Fox News’ Gregg Re has just reported that a second whistleblower, possibly a real one this time, filed a complaint last week with the Intelligence Community Inspector General about the original whistleblower, alleged to be Eric Ciaramella. Re wrote that Ciaramella “may have violated federal law by indirectly soliciting more than a quarter-million dollars from mostly anonymous sources via a GoFundMe page.” So far, 6,000 donors have contributed a total of $227,000.
The new whistleblower alleges that these funds:
clearly constitute gifts to a current intelligence official that may be restricted because of the employee’s official position pursuant to 5 CFR 2635.203 and other statutes. The complaint also raised the possibility that some of the donations may have come from prohibited sources, and asked the ICIG to look into whether any “foreign citizen or agent of a foreign government” contributed.”
Tully Rinckey PLLC, the law firm representing the individual reporting the allegations, is closely guarding the identity of their client, though Fox News is told the individual is the holder of a top-secret SCI security clearance and has served in government.
Regarding the fundraising, managing partner at Tully Rinckey, Anthony Gallo, told Fox that “I have not seen anything on this scale. It’s not about politics for my client — it’s whistleblower-on-whistleblower, and [my client’s] only interest is to see the government ethics rules are being complied with government-wide.”
Fox reported in September that Ciaramella’s lawyers, Andrew Bakaj and Mark Zaid of the Compass Rose Law firm, were working with non-profit Whistleblower Aid to launch a GoFundMe page to raise funds for his legal defense. Their goal was to raise $100,000. (That story can be viewed here.) His lawyers:
have called the GoFundMe a way to “help support the Intelligence Community Whistleblower [to] raise funds,” and the GoFundMe page itself states that “A U.S. intelligence officer… needs your help” in the form of a “crowdfunding effort to support the whistleblower’s lawyers.”
The fundraising page claims that “donations will only be accepted from U.S. citizens.” But, the majority of the GoFundMe donors to the whistleblower’s campaign were not named, and legal experts have told Fox News that the ICIG likely would need to subpoena the website to obtain more information on their origins.
Anyway, earlier this year, the “Office of Government Ethics (OGE) warned federal government employees that they “may not accept any gift given because of the employee’s official position,” meaning that the gift would “not have been given had the employee not held the status, authority, or duties associated with the employee’s federal position.” The OGE also cautioned that gifts may not be accepted from “prohibited sources,” including anyone who “conducts activities regulated by the employee’s agency” or who “has interests that can be affected by the performance or non-performance of the employee’s official duties.”
The new whistleblower’s complaint claims these donations “constitute a gift, were made due to the whistleblower’s official status, authority or duties…and that the whistleblower and his legal team appeared to be exploiting their access to classified information.”
In a letter to ICIG Michael Atkinson last week (the same IG who took Ciaramella’s complaint in August), Gallo wrote:
My 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…
We are requesting you investigate whether [criminal statutes or regulations have] been violated by the federal employee you are protecting when they reportedly requested an investigation into a matter that they had no direct personal knowledge of, and on account of which they were able to obtain sizeable gifts from unknown persons because of their official duty.
Re explains that this portion of Gallo’s letter refers to the fact that Ciaramella’s attorney, Mark Zaid is a co-founder of “Whistleblower Aid” which is also known as “Values United.” (Note: “Values United” tax documents show it paid $258,085 for advertising and consulting services to West End Strategy Team, whose founder Matt Dorf was quoted on the group’s website saying he “influences progressive politics, skillfully shifting the conversation to achieve the goals of West End Strategy clients.”)
It’s really such a small swamp, isn’t it?
It’s unclear what effect, if any, this latest complaint will have on Ciaramella’s case. It’s certainly doesn’t help. The fact that his attorney is a co-founder of “Whistleblower Aid/aka Values United” isn’t a good look either. But, if it wasn’t an issue for the new whistleblower six weeks ago when the GoFundMe page was launched, I don’t understand why it would suddenly become one now that he’s exceeded the original target of $100,000. We’ll see what, if anything, GOP leaders do with it.
Ever since it was reported that a member of Schiff’s staff had contact with Ciaramella before he filed his complaint, he has tried to distance himself. But, as more and more information comes out about Ciaramella’s motivations, Schiff may not be able to dismiss him so easily. In fact, Sen. Lindsey Graham suggested over the weekend that if Ciaramella does not testify before the impeachment committee, Schiff may find his whole case will be dead on arrival in the Senate.
I know we have some lawyers among our readers. Any thoughts on this latest development?
Update (1 pm): Fox has posted the document here.