Acting Attorney General Whitaker’s Financial and Political Conflicts Of Interest

From likely partisan conflicts of interest to concerns about dishonesty, American Oversight is investigating Matthew Whitaker’s appointment as acting attorney general — and calling on multiple federal offices to look into potential violations of the Hatch Act as well as his failure to disclose political contributions he received during his time at the Justice Department.

Background

When President Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions immediately after the 2018 elections, he appointed Matthew Whitaker, Sessions’s chief of staff, to take his place. The Department of Justice failed to release Whitaker’s financial disclosure reports until nearly two weeks after his November 7 appointment — after American Oversight called for the files to be made public — and there are serious questions about Whitaker’s ethics and potential conflicts of interest.
As the nation’s top law enforcement officer, the attorney general should be above partisan politics, and the DOJ has long held political appointees to a high standard of nonpartisan behavior.

Potential Hatch Act Violations

According to news reports and filings with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), Whitaker received multiple political contributions in early 2018 – after he joined the DOJ – in an apparent violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from knowingly soliciting, accepting, or receiving any political contributions.

In January and February 2018, contributions totaling $8,800 were made into a campaign account that has remained active for the past four years following Whitaker’s unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate in 2014. American Oversight has called for the Office of Special Counsel, which oversees enforcement of the Hatch Act, to investigate Whitaker for this potential violation.

Financial Disclosure Issues

The FEC records also revealed that Whitaker made a personal loan to his former Senate campaign in 2014, of which $49,187.37 remains unpaid. According to Office of Government Ethics guidance, Whitaker should have listed the loan as an asset on his financial disclosure forms – but the documents released in late November 2018 did not include any reference to the loan.

American Oversight sent a letter to the Office of Government Ethics and the DOJ’s Departmental Ethics Office on November 21, 2018, calling on them to investigate the omission, and sent a letter to the Office of the Special Counsel calling on it to investigate possible Hatch Act violations.

In addition to questions about Whitaker’s conflicts of interest and financial disclosure, American Oversight also filed multiple FOIAs in the weeks after Whitaker’s appointment, seeking DOJ communications about his hiring, his correspondence with Congress and outside groups, and any communications he had about Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whose investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election Whitaker publicly criticized while serving as Sessions’ chief of staff.

What We’re Seeking

  • Acting Attorney General Whitaker’s communications with Congress, the Department of Justice, and outside groups, including his communications with Sam Clovis, a close friend of Whitaker who served as co-chair of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign
  • Department of Justice communications and forms regarding Whitaker’s hiring, as well as Whitaker’s calendar and his resume from when he was hired
  • Records from Whitaker’s time as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, including hiring materials, salary and benefits information, memos authored by, complaints, and any performance reviews or reprimands
  • Any requests for extension for Whitaker to file his financial disclosure reports, records to grant an extension or to inform him the reports are overdue, and any fines he may have received as a result
  • Communications between Whitaker and anyone in the White House Office discussing or mentioning Robert Mueller or the Special Counsel investigation

Related Documents

December 6, 2018

DOJ and OGE Records Regarding Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski’s Ethics Determinations

Department of Justice, Office of Government Ethics
Agency Record
December 5, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Records Regarding Acting AG Whitaker’s Appointment

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 30, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Matthew Whitaker’s Ethics Determinations, Waivers, and Recusals

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 30, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Matthew Whitaker’s Communications Regarding FACT and Ethics Concerns

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 21, 2018

Letter to OSC Calling for Hatch Act Investigation of Matt Whitaker

Office of Special Counsel
November 21, 2018

Letter to OGE Calling for Investigation of Matt Whitaker Financial Disclosures

Office of Government Ethics
November 21, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Acting AG Whitaker’s Communications with Donors

Department of Defense
FOIA Request
November 20, 2018

Acting Attorney General Whitaker’s Form 278

Office of Government Ethics
Agency Record
November 19, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Regarding the Release of Matthew Whitaker’s Financial Disclosures

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 19, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Records Related to Matthew Whitakers Delayed Financial Disclosures

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 16, 2018

Letter to OGE Regarding Matthew Whitaker’s Lack of Public Financial Disclosures

Department of Justice, Office of Government Ethics
November 16, 2018

FOIA to the Federal Trade Commission Regarding Matthew Whitaker and World Patent Marketing

Federal Trade Commission
FOIA Request
November 13, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Legal Analysis Regarding Matthew Whitaker’s Appointment as Acting Attorney General

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 13, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Records Regarding Matthew Whitaker’s Appointment as Acting Attorney General

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 13, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Records from Matthew Whitaker’s Time as U.S. Attorney in Iowa

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 13, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Matthew Whitaker Communications

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 13, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Communications Regarding Matthew Whitaker

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 13, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Matthew Whitaker and Sam Clovis Communications

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 13, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Matthew Whitaker External Communications

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 7, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Matthew Whitaker Resume and Ethics Considerations

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 7, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Matthew Whitaker’s Congressional Communications

Department of Justice
FOIA Request