Non-profit

Restore Public Trust (RPT)

Website:

restorepublictrust.org

Type:

Center-Left Litigation and Advocacy Organization

Project of:

New Venture Fund

Executive Director:

Caroline Ciccone

Restore Public Trust (RPT) is an advocacy organization launched in November 2018 to assist the efforts of organizations within what has been called a “constellation of progressive-oriented accountability groups that have launched in response to Donald Trump’s presidency.” [1]

Restore Public Trust is a project of the New Venture Fund (NVF), a major 501(c)(3) funding and fiscal sponsorship nonprofit catering to left-wing advocacy organizations and labor unions. [2] However, as of January 2020, Accountable.US (another New Venture Fund project) has claimed control of Restore Public Trust. Accountable.US notes that it is “in the process of transitioning from the New Venture Fund” into a standalone nonprofit. [3]

While classifying itself as a “non-partisan public interest group,” its investigations have been solely directed at Republicans and the Trump administration. [4] On the day it was launched it filed 12 freedom of information requests with Trump administration Cabinet agencies. [5]

RPT’s board of advisers consists of Democratic Party strategists, operatives, political consultants, and former Obama administration officials. Most are or have been affiliated with other so-called “accountability” organizations that have been launched by the left since President Donald Trump took office – in two instances specifically the organizations mentioned in a January 2017 proposal made by Hillary Clinton operative David Brock to major left-wing donors, which advocated a mission of damaging the incoming Trump administration with a barrage of open records requests and bad publicity. [6] [7] Executive director Caroline Ciccone is a former executive director of the left-wing advocacy group Americans United for Change, and a former staffer from the Obama administration. [8]

RPT and at least two other groups—Democracy Forward (DF) and American Oversight (AO)—did not exist at the time of the Brock proposal, but have since emerged to fulfill the mission it promoted. These organizations have staffs and board members that have been affiliated with each other’s organizations and the organizations specifically noted in the Brock document. [9] [10] [11]

Background

RPT was established after the 2018 midterm elections, in which Democrats won control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Citing its own polling as showing “people believe the Trump administration has a corruption problem,” an RPT news release declared it ready to assume the job of “exposing corruption and holding officials accountable.” RPT announced it had already filed 12 freedom of information requests with Trump administration cabinet agencies. [12]

RPT portrays itself as a resource for “journalists examining the alleged malfeasance of government officials.”[13] Unlike the frequent references regarding the Trump administration, RPT’s public pronouncements do not reference holding Democratic officials accountable as part of the mission, even though RPT defines itself as a “non-partisan public interest group.”[14]

RPT is a project of the New Venture Fund (NVF),[15] a major 501(c)(3) donor to left-wing advocacy organizations and labor unions, such as Americans for Responsible Solutions, the Feminist Majority Foundation, and the National Education Association. [16] Kyle Herrig, a director for NVF, is also on the advisory board of RPT. [17]

Relations with Other Left-wing “Accountability” Organizations

In a Daily Beast media interview, RPT executive director Caroline Ciccone stated her organization’s objective was to provide “complimentary strategies” in cooperation with other organizations sharing similar missions. RPT was noted in the media report as one of a “constellation of progressive-oriented accountability groups that have launched in response to Donald Trump’s presidency.”[18]

American Oversight (AO) was also listed in the report. [19] It was launched in March 2017 and opened investigations into the Trump administration based largely on its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and lawsuits. For 2018 alone, AO claimed to have filed more than 1000 FOIA requests and 56 open records lawsuits directed at the administration. [20] Democracy Forward (DF) also fills a role very similar to that of AO; both are tied to major left-wing Democratic donors and employ staffers with partisan left-wing work histories.

In December 2018, RPT and Democracy Forward sent a joint request to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), alleging the possibility that EPA officials had illegally collaborated with the Fox News Channel on the content of an April 2017 broadcast, and asking for an investigation from the OIG. [21]

Criticism of Trump Administration

Restore Public Trust signed and authored a letter condemning the immigration policy of the Trump administration and urging American CEOs not to employ anyone involved with the policy. It accused these officials of being directly guilty for physical abuse, sexual assault, and even the death of illegal immigrant children. The letter was titled “An Open Letter to America’s CEOs” and was dated April 6, 2019. [22]

