Updated April 17, 2023 - 9:20 pm
A nationally recognized Republican political consultant has been added as a defendant in a Nevada lawsuit alleging that he stole $2.2 million and defrauded a political action committee that had unsuccessfully tried to break up the Clark County School District.
Jeff Roe, founder of Axiom Strategies, one of the largest GOP campaign firms, was accused of fraud and breach of contract, among other charges, after one of his companies failed to gather at least 140,000 valid signatures to put the initiative before the Legislature in 2023.
The Community Schools Initiative filed a lawsuit in Nevada District Court in January against Vanguard Field Strategies LLC, a Texas-based firm headed by Roe that the organization hired to gather signatures for its effort to allow local governments to form their own school districts.
On March 30, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint that added Roe as a defendant along with his other entities, Axiom, LLC, and Garrison Management Group, LLC, alleging a breach of contract, misrepresentation, fraud and deceptive trade practices.
The attorney for Roe and his companies, Brad Bodamer, did not return multiple requests seeking comment.
The Community Schools Initiative’s attorneys allege that Roe conducted a bait-and-switch scam and illegally created “faux” and “shell” companies to keep himself from being personally held liable.
“We’re not trying to go after anybody, but we’re very concerned that this bait-and-switch activity is damaging democracy,” said Sam Castor, attorney with the firm Lex Tecnica, Ltd., which was assigned rights by the Community Schools Initiative to file the lawsuit.
Splitting up Clark County School District received “massive” bipartisan support in 2022, Castor said, “and yet you have a company run by Jeff Roe that destroyed that democratic solution, and he stole $2.2 million from the education system. He should be stopped.”
Top Republican adviser
Roe is a top Republican operative currently serving as an adviser to Never Back Down, a super PAC dedicated to urging Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to run for president in 2024. He is also helping run a campaign to legalize marijuana in Florida. A Texas resident, he previously ran Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s unsuccessful 2016 presidential campaign and worked as an adviser on Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s successful 2021 campaign.
The lawsuit alleges that Roe knowingly gathered “fraudulent and forged signatures” and never planned to deliver on its contract.
Using Roe and his companies’ record, including Cruz’s campaign, the defendants allegedly assured the Community Schools Initiative that it would be able to obtain a 70 percent validity rate of its signatures so that the initiative would be able to go before the 2023 Legislature, the lawsuit says.
“Given Axiom’s reputation nationally, (Community Schools Initiative) was encouraged to consider Vanguard, a division of Axiom, to aid in the process,” the lawsuit says.
The plaintiff later learned that the defendants did not have the permits and business licenses required by Nevada law, the complaint alleges.
“As such, Roe acted in his individual capacity without the benefit of any liability shield afforded by out-of-state entities not registered in the state of Nevada,” the lawsuit says.
Competitors raise questions
In late October and in early November 2022, competing petition signature-gathering companies reached out to the Community Schools Initiative offering their services and raising concerns about Vanguard’s capacity, performance and quality control, the lawsuit alleges. The initiative’s representatives asked the defendants if they should hire another company, but the defendants insisted that they were capable of gathering the signatures, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit alleges that on at least a dozen occasions, the defendants assured Community Schools Initiative that it was obtaining more than the required number of signatures at above the required validity rate. But when the secretary of state’s office reviewed the signatures it found that the defendants only obtained an average 53.2 percent validity rate.
Some of the signatures were forged, with the same name being used repeatedly and with some names obviously fake with obscenities used as the middle name, the lawsuit says. Several of the pages also arrived at the secretary of state’s office smelling of “bong water,” the lawsuit claims.
After Vanguard failed to collect the required number of valid signatures, Scott Scheid, Vanguard’s vice president of sales, allegedly assured the plaintiff that he would “make it right” and issue a refund, but that refund never came. Scheid declined to comment for the story.
A hearing on the case is expected to be held within 45 days.