KEY POINTS

  • Hackers stole $2.3 million from the Wisconsin Republican Party, a blow for Donald Trump's efforts in the vital swing state
  • The hackers compromised GOP vendors and altered invoices to send themselves money rather than the suppliers, taking most but not all of the money set aside for late-campaign expenditures in the state
  • Wisconsin was integral to Trump's 2016 upset victory, but this year is too close to call with most polls showing a Biden lead smaller than the margin of error

The Wisconsin Republican Party has announced that hackers have stolen $2.3 million from funds meant for Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.

The hackers compromised Republican vendors and altered their invoices so that money went to them instead of the suppliers. Wisconsin was a vital part of Trump’s 2016 victory and the state polls remain too close to call this year.

The breach was first noticed on Oct. 22, the Associated Press reports. A staffer saw an invoice had been sent in when one shouldn’t have and investigated, therefore discovering the altered information. The FBI is now investigating, said Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt.

Four vendors fell prey to the scheme but Wisconsin Republicans say it’s unlikely any information was stolen. The breach seems to have been in the vendors’ operations after being tricked by phishing scams.

The Wisconsin Republican Party has been targeted by phishing schemes 800 times this election cycle, party spokesperson Courtney Beyer told AP. Hitt said the incident seemed to be isolated and that it is not aware of any other state GOP parties who have been compromised in the same way. 

The money was dedicated to expenditures in Wisconsin close to the election. While it wasn’t everything the state GOP had, they still have $1 million reserved in the account, it’s certainly a blow to Trump’s reelection bid.

Wisconsin’s GOP has been drastically outraised by their Democratic competition, who raised $59 million to the GOP’s $23.7 million. 

US President Donald Trump claps during a rally at Muskegon County Airport in Muskegon, Michigan on October 17, 2020 U.S. President Donald Trump claps during a rally at Muskegon County Airport in Muskegon, Michigan, on Oct. 17, 2020 Photo: AFP / MANDEL NGAN

Wisconsin isn’t a state that Trump can afford to risk: its 10 electoral college votes were an important part of his surprise 2016 win over Hillary Clinton. This year, both Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden are paying close attention to the state. 

Trump is making his third visit in a single week to Wisconsin on Friday, with Biden holding his own rally the same day. While polls have consistently shown Biden ahead, his lead is narrow enough to be smaller than the margin of error. 

Michael Ahrens, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee, told AP that the GOP was committed to winning the state. 

“We have been in contact with the state party and are assisting them through this process,” he said. “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.”