The FBI on Friday arrested a man linked to former U.S. Rep. Katie Hill’s 2018 House campaign for allegedly orchestrating a series of cyberattacks on a rival candidate that shut down the campaign’s website for 21 hours.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles said Arthur Jan Dam, 32, of Santa Monica, California, surrendered and was taken into custody on a complaint that says his computer attacks in April and May 2018 cut off campaign donations for Democrat Bryan Caforio and contributed to his narrow loss to Hill in the primary election.
“Law enforcement at all levels has pledged to ensure the integrity of every election,” Nick Hanna, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, said in a statement. “We will not tolerate interference with computer systems associated with candidates or voting.”
Prosecutors said Dam was married to a woman who worked for Hill, and federal records show he donated computer services to the campaign. The FBI says it has no evidence that the former congresswoman or Dam’s wife were involved.
Hill, who resigned last year amid a sex scandal and House ethics probe, said she was “surprised and disturbed” to learn of the case.
“These charges do not reflect in any way on the thousands of honest, hard-working staff, volunteers and supporters who worked on my campaign, to whom I owe so much” she said in a statement. She said she would wait for the case to conclude before commenting further.
Caforio said he was shocked to learn that someone linked to Hill’s campaign “hacked my campaign in order to help her advance through the primary.”
“This should serve as a somber reminder that Russia is not the only threat to our democracy,” said Caforio, who confirmed he was the “victim” listed in the complaint.
“There are bad actors on all sides who will do anything for their own personal gain and we need to come together as Americans to defend our country,” he added in an email.
The complaint said there is probable cause to believe Dam violated federal law that prohibits intentionally damaging or attempting to damage a protected computer. If convicted, he would face a would face up to 10 years in federal prison.
The investigation found that the cyberattacks originated from an account Dam controlled, and the four attacks corresponded to Dam’s logins, either from his home or office. The complaint says that he conducted “extensive research” on the victim and cyberattacks.
Caforio increased his cybersecurity after the initial attacks, but that was not enough to prevent a final disruption of the campaign’s website just one week before the primary election, prosecutors said.
Deputy Federal Public Defender Deborah E. Gonzalez declined to comment on the complaint. Dam has been released on bond, she said.