In a move that shouldn’t surprise anyone, Trump’s ethics guy has done one of the most unethical things imaginable. According to Politico, while no one was looking:
The U.S. Office of Government Ethics has quietly reversed its own internal policy prohibiting anonymous donations from lobbyists to White House staffers who have legal defense funds.
This opens the door wide for donations from sources that would want to be in a position to stop or hinder investigations and prosecutions into things like the Russian connection between Trump staffers and Russia. It also opens the door wide for lobbyists needing a favor to make anonymous donations in exchange for “assistance” in obtaining their goals. How cool is that? Marilyn Glynn, a former Office of Government Ethics (OGE) director, said:
You can picture a whole army of people with business before the government willing to step in here and make [the debt] go away,
Let the quid pro quo begin!
This really isn’t a new discussion. The entire issue has been visited and revisited, dating as far back as the Nixon administration who discussed raising funds through donations to pay the thieves that conducted the actual break-in that resulted in that whole mess we know as Watergate. There was further discussion of the ethics problems with legal defense funds during the Clinton administration when the origin of funds used to pay for legal defense against the Whitewater scandal and other legal issues came into question. Whitewater and the Clinton administration gave birth to the 1993 guidance document on the issue that was just “clarified” by the Trump OGE people.
The biggest problem, as described by Politico, results from:
At issue for the Trump staffers is a 1993 OGE guidance document that gave a green light to organizers of legal defense funds for government employees to solicit anonymous donations from otherwise prohibited sources — like lobbyists or others with business before the government. That Clinton-era opinion reasoned that if such donors were anonymous, such donations could be legal because the employee “does not know who the paymasters are.
But former OGE officials say the ethics office quickly determined that guidance had flaws, and instead advised attorneys to stay away from all lobbyist donations, anonymous or not, as they arranged funds benefiting the Clintons and a cadre of senior White House aides.
Before the 2016 election, then-OGE Director Walter Shaub began a review of the 1993 document and anonymous donations. The issue was shoved to the bottom of the increasing pile of ethics issues raised during the campaign and ultimate transition to the Trump administration. With the Trump problems involving the whole non-existent blind trust thing and multiple other ethics problems, the OGE has been over-whelmed. And of course, now Trump has his own people running things, and their interpretations of things are less than ethical in many instances. Their main goal seems to be not insuring that that the administration runs in an ethical manner, but rather in justifying unethical activity in any way they can to give the appearance of propriety.
Newsflash – it isn’t working!
The guidance document has since been updated to replace Shaub’s note with a longer disclaimer signaling the August 1993 document allowing anonymous donations to legal funds remains in force — and “HAS NOT CHANGED.” The guidance also notes that “BECAUSE EACH ANALYSIS IS VERY FACT SPECIFIC” government ethics officials should do a deeper dive before advising individual employees on the rules.
So there you have it – the door is now open for people serving in the Trump administration to pad their legal defense funds with money from Russia or anywhere else, including lobbyists, to defend themselves against charges of collusion with the Russian government. How can Trump’s OGE office not see the problems that could arise as a result of this sneaky, dark of night “clarification” they have put in place?
Featured image from YouTube video.