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Ohio Republican Consultant Indicted

Delaware County charges Everhart after bitter dispute at The Strategy Group.

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The consultant at the heart of the 2013 meltdown of a major Republican consulting firm has been indicted in Ohio for alleged hacking.

Nick Everhart was forced out of Strategy Group — controlled by consultant Rex Elsass — after an attempt to displace Elsass over grievances including alleged overspending and breaches of the company's Christian values, a battle that ended in civil litigation between Everhart and the firm.

But an indictment in Delaware County Court this morning charges Everhart with two felony counts of "unauthorized use of cable or telecommunication property."

The indictment, below, doesn't include the details of the charges. Everhart said in a brief email Friday afternoon that he had just learned of the indictment.

As BuzzFeed News reported last year, Strategy Group has been an influential force in Republican politics over the past several election cycles, counting as its recent clients Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Michele Bachmann, and Newt Gingrich.

Until last year, Everhart was the company's president and a loyal right hand to Elsass; the two worked side by side for years as they built the firm into a major political player. But multiple sources familiar with the company's inner workings said the relationship between the two men deteriorated over time, with Everhart and other managers complaining that Elsass was prone to disruptive mood swings, and unwise business decisions. Some employees also claimed that Elass's lifestyle was out of step with the company's religious culture and Christian ideals.

Elsass, meanwhile, suspected Everhart of disloyalty to the company, and believed he was trying to turn other employees against him.

The internal tension culminated in a dramatic meeting in April, 2013, when several employees, led by Everhart, demanded changes to the company's management structure — and Elsass's personal life — and laid hands on their boss to pray for his soul. Everhart was eventually forced out of the company.

Rick Tyler, the newly installed president of Strategy Group, told BuzzFeed News last year that Everhart's actions "demonstrate a measure of delusion that remains unfathomable to me. The idea that employees could present to the owner of a company a list of demands with which they would take ownership of the company is a delusion that I can't reconcile with reality."

A spokesman for Strategy Group declined to comment on Everhart's indictment Friday.

McKay Coppins is a senior writer for the BuzzFeed News politics team, and the author of The Wilderness, about the battle over the future of the Republican Party.

Contact McKay Coppins at mckay@buzzfeed.com.

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