voters are not misled.
“The public should be able to contribute to candidates and causes they believe in with assurances that their hard-earned money is actually going to those efforts,” she said. “Any attempt to mislead contributors is not only stealing but undermines the electoral process.”
“The R.I. Republican Party takes the filing and accuracy of its federal and state campaign finance reports very seriously and people should know Mr. Taub’s fundraising activities has nothing to do with us regardless of the legitimacy of said activities,” he said. “The allegations in the complaint filed by FACT should be investigated thoroughly.”