Former Trump AG’s lobbying activities with a right-wing group are raising 'red flags': report
After President Donald Trump fired U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and before the U.S. Senate confirmed Bill Barr for that position, Matthew Whitaker spent three months as acting attorney general in late 2018/early 2019. Whitaker kept busy after leaving the Trump Administration, serving as chairman of the right-wing nonprofit FreedomWorks. And journalist Roger Sollenberger, in an article published by the Daily Beast on December 1, reports that Whitaker’s “cushy gig” with FreedomWorks raises “ethical questions” for the Trump ally.
“The group brought Whitaker on in March 2020 to head up its new ‘American Freedom Initiative,’ which FreedomWorks claimed ‘aims to recommend deserving individuals to the Trump Administration for pardons and commutations,’” Sollenberger reports. “A previously unreported federal filing from FreedomWorks, which does not have to disclose its donors, shows that the organization paid Whitaker $400,000 last year in unspecified ‘consulting’ fees.”
Sollenberger adds, “That role raises a number of ethical questions for Whitaker. He was directly involved in White House clemency negotiations possibly as late as Trump’s last full day in office, but never registered as a lobbyist while advocating for pardons — and FreedomWorks never named clemency issues in any of its 2020 lobbying reports.”
Whitaker, according to Sollenberger, is “listed as an advocate in two official announcements — the December clemency granted to convicted health-care fraudster Daniela Gozes-Wagner, and the last-minute conditional pardon extended to Stephen Odzer, who in 2006, pleaded guilty to more than $16 million in bank fraud.”
The Campaign Legal Center’s Kedric Payne told the Beast that Whitaker’s activities with FreedomWorks raise “red flags.”
According to Payne, “Federal law requires disclosure from those who are paid to lobby for pardons. This matter raises red flags because there appears to be extensive paid lobbying, but no evidence of lobbying registration. The public has a right to full disclosure about who is lobbying our public officials.”
The Beast discussed Whitaker not only with the Campaign Legal Center, but also, with another government watchdog group: Common Cause.
Paul S. Ryan, who serves as vice president of litigation at Common Cause and shouldn’t be confused with former House Speaker Paul Ryan, told the Beast, “Other lobbyists tied to Trump have reported massive income lobbying the (Trump) Administration for pardons. Any failure by Whitaker to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars received to lobby the Trump Administration warrants close scrutiny.”
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