Whitaker’s Financial Disclosures Raise Fresh Questions
Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.
Late Tuesday, Trump’s acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, finally released his financial disclosure form. While it is a pretty sparse document, what does appear there says a lot about Whitaker — and it’s not good.
First, it was difficult to even get Whitaker to release the form. Two weeks ago, when his appointment was first announced, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) asked to see his previous disclosures. As disclosure forms are public, that should have happened right away.
Instead, he revised the forms five times in those two weeks. It isn’t quite as bad as Jared Kushner revising his disclosure forms over 40 times, but it still isn’t great.
Next, the form shows that over the last three years, Whitaker raked in $1.2 million from a dark money group, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT). FACT won’t reveal the source of its funding but says its goal is to “expose unethical conduct by public officials.”
However, two years ago, FACT supposedly existed to study the impact of environmental regulations. That version of the group, according to a former board member, only existed on paper. Even its current incarnation appears to have no other employees than Whitaker.
Then there is the curious fact that he received campaign donations totaling $8,800 during 2017. Those donations were for his failed 2014 Senate bid but were received after he had already joined the DOJ. This likely violates the Hatch Act, which bans executive branch employees from asking for or receiving campaign donations.
This isn’t the only problem the acting attorney general faces right now. His appointment to the job, without Senate confirmation, is so problematic that even conservative commentators agree the move was illegal. He also faces a lawsuit over the appointment. That lawsuit may also relate to the timing of Whitaker’s appointment, a date that is currently shrouded in secrecy.
While Jeff Sessions’ forced resignation was announced Nov. 7, the White House refuses to say when Whitaker, Sessions’ chief of staff, was actually appointed to take his place.
With his stream of dark money, his Hatch Act violations, and his continuously revised disclosure forms, Whitaker looks a lot like his boss. Trump is also very interested in hiding the sources of his income and perpetually campaigning in order to raise even more money. Their unethical behavior, unfortunately, makes them a perfect fit.
Published with permission of The American Independent.
Header image by Melissa Joskow / Media Matters