The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee recently discovered that dozens of contribution checks -- some for as much as $25,000 -- were diverted from its coffers to a private bank account, officials said Thursday.
The apparent theft from the committee, which raises funds to help elect Democratic senators, totaled about $350,000 and is under investigation by the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office here. All but $10,000 has been recovered.
As record amounts of money from millions of donors flood the political system, more and more federal candidates and committees have found themselves victimized by campaign embezzlers in the last few years.
Earlier this year, The Times identified 11 federal embezzling cases since 2002, involving more than $1.7 million. In most cases, the money was long gone by the time the theft was discovered.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, however, uncovered the missing money in time to get it back and use it in the November elections, said communications director Brad Woodhouse.
After internal auditors discovered a discrepancy in October, the U.S. Capitol Police identified a local bank account where the checks had been deposited.
The name on the account was DSCampCo, whose initials, DSCC, were the same as the campaign committee’s. Most donors who write checks to the committee make them out to the DSCC. The committee raised more than $76 million this election cycle.
The account was set up by someone using the name Roger Chiang, the campaign committee’s director of constituency outreach until he was fired in mid-October. Chiang’s home address and Social Security number were on the account, Democratic officials said.
Chiang, who could not be reached for comment Thursday because he was on his honeymoon, maintains that he is the victim of identify theft, said his brother, John, a Los Angeles resident and a member of the California Board of Equalization.
“He strongly believes it’s a case of identity theft,” John Chiang said. “The signature that authorized the account was clearly not his.”
Roger Chiang, 32, whose duties at the campaign committee included fundraising, recently earned a master’s degree in business administration. He had previously worked for the Democratic National Committee, and was appointed by President Clinton in 2000 as an advisor to the secretary for Housing and Urban Development.
John Chiang said his brother was a strong believer in the Democratic Party and would never do anything to harm it. “Roger certainly wouldn’t do anything like that,” he said.
He also denied that Roger Chiang’s firing had anything to do with the missing money -- an assertion disputed by Democratic officials.
“It is disappointing that while Democratic senators, candidates, staff and donors were working hard to build a better America in this election, an individual put greed and self-interest ahead of the efforts of so many others,” Woodhouse, of the campaign committee, said in a statement.