CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (CBS2/FOX 28) — With new calls for an investigation into the financial ties between Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and Republican donors, an Iowa attorney who has worked with Whitaker for years says there's nothing to investigate. First reported by The New York Times, Whitaker has made more than a million dollars in recent years. Most of that money came in the form of salary for his work with a Political Actions Committee known as the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, or FACT.
FACT is among a large number of so-called dark money groups. Now prevalent on both sides of the political spectrum, groups like FACT are able to promote a political agenda while hiding who is funding their venture. While working for FACT, Whitaker appeared several times as an analyst on CNN, expressing his criticism of the Mueller investigation into the Trump Campaign and alleged collusion with Russia. Now, as Acting Attorney General, Whitaker leads that same investigation.
What's of more concern to watchdog groups and Democrats, is nearly $9,000 paid to Whitaker's 2014 campaign for Senate. The money was donated nearly four years after Whitaker's bid ended and after he joined the Department of Justice as then-Attorney General Jeff Session' Chief of Staff. William Gustoff is an Iowa attorney who also serves as Whitaker's campaign treasurer. He tells CBS2/FOX28 News that donations years afte the campaign are nothing new. "These donations really weren't solicited by Matt or me," said Gustoff. "We all run in a lot of the same political circles here and it's just a matter in the course of conversation that, yes, I'm still Matt Whitaker's campaign treasurer."
Gustoff says the money donated by other prominent Republicans went towards outstanding debts that did not include money that Whitaker personally donated to his campaign. He says there's no attempt to influence Whitaker, rather a simple coincidence that political allies recently learned his former campaign remained in the red.
Among those making donations this year to Whitaker's Senate campaign, two top executives of Wild Rose Casino and Resorts in Iowa. Gary Kirke, who heads the chain of gaming centers, is also a co-chair of Governor Kim Reynolds' upcoming inaugural events. Kirke was also scrutinized last year after it was learned he loaned his private jet to Governor Reynolds for free to travel across the state after she was sworn into office. The Governor's office praised the donation as it save taxpayer funds. Critics accused Kirke of trying to earn favor from the new Governor as he was seeking to build another casino in Iowa.
As for Whitaker, his longtime friend says no one, not even a political ally, can sway him from following what he feels is a just path. "He's certainly nobody's bag man or in the tank for anybody, including President Trump. I don't think I could pick up the phone and tell Matt Whitaker to do something and he'd tell me to take a hike."