Donald Trump's one-time acting attorney general lobbied the White House to pardon clients of a conservative "dark money" group, in possible violation of the law.
Matthew Whitaker, who served in various roles in the Justice Department from September 2017 to February 2019, went to work for the conservative FreedomWorks organization recommending individuals for pardons and commutations, and a filing from the activist group shows he was paid $400,000 in unspecified "consulting" fees, reported The Daily Beast.
“Federal law requires disclosure from those who are paid to lobby for pardons,” said Kedric Payne, senior director of ethics and lobbying law specialist for the nonpartisan watchdog Campaign Legal Center. “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.”
Whitaker was directly involved in clemency negotiations with the White House possibly as late as Trump's last full day in office, but he never registered as a lobbyist and FreedomWorks never listed clemency issues in its 2020 lobbying reports.
“Other lobbyists tied to Trump have reported massive income lobbying the administration for pardons," said Paul S. Ryan, vice president of litigation at government watchdog Common Cause. "Any failure by Whitaker to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars received to lobby the Trump administration warrants close scrutiny."