An official complaint has been made to the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) suggesting that the impeachment scandal whistleblower may be in violation of federal law regarding gifts to current intelligence employees. A campaign on GoFundMe has so far raised over a quarter of a million dollars in order to “support the whistleblower’s lawyers.” But is it all just a scam? Is this actually just a money-making scheme relying on anti-Trump individuals? Or is it a coordinated effort to pay the whistleblower a huge chunk of change through untraceable sources?
Although the appeal states that “Donations will only be accepted from U.S. citizens,” the reality is that anyone from anywhere in the world can donate, and all they need is an email address and a PayPal account. A brief search through the donations already made clearly shows two things:
- The vast majority of donations are done so anonymously.
- Some of the names appear to be fraudulent.
For example, it is highly unlikely that Baron [sic] Trump (13 years old), and Tiffany Trump both donated to the cause. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of big-money donations came directly from anonymous sources.
The fundraiser has not been set up by the whistleblower’s lawyers, but rather by a nonprofit called Whistleblower Aid, which seeks to provide information and services to those who have government-related information. The group itself has been in operation for at least two years and relies on anonymous contact through the Tor network (essentially a way of accessing the dark web). It has a range of articles and advice columns on how an informant can best to protect his or her privacy and operate within the boundaries of the law… But they don’t get the GoFundMe money. The law firm presently being used by the whistleblower is apparently the recipient of the cash. Donations raised will go to pay for its fees and services. This is the crux of the complaint being brought forward.
Anthony Gallo, the managing partner of Tully Rinckey PLLC, representing the complainant, wrote to the ICIG, saying:
“[M]y client believes … that the federal employee you are protecting and their attorneys apparently have strategically weaponized their alleged whistleblowing activities into a very lucrative money-making enterprise using a charity incorporated under a different name than the trade name it is using for fund-raising purposes, which would appear to my client to be a clear abuse of the federal employee’s authority and access to classified information.”
He said that he had “not seen anything on this scale.”
Room for Corruption?
Whether the ICIG will subpoena records from GoFundMe to determine whether foreign citizens or governments have contributed to the cause remains to be seen. In a statement to Fox News, whistleblower attorney Andrew Bakaj said:
“Any fundraising efforts for the Intelligence Community Whistleblower have complied with federal laws, including ethics requirements. Should any governmental agency properly inquire we would, of course, cooperate.”
While Bakaj may turn out to be absolutely correct in his assessment of legality in this instance, there is a whole can of worms here that needs to be addressed. Fundraising platforms are open to abuse and can be used as a way of surreptitiously funneling payments.
Donations from anonymous sources have long been used to wash money, provide pay-offs, and generally avoid scrutiny. The rights of real whistleblowers need to be protected, and part of that involves being as transparent as possible; when a layer of unidentified money comes into the equation, we can never truly be sure of pure motivations.
Read more from Mark Angelides.