Se­cret donors paid a lu­cra­tive salary to act­ing AG Matthew Whi­taker

The Sun Herald (Sunday) - - News - BY KEN­NETH P. VO­GEL AND MAG­GIE HABERMAN


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.

Matthew Whi­taker

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