The intruders managed to tweak invoices for direct-mail outreach efforts and promotional materials so that when the Republican Party paid them, the money went to the hackers instead of the vendors who’d actually printed and mailed the materials, Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt told the AP on Thursday.
The hackers rerouted payments meant for four vendors, siphoning off a total of $2.3 million, Hitt claimed. “There’s no doubt [the Republican Party of Wisconsin] is now at a disadvantage with that money being gone,” he said, noting that the campaign needs cash – especially in a swing state – to make “snap spending decisions.” The vendors in question had provided branded Trump campaign materials like hats and t-shirts to supporters in addition to direct-mail advertising.
Hitt said he noticed “suspicious activity” in the party’s accounts last Thursday and called in the FBI the next day. He said the agency is investigating the apparent theft, though an FBI spokesperson did not immediately return the AP’s request for comment. The hack began as a phishing attempt, the state party chair claimed, explaining it was discovered when someone in the organization noticed an invoice had been submitted that did not apply to any of the party’s actual work. No data appeared to have been stolen, however.
Biden is narrowly leading Trump in Wisconsin polls as of Thursday, and both candidates have been targeting the state’s voters hard with voter outreach as Wisconsin proved decisive in Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss. Both candidates have made two campaign stops in the state – where such activities were until recently restricted by pandemic regulations – and plan to visit once more on Friday. Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by fewer than 23,000 votes.
Earlier this week, the Trump campaign website was hacked to declare that the “world has had enough of the fake news spreader daily by president donald j trump [sic].” The pointedly broken English text claimed “multiple devices were compromised that gave full access to trump [sic] and relatives” and suggested “we have evidence that completely discredits mr trump [sic] as president.”
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