Cooperation with Congressional Democrats

On December 7, 2018, RPT announced it was asking the House Financial Services Committee to investigate U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao’s behavior while she was on the board of Wells Fargo. Shortly before this, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California) had announced one of her first jobs after becoming chair of the committee in January 2019 would be investigating Wells Fargo’s business practices. RPT also released a report purporting to show “numerous instances where Wells Fargo took advantage of its customers through fraudulent schemes during Secretary Chao’s time on the Board.”[23]

Restore Public Trust v. Department of Transportation

American Oversight filed a lawsuit in June of 2019 on behalf of Restore Public Trust in order to gain access to documents detailing U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao’s alleged leverage of her political role as Secretary of Transportation to promote the interests of her family’s company Foremost Group. [24] Her family owns the organization Foremost Group, an American shipping company that is headquartered in China. [25]

Specifically, American Oversight requested access to the travel records of Elaine Chao. Additionally, American Oversight requested access to documentation detailing her communication with individuals associated with her husband Senate House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s reelection campaign and communication between senior Department of Transportation staff and entities or individuals representing Foremost Group. [26]

While she maintains no formal stake or affiliation in Foremost Group, McConnell has received millions of dollars in gifts from her father, James Chao, who ran the organization until 2018. Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaigns have also received more than $1 million in contributions from James and Angela Chao who have both served on the executive board of Foremost Group. [27]

Elaine Chao has been accused of abusing her role as secretary of transportation to arrange government-funded transportation for her relatives, using her political status to promote Foremost Group, and involving family members in high-profile government meetings. [28]

Leadership

Lizzy Price is the director of Restore Public Trust. She oversees communications and investigative research projects. She has previously worked as national communications director for gubernational campaigns at American Bridge as well as a communications director for both the New Hampshire Democratic Party and the Arkansas Democratic Party. [29]

Caroline Ciccone is currently the executive director of Accountable.US but previously worked as the executive director for Restore Public Trust. Before that, she worked at Precision Strategies, a strategic consulting firm; served as executive director for Americans United for Change; worked at the U.S. Small Business Administration; as deputy communications director at the Democratic National Committee; and in the press office of Senator Barbara Boxer. [30]

Three members of Restore Public Trust’s past advisory board have been transferred to the staff of Accountable.US. Restore Public Trust is currently not a stand-alone nonprofit but a project managed by Accountable.US.

Accountable.US’ board members have extensive connections to Democratic officials and causes, left-wing advocacy groups, and in particular other left-wing “accountability” organizations that dovetail with the mission laid out in the January 2017 Brock proposal. Three board members have history with American Bridge 21st Century and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) – the two main organizations specifically promoted in the Brock proposal. [31] [32]

Kyle Herrig is currently the president and founder of Accountable.US and previously worked on the advisory board of Restore Public Trust. He is the director of New Venture Fund and is on the board of American Oversight. [33] He co-founded and is an advisor for Allied Progress, Equity Forward, and Fix the Court. [34]

Shripal Shah is currently on the advisory board of Accountable.US and previously worked on the advisory board for Restore Public Trust. [35] He is vice-president of American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic Party super PAC. He was formerly a staffer for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). In 2014, he worked as both communications director and deputy campaign manager for Senator Jeanne Shaheen. [36]

Brad Woodhouse is currently on the board of Accountable.US and previously worked on the advisory board for Restore Public Trust. [37] He is executive director of Protect Our Care, an Obamacare advocacy organization and project of the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a 501(c)(4) advocacy group and sister to New Venture Fund. He is also a former president of both American Bridge 21st Century and Americans United for Change, and a former communications staffer for the Democratic National Committee (DNC). He worked as an advisor and a spokesperson for Senator Jon Corzine in the early 2000s, a communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2003-2004 and as communications director for the Democratic National Committee in 2008. He also worked as a senior strategist for both of President Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012. [38]

Melissa (Bruns) Bonine’s biography page on RPT’s website refers to her as an operations expert for center-left groups. She has a work history that includes the offices of congressional Democrats and in the Obama administration.

