Ex-GOP Candidate To Plead Guilty After Allegedly Bilking Donors For Cigars, Escorts

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Rep. David Cicilline’s (D-RI) 2016 Republican congressional opponent has been charged with wire fraud and violating election law for using political donations for things like cigars and escort services. He has reached a plea deal with prosecutors, the Providence Journal reported Wednesday night.

Prosecutors alleged in a Feb. 12 court filing that beginning in December 2016, right after his unsuccessful congressional campaign, H. Russell Taub falsely told potential donors that two organizations he’d created — “Keeping America in Republican Control” and “Keeping Ohio in Republican Control” — were super PACs when in fact he’d never registered them with the Federal Election Commission. (Read the filing in full below.)

Taub allegedly used donations sent to the groups for personal expenses and to pay himself “substantial amounts of money,” despite claiming to donors that all employees at the groups were volunteers and that all donations would directly help political candidates. Taub also allegedly gave some of the money raised directly to candidates, despite such direct-to-campaign donations being illegal for super PACs.

Taub, per prosecutors, also used the name of “a former Ambassador and high-level military officer” in donation pitches, despite the former ambassador — who the Journal identified as former Navy Secretary J. William Middendorf — sending Taub a cease and desist letter.

Between the two groups, the filing said, Taub raised $1.6 million. One married couple gave his groups a whopping $1,275,000, per the filing. Taub “converted” more than $1,000,000 of the money raised “to personal use,” the filing alleged, and used the money for “international and domestic air travel, hotels, restaurants, clothing, cigars, adult entertainment, and escort services.” 

The same day, Feb. 12, a plea agreement was filed. Taub’s signature is dated Feb. 8. (Read it in full below.) Taub is expected to appear in court on Friday.

Per the plea deal, Taub will forfeit any asset worth more than $1,000 and funds raised by his PACs, and he’ll compensate victims.

The ethics watchdog Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust alleged in July last year that Taub’s Keeping America in Republican Control PAC was a “scam,” the Journal reported at the time.

Taub, who ran as a 27-year-old, said in an April 2016 interview that he does “some consulting work” for the Ukrainian government: “I do some government relations work, some small business work,” he told WPRI. The network later noted that, per the Ukrainian government, Taub helped Rep. Steve King (R-IA) host an event for Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States in December 2015.

Court filing outlines charges against Taub:

Plea agreement:

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