One of President Biden’s top advisers has been able to skirt publicly disclosing her personal finances and business interests, unlike other presidential appointees, due to an ethics loophole.
Anita Dunn, a senior adviser to President Biden, is set to depart the White House and return to SKDK, a liberal corporate and political consulting firm she co-founded, later this month. However, the public will not be able to view her finances, despite her serving as a White House senior adviser for over 130 days.
Federal law requires that highly-involved presidential appointees publicly disclose their finances, but some appointees — known as special government employees — can forgo disclosing their finances if they serve in their role for less than 130 workdays and their salary is $132,500 or below.
Between Inauguration Day on Jan. 20 and Aug. 5, there have been 198 calendar days. According to the U.S. Federal Labor Relations Authority, any work “done on any given day means that day is counted as a work day,” including weekends.
If Dunn didn’t work any of those weekends, which appears to be unlikely due to her role as a senior adviser working on infrastructure and other top White House priorities, Dunn would have still worked 142 days. If you take out federal holidays, Dunn would have worked a minimum of 137 days.
When asked about Dunn not disclosing her finances past the 130 day deadline, the White House did not provide a comment to Fox News.
A White House official previously told Fox News in March that Dunn is one of three officials the administration said did not meet the threshold for disclosure.
“Anita Dunn and Andy Slavitt are special government employees required to file OGE Form 450 (Confidential Financial Disclosure Forms) based on their employment status (both as an SGE and their per annum salary),” the official said. “Bechara Couchair is a full-time employee required to file an OGE Form 450 based on his per annum salary.”
“These individuals have completed 450 forms and are subject to all White House ethics and conflict of interest rules,” the official added. “Our White House ethics officials review all 450 forms and provide rigorous counseling to inform staff members of their ethics obligations, including avoiding any potential conflicts of interest.”
While many of SKDK’s clients haven’t been publicly disclosed, some of the firm’s recent clients reportedly include Microsoft, Pfizer, IBM, Ford, and Comcast, some of which have a stake in President Biden’s policy priorities.
Craig Holman, a governmental ethics lobbyist at the liberal group Public Citizen, told Fox News in a Thursday email that Dunn’s intention of serving as “an informal advisor for a very brief stint” didn’t actually happen and that her major role in the White House “qualifies her as a government employee subject to the disclosure and ethics rules.”
Holman noted that the ethic rules would still apply to Dunn whether she was paid or not, and the Office of Legal Counsel had issued a previous opinion where they concluded that an advisor who “departed from his usual role of an informal advisor” should be formally designated and subject to “any consequent ethics requirements” because he or she was presumably working at the discretion of the president.
“Anita Dunn meets these thresholds as a government employee, subject to the ethics rules, even though she intends on leaving public service soon,” Holman added.
Former Obama ethics chief Walter Shaub told Fox News on Thursday that the “exception” to the financial disclosure law depends on the staffer being a “special government employee and must make less than the equivalent of $132,552.”
Shaub noted that Dunn was classified as a special employee if the White House “expected she would work no more than 130 days” and said that the pay Dunn is receiving “is discretionary,” as the administration “could have paid her any amount they wanted up to a cap that is much higher than the threshold for the requirement to file a public financial disclosure report.”
“Paying less than the $132,552 is a choice. It’s not uncommon to see special government employees paid below the public financial disclosure level, but it does always beg the question are you setting it that low because the person is a short-timer and, therefore, isn’t worth as much to you, or are you setting it that low to avoid public financial disclosure?” Shaub added.
Houston Keene is a reporter for Fox News Digital. You can find him on Twitter at @HoustonKeene