Serious questions being raised about Bill Barr's contributions to Senate Republicans
AG William Barr testifies before Congress. (Image via AFP/Nicholas Kamm.)

Attorney General William Barr, now 69, has a long history of making political donations. But what changed in late 2018 and early 2019, according to a report by Ephrat Livni and David Yanofsky for Quartz, is how many he made — and in the months before his confirmation as U.S. attorney general, there was a sharp increase in Barr’s donations to Senate Republicans.

For their report, Livni and Yanofsky took a close look at the attorney general’s history of political donations. And they describe the donations Barr made from 1993 to mid-2018 as “occasional at best.” But the amount of money Barr donated politically, according to the Quartz reporters, sharply increased “in the lead-up to his Senate confirmation hearings for attorney general earlier this year.”

Altogether, Livni and Yanofsky report, Barr donated $51,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) in the five months leading up to his confirmation as U.S. attorney general by the Senate. Before 2018, the journalists note, Barr donated a total of $85,400 to the NRSC.

Livni and Yanofsky, examining Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings, found that between October 2018 and February 2019, Barr’s donations to the NRSC were “ramped up” and “substantially different” from his NRSC donations prior to that.

President Donald Trump fired former Attorney General Jeff Sessions after the 2018 midterms, temporarily appointing Matthew Whitaker to the position before nominating Barr — who was confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate on Valentine’s Day 2019. That wasn’t the first time Barr enjoyed a Senate confirmation: previously, he served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s.

Those late 2018/early 2019 donations, Livni and Yanofsky point out, do not violate FEC rules. Nonetheless, Adav Noti (senior director of the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C. and former associate general counsel for the FEC) told Quartz that Barr’s NRSC contributions should “raise eyebrows.”

“The fact that any one person can give such large amounts to a political party creates a perception problem,” Noti told Quartz. “Someone giving such large amounts to a senatorial committee before their confirmation certainly raises appearance questions.”