The people donating the most to fired former Deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe’s new legal defense gofundme may end up getting more than what they bargained for, so to speak.
And the McCabes seem to have forgotten that it was accepting a problematic gift which apparently landed them in hot water in the first place.
To be clear though, the well-intentioned people donating small amounts, who had no prior relationships with the McCabes and who weren’t induced to give to them by political entities like PACs, super PACs, etc. nor by failed former presidential candidates and fired former FBI directors shouldn’t have anything with which to be concerned. But others may wish that they had consulted with their high-priced attorneys prior to their big ticket gifts, like anyone hoping to support McCabe and/or buy his silence before he could spill the beans on them or their associates. Just like, given the DOJ Inspector General’s investigation, it isn’t hard to imagine Virginia’s governor (and known Clinton ally) Terry McAuliffe wishing that his lawyer had waved him off before he opened up his checkbook for Mrs. McCabe’s failed 2016 campaign.
To illustrate, at the time of publication we found a person named Ted Dintersmith publicly listed on McCabe’s gofundme page, where he apparently donated $5,000 and didn’t opt out of having his name published. A person named Ted Dintersmith was one of President Obama’s “bundlers,” defined by the Center for Responsible Politics as, “people with friends in high places who, after bumping against personal contribution limits, turn to those friends, associates, and, well, anyone who’s willing to give, and deliver the checks to the candidate in one big ‘bundle.’” In 2008 Ted Dintersmith delivered between $200 and $500 thousand to Obama and the Democratic National Committee and followed up in the 2012 reelection with another bundle between $50 and $100 thousand. Two months before his reelection, President Obama nominated Ted Dintersmith to the key administration post of Alternate Representative of the United States to the Sixty-seventh Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. So, when the Democrats have needed someone to scrape money together from donors, they have relied on Ted Dintersmith in the past and now he’s given $5,000 to McCabe’s legal defense fund when McCabe is possibly in a position to implicate high-profile Democrats.
And since gofundme allows donors to keep their names outside of public view, there’s almost sure to be a lot of other potentially interesting information which investigators could legally force gofundme to hand over. Similarly, if anyone capable of coding a web crawler to parce the public donation info from McCabe’s fundraising page were to contact FreeMartyG, there would likely be a follow-up article with calculations about the dark money that McCabe has raised on the platform.
For now though, it’s also noteworthy that at the time of publication the average gift to McCabe’s campaign appears to be $42, which seems high.
The average donation to McCabe’s defense fund may be unusually large because much of the money given to him comes from a smaller number of well-connected individuals who each gave a high amount and thereby pulled up the average. These are individuals whom investigators may do well to examine and to interview and with whose associates they might also wish to speak.
For instance, at least $25,000 – or about 4.6% – of what McCabe has raised so far at the time of writing publicly appears to have come from donations of $5,000 each (including that of Ted Dintersmith) and there are more such contributions of that size whose sources aren’t listed publicly.
The DOJ Inspector General and Utah U.S. attorney John W. Huber (who Attorney General Jeff Sessions has publicly tapped to pursue such matters rather than appoint a special counsel) both did not return requests for comment prior to publication as to whether they would seek information about McCabe’s donors from gofundme.
However, it isn’t necessary to graduate from Harvard Law School to know that investigators could subpoena gofundme without establishing that there is probable cause to believe that either McCabe or any of his donors have committed a crime. Instead, investigators would have to convince a judge that the information which they would be likely to gather would be relevant to a criminal investigation. Then, gofundme would be legally required to hand over the names and other billing information of those who have donated to McCabe though its service. Depending on the judge’s order, gofundme could and likely would also be forbidden from telling the majority of its own employees or anyone else that it was providing information to investigators. Republican-controlled committees in either the House or the Senate could also subpoena records from gofundme.
In fact, it’s also possible that gofundme has already received and is complying with such a subpoena. Prior to publication gofundme did not return a request for comment as to whether it has received orders to turn over donor information from McCabe’s campaign, whether it has ever received such an order in the past, or what if anything it would disclose to donors if it were to receive such an order.
Once the investigators had the information from gofundme, they could follow the same process, still without establishing probable cause that any of the donors had committed a crime, to get the phone numbers associated with the donors’ credit cards or bank accounts from their financial institutions. Then, investigators could get pen register/tap and trace orders to collect the identities of everyone with whom McCabe’s big ticket contributors speak from the phone company and investigators still wouldn’t need to establish probable cause that they were breaking the law in order to do so.
Indeed, much of this appears to have already happened in the case of Barrett Brown‘s legal defense fund, which federal investigators subpoenaed in 2013. Parts of that legal battle continues today, but the bottom line is that prosecutors got the information which they sought.
All of this may mean that by the time McCabe’s defense team can spend the over half a million dollars that he has raised thus far, both he and his largest contributors may find themselves wishing that instead of starting a gofundme he had raised money by writing a book – perhaps one with only the second-most self-sanctimonious title of all time.
As a final point of clarification to clear up a lot of confusion, gofundme does not currently have a policy in place which would preclude McCabe from using its service to raise money for his legal defense, although it may have in the past. At the time of publication, gofundme’s relevant policy (available here) states:
campaigns deemed by GoFundMe, in its sole discretion, to be in support of, or for the legal defense of alleged crimes associated with hate, violence, harassment, bullying, discrimination, terrorism, or intolerance of any kind relating to race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender or gender identity, or serious disabilities or diseases;
Marty Gottesfeld is an Obama-era political prisoner and a Republican Senate candidate against incumbent Elizabeth Warren. You can learn more and donate to help him at FreeMartyG.com and to his political campaign at VoteMartyG.com.