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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Ethics office: Anonymous gifts to legal defense funds are not allowed

Megan Wilson
The Hill
Originally posted September 28, 2017

The Office of Government Ethics (OGE), the federal government’s ethics watchdog, clarified its policy on legal defense funds on Thursday, stating that anonymous contributions should not be accepted.

The announcement comes after a report that suggested the OGE was departing from internal policy regarding the donations, paving the way for federal officials to accept anonymous donations from otherwise prohibited groups — such as lobbyists — to offset their legal bills.

In 1993, the OGE issued an informal advisory opinion that allowed for such donations because the federal employee “does not know who the paymasters are.”

Immediately after, the office acknowledged the problems associated with allowing prohibited individuals to give to legal defense funds anonymously and instead advised lawyers not to accept those contributions.

Then-OGE Director Stephen Potts told a congressional panel in 1994 that the agency “recognized that donor anonymity may be difficult to enforce in practice because there is nothing to prevent a donor disclosing to the employee that he or she contributed to the employee’s legal defense fund,” the advisory published Thursday notes.

The article is here.