LAKE RIDGE, Va. — Wedged between a nail salon and a pizza shop in a strip mall about 25 miles south of Washington, D.C., is a postal supply store where a small brass mailbox sits stuffed with unopened envelopes.
It’s the unlikely home of one of the country’s most mysterious political hit squads.
The Law Enforcement Alliance of America once had offices in a nearby office park, but it abandoned them more than a year ago. It hasn’t filed required IRS reports in two years, and its leaders, once visible on television and in congressional hearings, have all but vanished.
But the nonprofit that calls itself “the nation’s largest coalition of law enforcement professionals, crime victims and concerned citizens” still has teeth. It has succeeded in helping knock out 12 state-level candidates in 14 years, including an Arkansas judicial candidate last year. In doing so, the group helped launch the current governors of Texas and Nevada to their stepping-stone positions as state attorneys general.
This story also appeared in Time. It was part of a package of stories from the Center for Public Integrity that won the 2016 Society of Professional Journalists Washington, D.C. Dateline Award for Local Reporting and was named as a finalist for the Online News Association’s 2015 award for Topical Reporting.