Though done quietly, The U.S. Office of Government Ethics has reversed an internal policy which disallowed donations from anonymous lobbyists sources to staffers for legal defense funds.
The change could actually help President Trump’s aides raise the money they need to fight the so-called Russia collusion but there is concern that several unforeseen conflicts could arise from the move.
As reported by Politico:
Lawyer fees have long been the source of controversy for presidents under fire. Richard Nixon’s White House took covert steps to pay the Watergate burglars, and a trust set up during Bill Clinton’s first term to deal with Whitewater and other controversies had to return hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from a controversial Arkansas friend who was later indicted for campaign finance abuses.
The anonymous donation issue sat on the OGE back burner until just before the 2016 election, when then-Director Walter Shaub initiated a review.
In an interview, Shaub said that given the political environment he anticipated questions about the rules surrounding legal defense funds would be front and center — no matter who won the White House.
“I was worried they’d read the  opinion and think it’s valid,” he said of the guidance that allowed for anonymous donations from lobbyists.
The Trump White House, which did not respond to a request for comment on this story until after it was initially published, said in a statement that it is not helping to set up any legal defense funds and it is also not pushing for any change that allows anonymous donations. If anything, a White House aide said the administration is interested in identifying ways to have donors disclosed and to ensure no prohibited sources, including lobbyists, are contributing funds for the benefit of White House employees.
The White House aide also disputed Shaub’s characterization — which the former OGE chief had initially posted on Saturday on Twitter — that the OGE and the White House had been negotiating on the issue behind his back while he was still the office director. Trump officials were only looking to OGE for advice on how to comply with federal ethics rules, the aide said.
“This is another example of Walter Shaub — who has no direct knowledge of anything the White House is doing or assisting with — trying to make himself feel relevant,” said White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters.