Feds Questioning Who Represents V.I. Republicans

The Federal Elections Commission headquarters in Washington D.C. (Shutterstock image)
The Federal Elections Commission headquarters in Washington D.C. (Shutterstock image)

A recent request of the Federal Election Commission on top of a recent guilty plea by the treasurer of VIGOP has left some of the 2,000 registered Republicans in the territory wondering whether an organization legitimately represents the Republican Party of the Virgin Islands.

In an email to the source Tuesday, Warren Bruce Cole, a former executive director and former treasurer of the V.I. Republican Party said, “I am pleased that the FEC is looking into the organization and operations of VIGOP. The integrity of campaign finance practices is of vital importance to the nation and to the territory. In view of Mr. Mackenzie’s recent guilty plea to making a false statement to the FEC, further investigation into the various PACs he managed is certainly warranted.”

The Federal Election Commission is requesting information that would define the VIGOP as “a state committee for the Republican Party.” The request adds, “A state committee is defined as the organization which, by virtue of the bylaws of a political party, is responsible for the day-to-day operation of such political party at the state level, as determined by the commission.”

The last phrase “as determined by the commission” could be a stumbling block for any local organization wishing to say it represents the territory’s Republican Party. The Federal Commission presently only has three members. It needs a quorum of four to take official action, such as determining whether an organization represents a political party.

Leading up to the election of Donald Trump as president in 2016, two factions were fighting for control of the territory’s Republican Party organization. One faction, led by John Canegata, supported Trump. When Trump was elected the battle appeared ended with the Canegata faction being the victor. However, questions about a fundraising PAC blessed by Canegata and run by Scott MacKenzie, which had raised questions before Trump’s election, remained. Those questions came to the forefront once again when Trump’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke allegedly used federal resources at a fundraiser in the territory in 2017.

Herbert Schoenbohm, a former territory Republican state chairman, who along with Cole and radio personality Holland Redfield, opposed Canegata and his support of the VIGOP political action fundraising committee wrote to the Source, “The local party is reportedly defunct and no meetings that I know of have been called in several years. In the past years, Territorial Committee members tried to put a stop to this illegal activity and called for an audit of what Canegata was doing with the money sent from VIGOP.”

An email from the Source Tuesday afternoon and a phone call Tuesday evening to Canegata received no response.

Caroline Fawkes, supervisor of the V.I. Board of Elections, told the Source that the VIGOP is up to date on all the documents it needs to file with the local election board.

Cole said in his email, “It is my opinion that the “VIGOP” political action committee with identification number C0053560 was never lawfully authorized as a political action committee of the Virgin Island Republican Party. It is also my opinion that none of the proceeds of the “VIGOP” were ever deposited in an authorized bank account of the Virgin Islands Republican Party.”

He added, “I can state categorically that Mr. Scott MacKenzie was never the Treasurer of the Republican Party of the United States Virgin Islands. If he represented himself to occupy that position, he was mistaken both as a matter of law and of fact.”

A statement of organization filed with the Federal Election Commission Nov. 20 lists MacKenzie, a resident of Arlington, Virginia, as the treasurer of VIGOP.

According to a release from the U.S. Department of Justice, Mackenzie, 66, will have a sentencing hearing Feb. 21, 2020.

The release also stated Mackenzie admitted to being the treasurer of approximately 52 PACs, and that he had funds deposited into a bank account he shared with another person and claimed they went for campaign services and they did not.

According to the V.I. Board of Elections, of the 52,000 registered voters in the territory 1,923 of them are Republicans.