References

  1. Stein, Sam. “New Progressive Oversight Group Wants to Make Trump’s Cabinet Miserable.” Daily Beast. November 8, 2018. Accessed January 4, 2019. https://www.thedailybeast.com/new-progressive-oversight-group-wants-to-make-trumps-cabinet-miserable ^
  2. “Support our fight to end government corruption.” Restore Public Trust. Accessed January 4, 2019. https://secure.everyaction.com/zIyA4KS7AkubEkRvdxPumw2 ^
  3. “Donate.” Accountable.US. Accessed January 23, 2020. Original URL: https://www.accountable.us/donate/. Archived URL: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2020/01/Accountable.US-Donate.-New-Venture-Fund-Project.-01.2020.pdf

    From the archived page:

    Accountable.US is a project of the New Venture Fund, a 501(c)(3) public charity that provides fiscal sponsorship and project hosting for various public interest campaigns. All donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. Contributions to Accountable.US may appear as New Venture Fund on your bank or credit card statement. EIN 20-5806345

    Accountable.US is in the process of transitioning from New Venture Fund and expects to be able to accept donations as an independent 501(c)(3) entity in the near future. ^

  4. “New Accountability Group Restore Public Trust Launches Today, Will Expose Corruption and Malfeasance at Highest Levels of Government.” Restore Public Trust. November 8, 2018. Accessed January 4, 2019. http://restorepublictrust.org/restore-public-trust-launches/ ^
  5. “New Accountability Group Restore Public Trust Launches Today, Will Expose Corruption and Malfeasance at Highest Levels of Government.” Restore Public Trust. November 8, 2018. Accessed January 4, 2019. http://restorepublictrust.org/restore-public-trust-launches/ ^
  6. “Who We Are.” Restore Public Trust. Accessed January 4, 2019. http://restorepublictrust.org/about/ ^
  7. Schoffstall, Joe. “Read the Confidential David Brock Memo Outlining Plans to Attack Trump.” Washington Free Beacon. January 26, 2017. Accessed December 12, 2018.https://freebeacon.com/politics/david-brock-memo-attack-trump/ ^
  8. “Who We Are.” Restore Public Trust. Accessed January 4, 2019. http://restorepublictrust.org/about/ ^
  9. “Who We Are.” Restore Public Trust. Accessed January 4, 2019. http://restorepublictrust.org/about/ ^
  10. Schoffstall, Joe. “Read the Confidential David Brock Memo Outlining Plans to Attack Trump.” Washington Free Beacon. January 26, 2017. Accessed December 12, 2018.https://freebeacon.com/politics/david-brock-memo-attack-trump/ ^
  11. “About.” American Oversight. Accessed December 28, 2018. https://www.americanoversight.org/about ^
  12. “New Accountability Group Restore Public Trust Launches Today, Will Expose Corruption and Malfeasance at Highest Levels of Government.” Restore Public Trust. November 8, 2018. Accessed January 4, 2019. http://restorepublictrust.org/restore-public-trust-launches/ ^
  13. “Restore Public Trust Urges Incoming House Financial Services Chair to Examine Role of Secretary Chao as Board Member of Wells Fargo.” December 7, 2018. Accessed January 4, 2019. http://restorepublictrust.org/restore-public-trust-urges-incoming-house-financial-services-chair-to-examine-role-of-secretary-chao-as-board-member-of-wells-fargo/ ^
  14. “New Accountability Group Restore Public Trust Launches Today, Will Expose Corruption and Malfeasance at Highest Levels of Government.” Restore Public Trust. November 8, 2018. Accessed January 4, 2019. http://restorepublictrust.org/restore-public-trust-launches/ ^
  15. “Support our fight to end government corruption.” Restore Public Trust. Accessed January 4, 2019. https://secure.everyaction.com/zIyA4KS7AkubEkRvdxPumw2 ^
  16. New Venture Fund. IRS Form 990. 2015. Accessed January 4, 2019. http://www.newventurefund.org/wp-content/uploads/NVF-2015-990.pdf ^
  17. “Who We Are.” Restore Public Trust. Accessed January 4, 2019. http://restorepublictrust.org/about/ ^
  18. Stein, Sam. “New Progressive Oversight Group Wants to Make Trump’s Cabinet Miserable.” Daily Beast. November 8, 2018. Accessed January 4, 2019. https://www.thedailybeast.com/new-progressive-oversight-group-wants-to-make-trumps-cabinet-miserable ^
