Secret donors paid a lucrative salary to acting AG Matthew Whitaker
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker was paid more than $1.2 million in the past few years by a group active in conservative politics that doesn’t reveal its donors, according to financial disclosure statements released Tuesday.
The disclosure raised questions about who Whitaker’s financial patrons had been before he joined the Justice Department last year and whether he might have any undisclosed conflicts of interest. And it highlighted the prominence of so-called dark money groups that pursue political agendas and employ members of both parties without being required to make public the source of their funding.
Whitaker executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, also known as FACT, for nearly four years before being tapped as chief of staff for thenAttorney General Jeff Sessions in September 2017. He became acting attorney general this month after Sessions was forced out.
The group provided the overwhelming majority of his income since at least 2016, according to the filings released Tuesday by the Justice Department.
During the period covered by the filings, the next largest source of income for Whitaker, a lawyer, was $103,000 from a law firm in which he was a partner. He was also paid $15,000 by CNN, where he appeared on air as a legal analyst, and was often identified as the executive director of FACT.
In appearances on the network, he defended President Donald Trump and criticized the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and connections between Russia and Trump’s team. Those appearances caught the eye of the White House, according to people who worked with the administration at the time.
Whitaker also faced new questions Tuesday about donations to his unsuccessful 2014 campaign for a U.S. Senate seat from Iowa. Whitaker’s campaign committee received four donations totaling $8,800 this year, a few months after he joined the Justice Department, records show.
Executive branch officials are generally prohibited by a federal law, the Hatch Act, from knowingly soliciting or accepting campaign donations.
As acting attorney general, Whitaker now oversees the Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, raising concerns on both sides of the aisle about his willingness to allow the investigation to proceed unfettered.
FACT has raised nearly $3.5 million since its inception in 2014, according to tax filings, which show that the group’s largest single expense was Whitaker’s salary.
There is very little publicly available information about FACT’s financing.