Left-wing groups that support Leandra English’s claim to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau say they aren’t funding her legal battle to be the bureau’s acting director.
English suffered an initial loss Tuesday when U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly refused a restraining order that would allow her to oust rival acting director claimant Mick Mulvaney. The judge also refused to fast-track the case for appellate review.
It’s unclear if English, a longtime government employee reportedly fearful of being fired, can afford a protracted legal fight, or if her attorney Deepak Gupta, a prominent litigator who won two Supreme Court rulings this year, would represent her for free.
Gupta, who is challenging Trump in two other cases, declined to describe funding for English’s lawsuit on Monday, telling reporters “we will be answering those questions” at a later time and in compliance with disclosure rules.
It’s possible that outside donors will establish a legal defense fund for English, but so far there’s no sign that has happened in the less than week-old case.
Representatives of Public Citizen, MoveOn.org, Americans for Financial Reform and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee — four groups represented at a Tuesday pro-English rally with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. — told the Washington Examiner they are not funding English’s litigation.
Adam Green, co-founder of the PCCC, said he “hadn't thought about it until you asked.”
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a progressive group that’s employed Gupta to sue President Trump in a separate matter — alleging violation of the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause — said it also isn’t funding the English fight.
Gupta declined to comment on the record.
If supporters do move to bankroll English’s fight, specific details may not be immediately known to the public.
An Office of Government Ethics spokesperson said certain government employees who receive gifts valued over $390 need to disclose them in annual reports due May 15 or after they leave office. Outside legal funds, meanwhile, are not required to submit forms with the OGE but can seek the office's guidance.
Government rules forbid gifts from individuals or entities with business pending before the recipient’s agency, but little else is simple. Not all federal workers are required to report gifts to the OGE and guidance for legal defense funds is subject to clashing interpretations that earlier this year caused concern among ethics experts about the potential for anonymous legal fund donations.
A long-ignored but never rescinded 1993 OGE legal opinion says donors to outside legal funds should be kept secret to ensure a recipient "does not know who the paymasters are." The White House denied it is moving toward that reasoning, despite removal of a disclaimer on the document.
It’s unclear if some non-OGE disclosure mechanism would make legal defense fund information public, the OGE spokesperson said. They noted only about 1,000 of 20,000 required "public filers" submit forms directly to OGE, rather than with their own agency.
English’s claim to lead the CFPB relies on an argument that the 2010 law that set up the bureau doesn’t give the president authority to appoint Mulvaney, a CFPB critic who also leads the Office of Management and Budget. English argues that law hands the reins to the deputy director if there's a vacancy.