Former Acting Attorney General Whitaker’s Financial and Political Conflicts of Interest

From likely partisan conflicts of interest to concerns about dishonesty, American Oversight continues to investigate Matthew Whitaker’s tenure as acting attorney general. We’ve called 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 Donald 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 — despite 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.

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 had remained active for the past four years following Whitaker’s unsuccessful 2014 run for the U.S. Senate. In November 2018, American Oversight called for the Office of Special Counsel, which oversees enforcement of the Hatch Act, to investigate Whitaker for this potential violation.

The FEC records also revealed that Whitaker made a personal loan to his former Senate campaign in 2014, of which $49,187.37 remained 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 Nov. 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. The same day, the Office of Special Counsel confirmed that it had opened a case file on possible Hatch Act violations by Whitaker in response to American Oversight’s request. 

In addition to questions about Whitaker’s conflicts of interest and financial disclosures, American Oversight also filed multiple Freedom of Information Act requests 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’s chief of staff. On Feb. 14, 2019, William Barr was sworn in as attorney general, and Whitaker took a counsel position at the DOJ until his resignation a month later. 

Updates

News Roundup: The First Real Confrontation Between the Trump Administration and Congressional Oversight

February 8, 2019
The struggle between House Democrats and Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker over his appearance before the Judiciary Committee finally culminated in his first oversight hearing.

Open Questions for Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker

February 7, 2019
American Oversight has been investigating both Whitaker’s political and his financial conflicts of interest since his appointment in November 2018 — here are six questions we’ve been asking.

What to Know If Whitaker Tries to Assert Executive Privilege

February 7, 2019
Friday's hearing in the House Judiciary Committee could set up a showdown over executive privilege. American Oversight's legal team breaks down the reasons Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker may not be able to properly assert executive privilege to avoid answering certain questions.
Show all updates

Related Documents

September 11, 2019

No Records Response from DOJ Regarding Former Acting Attorney General Whitaker’s Communications Regarding Special Counsel Mueller

Department of Justice
Agency Reply
January 28, 2019

White House Memo Appointing Matthew Whitaker as Acting Attorney General on November 8, 2018.

White House
Agency Record
January 7, 2019

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Matthew Whitaker’s Travel Itineraries

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
January 7, 2019

FOIA to DOJ Seeking AG Whitaker’s Travel Records

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
January 7, 2019

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Acting AG Whitaker Communications Regarding Current Investigations

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
January 4, 2019

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Records Regarding the Presidential Memorandum Designating Whitaker as Acting AG

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
December 21, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Whitaker’s Communications Regarding Recusal from the Mueller Investigation

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
December 21, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Regarding Acting Attorney General Whitaker’s Advisers

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
December 21, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Regarding Acting Attorney General Whitaker’s Potential Recusal

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
December 20, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Additional Ethics Waivers for Matthew Whitaker

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
December 12, 2018

Federal Trade Commission Communications Regarding Matthew Whitaker and World Patent Marketing

Federal Trade Commission
Agency Record
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

DOJ - 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 Robert Mueller

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