New York Magazine: White House Ethics Office Now Allows Anonymous Gifts to Staffers’ Legal Funds


The ethics watchdog quietly reversed its internal policy that banned lobbyists from making anonymous donations to White House staffers’ legal defense funds. The issue centers on a 1993 internal guidance document that said government employees could solicit money for their legal defense funds, as long as the employee “does not know who the paymasters are.” OGE officials quickly changed their minds, but the document was never updated, as it wasn’t needed during the relatively scandal-lite George W. Bush and Obama administrations.


Then–OGE director Walter Shaub anticipated the issue would come up for the incoming Clinton or Trump administrations, so he ordered a review. OGE didn’t have time to complete it, but in May a statement was added to the top of the document noting that it was “not consistent with current OGE interpretation and practice.” According to Shaub, following discussions with Trump White House attorneys, the note was changed again after he left the office over the summer. Now it says the guideline “has not changed” and decisions should be made on an individual basis.

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