Walter Shaub @waltshaub former Director of @OfficeGovEthics now with @CREWcrew personal account - views are my own May. 17, 2018 3 min read

THREAD: Well, now here’s a surprising development. This month, OGE acting Director David J. Apol quietly changed OGE’s public financial disclosure guide without issuing a legal or program advisory.  /1

That’s unusual for big changes, and there may be a reason why he did it quietly. The new version contains a nice present to the president who replaced OGE’s Chief of Staff, Shelley Finlayson, with Dave Apol as OGE’s acting Director last summer. /2

On p. 325, OGE says a federal official must disclose the name of anyone who donates to a legal defense fund established for the official. That’s a positive change. But… /3

Apol carves out a big exception for the Trump team, saying that recipients of cash from the sinister Patriot Fund don’t have to list the individual donors who gave them the cash in their financial disclosure reports. /4

Instead of disclosing the names of donors, Apol says Trump officials who receive cash from the Patriot Fund can just provide a hyperlink to the IRS page where the Patriot Fund discloses names of donors who give more than $200. /5 

The problem is Apol allows the Patriot Fund to accept donations from prohibited sources who can't give cash to federal officials. Apol sees no problem with officials receiving gifts from this tainted pool of money, despite the prohibition on gifts from prohibited sources. /6

Apol is trusting Nan Hayworth, the Patriot Fund’s manager, to track donations individually and make sure no prohibited donations go to federal officials. (His theory is flawed, of course, because money is fungible. Any prohibited donation to the fund taints the whole pool.) /7

Apol also says Hayworth can keep the fund’s books secret. He also says it’s fine for her not to tell ethics officials or the public whose money she’s giving to federal officials. /8

Now he’s saying that federal officials can also keep donors secret. By linking to the Patriot Fund’s filings on the IRS website, an official who receives money is giving us only the list of donors to the fund and not the list of donors to the employee. /9

Thanks to Apol’s carve out for the Trump team, ethics officials and the public have no way of knowing who’s money Hayworth gave to the official, which gives the Trump team plausible deniability if any illegal gifts are accepted. /10

Some of you will remember that, last September, Apol and the White House press office insisted that donations would not be anonymous. As with so much else coming out of this administration, that turns out to have been untrue. /11

The worst thing about the Patriot Fund is that the secrecy OGE has blessed gives Nan Hayworth (or any successor manager) the ability to reward those who testimony is favorable to Trump and punish those whose testimony is unfavorable. /12

The fund’s charter pays lip service to the idea that she won’t do that, but Apol has allowed them to structure the fund in a way that Hayworth can operate in complete secrecy. She can’t talk to individual officials, but she can talk to the Trump campaign. /13

It’s a shame that the head of the ethics office is complicit in this secretive behavior. There are other problems with the Patriot Legal fund that Apol approved. I outlined them in this op ed.  /14

Blessing the Patriot Legal Expense Fund is the worst thing OGE has done in its 40 years of existence. There’s never been a fund for a “class of persons” before. And the punches keep coming with Apol’s new disclosure carve out for the Trump team. /15

I’m not the only one concerned about this fund either. A number of Members of Congress have demanded answers from Apol. /16 

Before asking questions in response to this thread, please read the op ed where many questions are answered. /end 

You can follow @waltshaub.


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