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Husband of Santa Monica Commissioner Charged with Mounting Cyberattacks Against Political Candidate
By Jorge Casuso
February 24, 2020 -- Santa Monica resident Arthur Jan Dam -- whose wife Kelsey O’Hara sits on a City Commission -- was arrested Friday for coordinating cyberattacks againt a candidate who was campaigning for a California congressional seat.
O’Hara, who serves on the Commission on the Status of Women, worked as a fundraiser for former Congresswoman Katie Hill, who resigned amid a sex scandal and ethics probe last November.
Dam, 32, was charged Wednesday with one count of intentionally damaging and attempting to damage a protected computer, according to the U.S. District Attorney's Office, which is prosecuting the case.
Dam allegedly staged four cyberattacks against Democratic challenger Bryan Caforio in April and May of 2018 that took down the candidate’s website for a total of 21 hours one week before the June primary election.
“The victim reported suffering losses, including website downtime, a reduction in campaign donations, and time spent by campaign staff and others conducting critical incident response,” according to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint.
Caforio -- who confirmed he was the victim -- also reported spending $27,000 to $30,000 to respond to the attacks he believes contributed to his loss in the June 5, 2018 primary election.
Hill defeated Caforio by fewer than 2,000 votes and went on to defeat former Rep. Steve Knight, a Republican, in November.
Hill was one of 40 freshmen candidates who flipped the House of Representatives when she won the 25th Congressional District, which covers part of northern Los Angeles County and part of eastern Ventura County.
Hill resigned last November after lewd photos of her were leaked to the media.
Hill admitted to having a relationship with a 22-year-old female subordinate on her payroll, but said it took place before she assumed office, according to a report in the Washington Post.
Hill issued a statement following the announcement of Dam's arrest.
The FBI investigation found that Dam's four cyberattacks originated from one Amazon Web Services (AWS) account he controlled and corresponded to logins into the account from his residence or his workplace, according to the affidavit.
Dam also conducted “extensive research” on both the victim and cyberattacks, the complaint alleges.
"After the third cyberattack, the victim increased cybersecurity measures and retained a website security company, but that was not enough to prevent a final disruption to the campaign’s website just one week before the primary election," the U.S. District Attorneys office said in a press release.
“Law enforcement at all levels has pledged to ensure the integrity of every election,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna.
“We will not tolerate interference with computer systems associated with candidates or voting. Cases like this demonstrate our commitment to preserving our democratic system.”
Hill has endorsed State Assembleymember Christy Smith, who represents much of the district in Sacramento, in the March 3 special election to fill her seat.
In her application for the Women's Commission, O'Hara cited her work on Hill's 2018 campaign.
"Recently, my client Katie Hill is now Congress-woman Elect in California's 25th District, and will be California's first openly LGBTQ member sent to Congress," she wrote in the application.
"I am deeply proud to have been a consultant and member of a team that worked towards this years historic election of women across the nation."
O'Hara, was appointed to serve a partial term on the Commission on Women that began December 18, 2018. The term expires June 30, 2021.
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