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William Barr’s donations to Senate Republicans spiked just before they confirmed him as attorney general

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Most of those donations made between 1993 and 2019 were occasional at best. But in the lead up to his Senate confirmation hearings for attorney general earlier this year, his giving habits suddenly changed. Barr’s donations became far more frequent, notable for their size, recipients, and possible utility to him. In total, Barr gave $51,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC)—a group that raises money to help elect Republicans to the Senate—in the months leading up to the Senate’s confirmation of his nomination.

Barr’s ramped up contributions took place over a 5-month period from October 2018 to February 2019 and were substantially different than his prior giving to the NRSC, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings. In the past Barr gave sporadically, once in 2009 and 2011, twice in 2014, one contribution in 2015, and another in 2016. Then, Jeff Sessions’ tenure as attorney general got rocky, and Barr started giving regularly. He donated on a schedule, providing $10,000 every month to the NRSC, on the third of the month, starting in October. That continued until he was confirmed on Feb. 14, 2019, just 11 days after his last contribution.

Neither Jeff Sessions, Loretta Lynch, nor Eric Holder—the three prior attorneys general—made payments to either party committees or senators ahead of confirmation hearings and votes. Holder gave $250 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2007—two years ahead of his confirmation, and also made a contribution to then California senator Barbara Boxer in 2008. Lynch gave $13,800 to Barack Obama’s election efforts in 2008. She wasn’t nominated to become attorney general until 2014.


Barr himself has opined on the matter of prosecutors contributing to political campaigns. In 2017, he spoke to the Washington Post about the prosecutors former special counsel Robert Mueller was hiring as part of his investigation into Russian meddling in the US election and the president’s efforts to thwart that investigation, some of whom had contributed to Democratic causes. “In my view, prosecutors who make political contributions are identifying fairly strongly with a political party,” Barr said.


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