A look at the group suing Trump over business conflicts

Markets Associated Press

The government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a lawsuit Monday in New York alleging that President Donald Trump is violating the Constitution by allowing his business to accept payments from foreign governments. A brief look at what the group is and what it does.

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WHAT IS IT?

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is a non-profit group made of lawyers and other staff that track and oppose the "negative impact of money in politics" through legal action, public policy and communications strategies. It is based in Washington, D.C. and has a staff of about 12. It calls itself nonpartisan, but progressive. It was formed in part as a counterweight to the conservative watchdog group, Judicial Watch.

The group is being represented in the Trump lawsuit by two former White House chief ethics lawyers: Norman Eisen, who advised Barack Obama, and Richard Painter, who worked under George W. Bush. CREW was founded in 2003 by Eisen and Melanie Sloan. Sloan has served a number of high ranking Democrats, including Charles Schumer, John Conyers and Joe Biden. The current executive director is Noah Bookbinder, a former federal prosecutor in the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section. He was an adviser to advised Chairman Patrick Leahy and managed communications during the confirmation hearings of U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

HOW IS IT FUNDED

Through grants, foundations and donations from public, according to a spokesperson for the group. Fundraising/contribution revenue for 2014 is listed as $1,891,525. They also received $275,443 in court awards that year for a total of $2,167,229, according to tax documents.

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NOTABLE CASES:

— Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed multiple ethics complaints and requested an inquiry by the Office of Congressional Ethics into Aaron Schock after media reports of the Illinois congressman's lavish spending, including his office, which was inspired by the show "Downton Abbey." More revelations about Schock's misuse of funds followed, and he resigned from office in March of 2015. Schock's federal corruption trial is scheduled for July 11.

— The group sued the Justice Department in 2011 for withholding documents relating to its investigation of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who resigned in 2006. A federal appeals court ruled in 2014 that the documents should have been released under the Freedom of Information Act.