This election cycle is on track to break all spending records and could likely cost several billion dollars. By the end of last year, presidential campaigns and outside groups supporting them raised more than $600 million. Between the candidates, super PACs, party committees and political action committees, that number is going to explode -- funded in part from donors.
Behind every political solicitation, there's an entire industry of consultants who hunt for donors, but sometimes very few dollars actually make it to specific candidates, reports CBS News correspondent Julianna Goldman. This technically isn't illegal because -- believe it or not -- there's no law requiring PACs to spend money on election-related purposes.
Kristina Zubic and CJ Forehand were paid on commission to call conservative voters.
"Thirty-five, 50, 75, 100, 500, 1,000, whatever. Whatever you felt like you could work out of them," Forhand said.
They made calls from a Milwaukee-based telemarketing firm called American Liberty Group. Public records show it was paid $400,000 by a political action committee called Conservative StrikeForce. Zubic said one caller told her he was dying of cancer, so she asked her supervisor for guidance.
"And he said, 'Well, why didn't you tell him that this is an opportunity to give one last big donation?'" Zubic said.
"To give one last big donation before he dies?" Goldman asked.
"Yes," Zubic responded.
American Liberty also solicited money for veterans on behalf of Conservative StrikeForce. CBS News obtained this script saying: "Can StrikeForce count on your support of our veterans during these important times...?"
But we couldn't find any money going to veterans' causes.
We looked at federal records and found since 2011, Conservative StrikeForce and other PACs raised over $33 million, largely from Republican retirees. Yet only 8 percent actually went to the causes they claimed to support. The rest went to a group of companies who used those donations to make more money.
Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a 2013 Republican candidate for governor, said there's "no question" that this is a scam.
"You just can't say an organization out there that's spending 95 percent of its money just to raise more money and never has any intention of doing the things it's telling the people that it's talking to that it will do," he said. "You can't call that anything else."
Conservative StrikeForce used Cuccinelli's name in their fundraising pitches without his approval. He said they made false promises to voters so he sued them.
"Literally, they listed 11 things. We're going to do phone calls, we're going to do radio ads, we're going to do television ads, and they didn't do any of those things," Cuccinelli said.
So when conservatives give money to StrikeForce, where does the money actually go? The PAC as well as six others all have the same treasurer: a man named Scott Mackenzie. They also have the same address, P.O. Box 806, at a UPS store in northern Virginia.
As treasurer, Mackenzie paid himself consulting fee, and he directed over half a million dollars to one company where he was a strategic partner.
"Scott Mackenzie is paid to be the treasurer of all these different PACs," Cuccinelli said.
Mackenzie wouldn't speak on camera and said he doesn't have any current ties to the vendors. He said as treasurer, for a total of 25 PACs, he takes "all the heat for decisions that other people make."
Already in this election cycle, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump asked Mackenzie to shut down his unauthorized group, Patriots for Trump. Mackenzie said he will comply.
In the meantime, Zubic, the former telemarketer, had some advice.
"Don't give anything over the phone. If you want to support something, go to the website of that organization that you want to support. And I'm sorry. I'm sorry for my part in that," Zubic said.
Zubic and Forehand both quit because they felt uncomfortable with what was happening.
CBS News asked Mackenzie about the calls for veterans causes, and he said they were "test" calls and said no money was raised. Zubic said she verified payments, but doesn't remember how much.
Already in 2016, some of Mackenzie's PACs have reported spending over hundreds of thousands of dollars largely from contacting voters across the country.