Bush ethics lawyer: The Jan. 6 committee needs to follow the money

In an opinion piece for MSNBC, Richard Painter -- the chief White House ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration from 2005 to 2007 -- brings up what many see as a 'critical' question about the aims of the House Select Committee's public hearings regarding the events of January 6, 2021, as well as identifies "several key areas where the Jan. 6 committee should be directing their focus."

"Where did the money come from? Who paid for this over two-month effort to reverse the results of an election that President Joe Biden won by over eight million votes? And who paid for what almost became a military coup as well as a violent insurrection?" Painter writes. "It is also illegal to use campaign funds to pay for an insurrection or any other illegal conduct."

As Painter further points out, "Many of the insurrectionists came to Washington on bus trips organized and paid for by political organizations in their states of origin, in many cases with funds from state Republican Party organizations, campaigns or related political entities. Political funds can be used for legal challenges to the results of an election when a legitimate challenge can be made. Likewise, campaign funds can be used to stage a rally to support the election of a candidate before the election or a rally to claim victory or concede defeat after the election."

"But campaign funds cannot legally be used to attempt to overturn an election by anti-democratic means. Moreover, campaign funds cannot legally be used to encourage political supporters to break the law. Both the Trump campaign and state GOP organizations should have known as much," Painter writes.

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Painter also points a finger both at conservative media and social media platforms.

"The second source of funding that should be considered wasn’t cash, but the in-kind donations that came from the conservative media outlets that spread the Big Lie. Fox News of course comes to mind, but there were many others, including talk radio stations, blogs and more ...the Jan. 6 committee should expose the actions of the largest media companies, including not just cable television and radio stations but social media giants like Facebook as well. Congress already has heard from the Facebook “whistleblower” Frances Haugen about how Facebook was adjusting its rules to accommodate false statements posted by Trump, his campaign and his supporters up to Jan. 6. Likewise, these companies were happy to take campaign money to post and air ads that spread these lies after the election."

Many of the organizations that helped spread Trump's "Big Lie" are publicly traded companies that owe an explanation to their shareholders and other investors, as Painter indicates.

The former Bush administration official also identifies another important funder of Jan. 6 -- the US taxpayer.

You can read all of Richard Painter's commentary here.