Today, all of the Democratic Members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a letter to David Apol, the Acting Director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), requesting documents relating to the Patriot Legal Expense Fund, which was established to help White House staff, Trump Campaign officials, and Transition Team members under investigation by the Office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Congress.
"The structure of the Fund appears to allow secret donations to these individuals, and it raises serious concerns about whether it complies with ethics, tax, and elections laws as well as OGE guidance," the Members wrote. "A draft agreement released by your office appears to permit lobbyists and other individuals seeking official action from the Trump Administration to donate money to the Fund."
According to the draft agreement, the Patriot Legal Expense Fund can make unlimited donations to an unlimited number of individuals, with few disclosure requirements. It does not prohibit donors from giving money to the Fund on behalf of other undisclosed donors, and it does not require the Fund Manager or Fund Members to disclose which White House, Trump Campaign, or Transition Team staff receive payments.
The draft agreement also would allow the Fund Manager to communicate directly with the Trump Campaign.
"This loophole would allow the Campaign to influence which individuals receive disbursements from the fund. It also would allow the Campaign to serve as an intermediary for communications between the Manager of the Fund and potential recipients," the Members wrote. "The agreement does not address the potential for pressure to be placed on potential recipients before they testify."
According to the former Director of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub: "This is a shell game. For legal purposes, any bad money taints the whole fund because money is fungible: Every dollar the fund accepts from a questionable source and pays to a nongovernmental beneficiary frees up a dollar for those who do work for the government. All the book-cooking in the world can't remove the taint."
The Members requested communications between OGE and the law firm that drafted the agreement, the Trump Campaign, the White House, or the Federal Election Commission, as well as documents relating to any concerns that arose during OGE's review of the agreement.
Click here to read the full letter.