PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A GOP fundraiser and former congressional candidate from Rhode Island has agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud and violating campaign law after prosecutors say he used more than $1 million of the money he raised on himself, including for adult entertainment and escort services.
Prosecutors said in filings with the U.S. District Court in Rhode Island that H. Russell Taub told donors he was raising money for political committees named “Keeping America in Republican Control” and “Keeping Ohio in Republican Control.” They said he falsely told people that 100 percent of the money contributed by donors would be used to support candidates for federal office.
Taub’s lawyers did not immediately return email messages seeking comment. He was scheduled to make his first court appearance on Friday. The Providence Journal first reported the charges against him.
Prosecutors said Taub told some donors the groups were Super PACs, meaning they could accept unlimited donations from individuals. One Ohio couple, who was not identified, gave Taub nearly $1.3 million of the more than $1.6 million he raised, according to the criminal information filed Feb. 12 by a prosecutor in the public integrity section of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Taub used the money for expenses such as escorts, adult entertainment, cigars, clothes, hotels and plane tickets, prosecutors said. The scheme lasted from around December 2016 to as recently as November, according to prosecutors.
In July, the group Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Taub and the Keeping America in Republican Control PAC. It pointed out that the group had never registered with the commission, even though it was boasting of having raised $1.5 million for dozens of candidates. The group was formerly led by Matthew Whitaker, who served as the acting U.S. attorney general until Feb. 14.
The group’s current executive director, Kendra Arnold, said in a statement that they were pleased Taub was being held accountable, “as these types of scam PACs simply steal from citizens and hurt public trust.”
FEC records show Taub has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and conservative groups since 2017. His Facebook page features photos of him with well-known Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and many members of Congress and others.
Taub ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2016 against Democratic Rep. David Cicilline, who defeated Taub handily.