While the right-wing blather on about the “deep state” conspiracy to thwart President Trump’s radical agenda, progressives unfortunately lack a catch-all term to describe the real conspiracy that dominates our politics — the cabal of shadowy conservative oligarchs who, not content with merely controlling the vast majority of the nation’s’ wealth, also want to determine the political fate of America.
This authoritarian-leaning group of wealthy white men — let’s call them the “money mafia” for now — has been undermining our democracy through their domination of Republican campaign financing, their support of organizations like the Federalist Society that under the Trump administration now determines who gets appointed to the federal judiciary, and their hidden underwriting of key minions in government who will do their bidding to ensure that their retrogressive agenda is enacted.
Today, in yet another shocking revelation about Trump’s recently appointed acting Attorney General Mathew Whitaker, The Washington Post uncovered the fact that a shadowy conservative nonprofit “watchdog” organization paid Whitaker over $1.2 million over the last three years since he arrived in Washington to basically spread conservative propaganda under the guise of charitable work.
While that fact alone does not necessarily indicate any illegal activity, the hidden origins of the money that funded the organization, The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), and the notable lack of any other full-time employees besides Whitaker actually working for the “group”, raises serious questions about the purpose of the non-profit and its legitimacy, adding yet another reason to question his suitability for the acting Attorney General role.
The Post’s investigation into FACT shows that it is part of a coordinated network of right-wing non-profits that promote the conservative messages favored by wealthy oligarchs.
“In its application to the IRS for status as a tax-exempt organization, the organizers reported that the group would study the impact of environmental regulations on businesses, records show. In that incarnation, the group took no action and “only existed on paper,” one man named in IRS filings as a board member told The Washington Post. Another named in a state filing as a board member said he never agreed to be on the board,” The Washington Post reported.
Whitaker’s compensation for the first 9 months of 2017 alone as FACT’s executive director totaled more than half a million dollars, but exactly what he and the charity did to justify its non-profit status is unclear. The Post article details a number of name changes in the two years that the organization existed before Whitaker joined it, a time during which one of the group’s supposed directors, as listed in its tax filings, says that the charity held no meetings and apparently had no bank account.
“The organization only existed on paper and didn’t do anything at all,” he told The Post in an email.
Where the money came to hire Whitaker remains a mystery as a spokesman for the organization who demanded anonymity told The Post:
“Like nearly all non-profit organizations — including those with similarly stated missions — FACT does not and is not required to release its donor information,” the statement said. “This protects free speech rights of all of these groups’ supporters as outlined in the First Amendment.”
The Post did determine by investigating the group’s tax filings that they received money from DonorsTrust, a large nonprofit organization that wealthy contributors have used to anonymously give millions to conservative nonprofits in recent years, as well as America Rising, a research and communications firm in Arlington, Va., “whose mission is to help its clients defeat Democrats.”
Yet the name changes, along with a constantly shifting mission statement, has led to questions about the legitimacy of FACT’s tax-exempt status.
“It’s very possible that this organization is misusing its status as a charity,” said David Nelson, a specialist on nonprofit organizations and a former tax partner at the Ernst & Young accounting firm, who reviewed the group’s tax filings at The Post’s request. “It appears the IRS never gave approval to FACT.”
Though its website and 2014 tax filings describe FACT’s mission as educating “the public about unethical conduct on the part of public officials by publicizing these actions through media outlets throughout the country” and through its own website, that goal seems suspiciously like the type of political activity that the IRS specifically prohibits charities from engaging in.
The truth is that Whitaker spent most of the time that he was serving as the executive director of FACT appearing as a conservative commentator on cable news outlets and attacking Democrats, hardly the type of non-political activity that the charity was authorized to conduct.
While it seems obvious that FACT and Whitaker abused their non-profit status to serve as political operatives for wealthy Republican donors, Whitaker somehow managed to parlay that experience into a job as then-Attorney General Jeff Session’s Chief of Staff and now into a controversial appointment as acting Attorney General replacing Sessions after his ignoble forced resignation by President Trump.
If there weren’t already plenty of reasons to prevent Whitaker from serving even temporarily as head of the Justice Department, his involvement with an apparently fraudulent charity adds one more cause to the already substantial list.
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