Ethics watchdog: Trump voter fraud commission official may have violated law

Ethics watchdog: Trump voter fraud commission official may have violated law
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An ethics watchdog group is alleging that the vice chairman of President Trump's election voter fraud commission may have violated a federal conflict of interest law.

The left-leaning group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), filed the complaint Tuesday with the Department of Justice regarding Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

CREW said Kobach is paid to write columns for Breitbart News.

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One column  — which Kobach later brought up during a New Hampshire meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity — made claims about voter fraud in New Hampshire, according to the group.

Part of his biography at the bottom of the column said: “In 2017 President Trump named him Vice Chairman of the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity,” it added.

"Because Secretary Kobach agreed with Breitbart News to write a column for official Commission use, knowing he would be paid for the column, he appears to have participated in a particular matter in which he had a financial interest," the complaint says.

The executive director of CREW said government employees' actions "should be free from any actual or apparent influence from outside financial interests.” 

“Secretary Kobach’s conduct, however, appears to undermine that principle, and should be investigated to determine if it violated the federal conflict of interest statute," Noah Bookbinder said.

Bookbinder said government officials can't take part in matters "in which they have a financial interest."

“The Department of Justice should immediately investigate and take any action necessary," he said in the statement.

Democratic activist David Brock formerly served as the chairman of the group's board. Norman Eisen, a former chief ethics lawyer for President Obama, now serves as the group's chair and Richard Painter, a former chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush now serves as the vice chair.

Critics of the voter fraud commission have called it a partisan effort to suppress voter turnout and to back up the president's and Kobach's unsubstantiated claims that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election. 

The Government Accountability Office said last month that it would investigate the commission, which was formed in May, after Democrats called for more transparency in its activities.

--This report was updated at 11:44 a.m.