We already knew Trump’s acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, was involved in a shady enterprise to collect steep fees from the would-be inventors of time travel devices and “masculine” toilets. We also knew he embraced the role with vigor, writing threats to those that criticized the scheme.
Now we’re learning that Whitaker’s more recent day job appears to be little more than the latest iteration of a common conservative “nonprofit” scam. Whitaker made a television name for himself as the president of FACT, a supposed government watchdog organization that just happened to focus primarily on Donald Trump’s most despised enemies, Hillary Clinton and then, after the launch of the Russia election probe, Special Counsel Robert Mueller. (This is how Whitaker came to Trump’s attention in the first place, since Donald Trump is an obsessive TV watcher who chooses nearly all of his underlings based on their ability to praise him on television.)
What is FACT, then? According to reporting from the Washington Post, it seems to be little more than a “charity” pass-through for wealthy conservatives to pass funds to Matthew G. Whitaker. Over three years, Whitaker raked in $1.2 million as the charity’s only apparent employee.
Whitaker’s 2017 pay from the charity — more than $500,000 for the first nine months, or half the charity’s receipts for the year, according to tax filings — and the group’s earlier, dormant incarnation have not been previously reported by media.
That’s not the only dodgy thing about FACT, either.
The Post reports that the nonprofit went through several iterations of name and supposed mission (it started out as a supposed “environmental policy” group, of all things) before landing on the new plan of being a one-employee shell seemingly designed to promote Matthew Whitaker, personally; it’s not clear the IRS ever approved this latest, strangest incarnation. Who, precisely, was making the donations in the first place has been carefully shielded from the public eye—it could be only a handful of wealthy donors, or even a single wealthy man who just liked the ever-lovin’ hell out of the idea of giving Whitaker, personally, an important, TV-worthy title. The other two members of the charity’s board, consisting of a Whitaker former law partner and another conservative activist, were unwilling to talk to the Post, which is always a red flag.
And at least one of the people on the charity’s prior IRS filings doesn’t know how his name even got there.
“I never signed anything,” [Noah Wall] said. “I’m not entirely sure what any of this is.”
Now there’s a ringing charity endorsement. And it’s still probably a better sign than when two of the three board members refuse to return press phone calls.
All this is very interesting, of course, and we’ll no doubt be learning more details in the weeks ahead, but it still comes back to the same question it seems to always come back to. Is there anyone among conservative pundits and activists who isn’t running a series of weird but obvious scams on the side? Anybody at all?