Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker Scrutinized Over Scam Company and Dark Money Groups

Matthew Whitaker, a harsh critic of the Mueller investigation who has been installed by President Trump to oversee the probe as acting attorney general, may find the public spotlight a bit harsh.

Miami New Times’ Brittany Shammas reported yesterday that Whitaker was “involved in a Miami-based invention-marketing company the Federal Trade Commission shut down last year after calling it a scam.”

“Whitaker not only sat on the board of World Patent Marketing but also once sent a threatening email to a former customer who had complained after he spent thousands of dollars and did not receive the promised services,” Shammas reported.

The Wall Street Journal has added detail to the story, reporting that “Whitaker was paid $9,375 in advisory fees between 2014 and early 2016,” according to documents filed in the FTC lawsuit.

Before becoming Sessions’ chief of staff in September 2017, Whitaker also ran a group called The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) which specialized in accusing Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, of ethical and legal violations. In 2016, Whitaker earned more than $400,000 as FACT’s director and president.

The Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets project reported in 2016 that all the group’s funding in 2014—the year it was organized—came from DonorsTrust, a creation designed to allow right-wing donors to stay hidden as the source of donations:

In other words, an organization “dedicated to promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency” gets 100 percent of its funds from a group that exists mainly as a vehicle for donors to elude transparency.

DeSmog, a blog that challenges disinformation on climate change, noted this week that in addition to the $600,000 FACT received from DonorsTrust in 2014, it also received $500,000 from DonorsTrust in 2015 and $800,000 in 2016.

DeSmog noted that Whitaker labeled an investigation of ExxonMobil by a group of state attorneys general “both unconstitutional and unethical.” That investigation led to charges filed last month against the oil giant for hiding what it knew about the dangers of climate change.

Open Secrets also noted a web of connections between FACT and the Judicial Crisis Network—a group that lobbies for right-wing judicial nominees—including the fact that Neil Corkery served as treasurer of both groups. A 2016 Right Wing Watch In Focus report on “The Obstruction Lobby” reported on the involvement of Corkery and his wife Ann in launching and funding JCN, which was initially called the Judicial Confirmation Network.

While Senate Republicans were refusing to consider President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, Open Secrets reported, FACT “demanded Harvard University release records having to do with Garland’s role in the debate in the early 1970s over whether to allow ROTC recruiters on that campus.”

Whitaker was busy in 2014; he also ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in Iowa, losing in the primary to Joni Ernst.