Iowa state filings list Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker as registered agent for the above companies and 11 others.

 

(Image: Photo illustration of company logos.)

TYT Investigates

Filings Show Trump’s DOJ Chief Still Working for 14 Companies

President Trump’s controversial new appointee for Acting Attorney General, Matthew Whitaker, is still listed as a registered agent representing 14 different private companies, Iowa state records show.

The companies, all based in Iowa — Whitaker’s home state — span a strikingly diverse array of industries, from road racing event management to childcare. All have active business filings that continue to list Whitaker as their registered agent, according to records reviewed by TYT.

Whitaker’s former law partner and some of the business owners TYT contacted said that Whitaker is no longer involved and that the filings are not up to date. An Iowa state official said companies must report any change in registered agents.

Whitaker’s business dealings have drawn attention from congressional Democrats, who are challenging Whitaker’s appointment in court. The Justice Department on Tuesday released Whitaker’s most recent financial-disclosure form after the legal deadline for doing so, and amid mounting public pressure.

Some of the companies that list Whitaker as a registered agent appear on his new federal disclosure forms, but most do not. The forms only require listing sources of income above $5,000.

Iowa state law requires companies based there to file a statement including the name of their registered agent, Cory Brown, an official with the Iowa Secretary of State’s Business Services Division told TYT. Whitaker’s name appears on 14 active flings TYT found.

If the filings are accurate, Whitaker’s continued involvement with the companies may run afoul of ethics guidelines. The Justice Department’s ethics office states, “No employee may engage in the practice of law unless it is uncompensated and in the nature of community service, or unless it is on behalf of himself, his parents, spouse or children.”

The restrictions on presidential appointees are even more stringent. “Full-time Presidential appointees may not receive earned income for any outside activity performed during that appointment,” the Justice Department ethics office states. The Justice Department did not respond to TYT’s request for comment.

“If the Registered Agent submitted a Resignation, it would show up on the entity’s Filing History on our website,” Brown explained to TYT. “And the entity would show that there is no Registered Agent on File.”

Asked how long it takes to process filings for Registered Agents, Brown replied via email, “We are currently processing filings that were submitted November 8th, about 5 business days. Once processed, they are immediately reflected on our website.”

Search results from database of Iowa corporate filings.

(Image: Screengrab.)

Whitaker was appointed chief of staff to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions last September. Trump appointed him acting attorney general on November 7th of this year — ten business days prior to this article’s publication.

According to the Iowa secretary of state website, “A registered agent is an individual (or a corporation depending on the business organization) designated by the entity to accept service of process if a lawsuit is filed against the entity.”

With one exception, every one of the companies listing Whitaker as its registered agent remains active, each having filed biennial reports signed by Whitaker on August 10, 2017.

Six of the companies also give as their "principal office" address the same address that is home to Whitaker’s former law office, now owned and staffed by his former partners and business associates. The law office, Hagenow & Gustoff LLP, succeeded Whitaker Hagenow & Gustoff LLP, a law firm for which Whitaker served as managing partner until September 2017 when he became Sessions’ chief of staff.

“Our law firm acts as registered agent for many companies,” Bill Gustoff told TYT. “No steps have been taken at this point to change the actual contact name of the registered agent. But that will be in the due course of business when those businesses come up for renewal with their biennial reports.”

Informed that the state requires registered-agent documents to be updated immediately, Gustoff declined to comment.

TYT has previously reported on the political nature of Whitaker’s old law firm. Founding partner Chris Hagenow serves as Republican majority leader in the Iowa House. He is also a member of the right-wing lobbying group, the American Legislative Exchange Council. Gustoff serves as state Central Committee member and treasurer for the Republican Party of Iowa. Gustoff also served as treasurer for Whitaker’s 2014 Senate run.

One of the firm’s current partners, Kendra Mills Arnold, was previously hired by Whitaker as a contractor for the right-wing Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), when Whitaker was its executive director. Today, she works as FACT’s executive director. Gustoff is listed as FACT’s secretary in its IRS filings.

The companies for which Whitaker is listed as registered agent are remarkably varied. Treuly Refined, LLC, appears to be a home-remodeling company, according to a Facebook page bearing the company’s name. Artistic Curbing, LLC, appears to be a concrete edging and staining company.

LEI Acquisition, LLC, doing business as Little Endeavors Childcare Development Center, is a daycare center. Eric Kohlsdorf, part owner of Little Endeavors, told TYT he bought it from Whitaker in 2015. "Matt used to own the daycare…So when he owned it I'm sure he was the agent for himself."

Kohlsdorf said, "I purchased it from him. He was never our agent. He was his agent."

One of the companies that lists Whitaker as its registered agent, MEM Investment II LLC, bears an almost identical name to MEM Investments, the scandal-plagued, defunct company formed by Whitaker and two partners. MEM Investments reportedly received a taxpayer-subsidized loan to renovate a vacant three-story apartment complex but was beset by cost overruns and other delays before losing the loan. Contractors reportedly alleged that they were not paid for their work.

Several of the firms’ names suggest they are real estate-related, including Whitaker Real Estate Holdings, LLC, Jemm Properties, LLC, and Ironwood Land Development, LLC.

Both JJR Hockey, LLC, and DM Rink Partners, LLC, list a business address matching that of Metro Ice Sports, a skating rink. Racemonkey, LLC, appears to be a road-racing event management company.

And there’s also Ichi Bike, LLC, a quirky custom bikes designer. (“Ichi” means “#1” Japanese, its website says.)

A representative for Ichi Bike, who asked not to be identified by name, told TYT, “He [Whitaker] does not own this business, he is not a part of this business.”

Asked why Whitaker is still identified as its registered agent, he replied, “He told me he was going to pull that but he must’ve not gotten around to it.”

Ken Klippenstein is a senior investigative reporter for TYT. He can be reached on Twitter @kenklippenstein or via email: [email protected].

Follow TYT Investigates on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to stay on top of exclusive news stories from The Young Turks.

00:00 / 00:00