A provision of the Hatch Act allows officials to raise money to retire campaign debt. Mr. Whitaker lent his campaign $50,000 in the 2014 race, and the campaign has yet to repay him for the majority of it.
But the campaign’s only expenditures in 2018 so far were $228 to reimburse for “data services” and $500 to his old law firm for renting office space. There is no indication he sought to repay himself with the donations.
“The filings make clear that his campaign committee took donations and made expenditures in 2018 after he took office,” said Austin Evers, the executive director of the liberal watchdog group American Oversight, adding that the donations appear to violate the Hatch Act.
Officials at the permanent Office of the Special Counsel, which polices Hatch Act violations, said that they could not comment on specific potential allegations or as to whether there are open inquiries.
Three of the donors are well known in political circles in Iowa. One of them, Gary Kirke, a wealthy casino owner, donated $2,600. His business partner, Michael J. Richards, made a donation for the same amount a few days earlier, records show.
During the period when Mr. Whitaker was registered as a lobbyist in Iowa, he was registered to lobby for Mr. Kirke’s company.
A woman who answered the phone at the firm hung up right after hearing a New York Times reporter was on the line. “He’s not going to comment on anything — thank you very much,” she said.
Another donor, Cameron Sutton, has served on the board of the conservative Heritage Foundation. He did not respond to a call seeking comment. Leon Shearer, the fourth donor, also did not respond to a call for comment.