Democratic lawmakers are seeking hard answers to some hard questions about a fund set up to defray legal costs for aides to Donald Trump who find themselves caught up in the Russia probe. In fact, little is known about the Patriot Legal Expense Fund Trust established by theWashington-based law firm Wiley Rein other than the fact that it can accept unlimited contributions from either individual donors or “entities” and that the fund manager is empowered to almost unilaterally decide who will get reimbursed and for how much.
Writing to Office of Governments Ethics (OGE) Director David Apol on Monday, House Oversight Democrats led by ranking member Elijah Cummings requested documentation on how the fund was established, the ethics concerns that emerged and if they were ever addressed. The Washington Post writes:
“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,” lawmakers wrote, echoing concerns various ethics experts raised after the draft agreement for the trust was made public. […]
OGE released a draft agreement for the trust in January, but the trust’s official filings with the Internal Revenue Service and the Delaware secretary of state offered little insight as to how it will vet donors and provide transparency about the contributors who finance the effort.
Lawmakers noted that those documents showed that the trust “was reviewed by your office in just 31 minutes. It is unclear whether OGE reviewed previous versions and if so, why those versions were not released.”
Basically, anyone who has had anything to do with the Trump campaign, transition, or administration, including volunteers, is eligible for reimbursement from the “Patriot” fund. For obvious reasons, a key concern for Democrats is making sure procedures were put in place that will protects against reimbursements won’t be based “on whether an individual will testify favorably for President Trump or the Administration.”