America Rising Files FOIA to Target 'Politicized' Ethics Office

Barack Obama
January 12, 2017

Conservative group America Rising PAC filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit on Wednesday to target what they say is the politicization of the U.S. Ethics Office under the Obama administration.

The lawsuit came four days after the director of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, sent a letter to Senate Democrats raising "great concern" at the pace of the confirmation schedule for Donald Trump's Cabinet nominees given that several had not completed the ethics review process.

Shaub complained that the incoming administration has placed "undue pressure" on the OGE staff to "rush through" the reviews and warned that some of the nominees may have "potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues." Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) responded by demanding that Republican lawmakers postpone confirmation hearings.

Shaub, an Obama appointee who donated to the president's campaign, raised concern among Twitter users when he authorized a series of partisan tweets on the official OGE account that pre-emptively congratulated Trump for pledging to divest in his businesses, which Trump never agreed to do.

America Rising also charged that Shaub and his office repeatedly overlooked conflict-of-interest issues related to Hillary Clinton, including her reported favorable treatment of Clinton Foundation donors during her time as secretary of state.

"The American people deserve to know if Walter Shaub has turned the ethics office into an arm of the Senate Democrats' Campaign of Obstruction," Scott Sloofman, a spokesman for America Rising, said in a statement Wednesday.

The FOIA lawsuit aims to uncover communications between Shaub and the Democratic Senate offices who were included on the letter sent Saturday, including Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.).

The PAC plans on filing three additional FOIA requests for all communications between the OGE and the "designated Agency Ethics Official" within the Education, State, and Health and Human Services Departments.

Sloofman said the documents would "shed light" on potentially inappropriate communications between Shaub and other Democrats. He demanded they be be turned over "in an expedited manner given the time sensitive nature of the Cabinet nomination process."