  19. Stein, Sam. “New Progressive Oversight Group Wants to Make Trump’s Cabinet Miserable.” Daily Beast. November 8, 2018. Accessed January 4, 2019. https://www.thedailybeast.com/new-progressive-oversight-group-wants-to-make-trumps-cabinet-miserable ^
  20. “COUNTDOWN TO OVERSIGHT IN 2019.” American Oversight. December 27, 2018. Accessed December 28, 2018. https://www.americanoversight.org/countdown-to-oversight-in-2019 ^
  21. “Groups Demand Investigation into EPA, Fox News Coordinated Effort on Government-Sponsored Propaganda.” Democracy Forward. December 13, 2018. Accessed January 4, 2019. https://democracyforward.org/press/groups-demand-investigation-into-epa-fox-news-coordinated-effort-on-government-sponsored-propaganda/ ^
  22. “An Open Letter to America’s CEOs.” Restore Public Trust. April 6, 2019. https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/04/Restore-Public-Trust-Open-Letter-Asylum-04.2019.pdf ^
  23. “Restore Public Trust Urges Incoming House Financial Services Chair to Examine Role of Secretary Chao as Board Member of Wells Fargo.” December 7, 2018. Accessed January 4, 2019. http://restorepublictrust.org/restore-public-trust-urges-incoming-house-financial-services-chair-to-examine-role-of-secretary-chao-as-board-member-of-wells-fargo/ ^
  24. Barton, Regina. “Department of Transportation Sued for Documents Related to Elaine Chao.” 12 June 2019. Accessed January 31, 2020. www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/department-of-transportation-sued-for-documents-related-to-elaine-chao. ^
  25. Barton, Regina. “Department of Transportation Sued for Documents Related to Elaine Chao.” Washington Examiner. 12 June 2019. Accessed January 28, 2020. www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/department-of-transportation-sued-for-documents-related-to-elaine-chao. ^
  26. “Elaine Chao’s Family Business and Kentucky Favoritism.” American Oversight. December 6, 2019. Accessed January 27, 2020. https://www.americanoversight.org/investigation/elaine-chaos-family-business-and-kentucky-favoritism. ^
  27. Forsythe, Michael, et al. “A ‘Bridge’ to China, and Her Family’s Business, in the Trump Cabinet.” The New York Times. 2 June 2019. www.nytimes.com/2019/06/02/us/politics/elaine-chao-china.html?smtyp=cur&smid=tw-nytimes. ^
  28. Barton, Regina. “Department of Transportation Sued for Documents Related to Elaine Chao.” Washington Examiner, 12 June 2019. www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/department-of-transportation-sued-for-documents-related-to-elaine-chao. ^
  29. “Lizzy Price.” About Us. Accountable.US. Accessed January 28, 2020. https://www.accountable.us/team/lizzy-price/. ^
  30. Accountable.US. “Caroline Ciccone.” About Us. Accountable.US, 2020. https://www.accountable.us/team/caroline-ciccone/. ^
  31. “Who We Are.” Restore Public Trust. Accessed January 4, 2019. http://restorepublictrust.org/about/ ^
  32. Schoffstall, Joe. “Read the Confidential David Brock Memo Outlining Plans to Attack Trump.” Washington Free Beacon. January 26, 2017. Accessed December 12, 2018.https://freebeacon.com/politics/david-brock-memo-attack-trump/ ^
  33. “Kyle Herrig.” About Us. Accountable.US. 2020. https://www.accountable.us/team/kyle-herrig/. ^
  34. David Horowitz Freedom Center, ed. “Restore Public Trust .” Discover the Networks . David Horowitz Freedom Center. Accessed January 23, 2020. https://www.discoverthenetworks.org/organizations/restore-public-trust-rpt/. ^
  35. “Shripal Shah.” About Us. Accountable.US. 2020. https://www.accountable.us/about/. ^
  36. David Horowitz Freedom Center, ed. “Restore Public Trust.” Discover the Networks. David Horowitz Freedom Center. Accessed January 23, 2020. https://www.discoverthenetworks.org/organizations/restore-public-trust-rpt/. ^
  37. “Brad Woodhouse.” About Us. Accountable.US. 2020. https://www.accountable.us/about/. ^
  38. David Horowitz Freedom Center, ed. “Restore Public Trust.” Discover the Networks. David Horowitz Freedom Center. Accessed January 23, 2020. https://www.discoverthenetworks.org/organizations/restore-public-trust-rpt/. ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Shripal Shah
    Advisory Board Member
  2. Caroline Ciccone
    Executive Director
  3. Kyle Herrig
    Advisory Board Member
  4. Melanie Sloan
    Advisory Board Member
  5. Brad Woodhouse
    Advisory Board Member
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