A legal firm has filed an official request with the Office of Government Ethics to investigate a possible conflict of interest between Attorney General Merrick Garland and his son-in-law’s business that promotes Critical Race Theory in classrooms.
"Today, America First Legal filed a request for investigation with the Office of Government Ethics regarding Attorney General Merrick Garland’s compliance with conflict of interest regulations," America First Legal said in a statement outlining Garland’s son-in-law Alexander Tanner’s involvement with Panorama Education Inc.
"Attorney General Garland’s son-in-law is Alexander Tanner. Mr. Tanner is a corporate official of Panorama Education Inc.," the statement adds. "Panorama’s website assures school boards it may purchase racial and gender indoctrination, data mining, and other services using parents’ tax dollars. Publicly available corporate data shows investors, including tech billionaire oligarchs, have invested over ninety million dollars in Panorama. Panorama’s business, its investors, and Mr. Tanner are likely to be adversely affected if parents protest and stop school boards from funding racial and gender indoctrination (i.e. ‘equity’) programs aimed at K-12 public school students."
The firm argues that federal ethics rules required Garland to disclose and seek clearance in order to preside over a matter where his son-in-law has a vested financial interest in Critical Race Theory being accepted by school boards.
"The nut of the matter is this," Senior Counselor and Director of Oversight and Investigations America First Legal Foundation Reed Rubinstein told Fox News. "His son-in-law’s business depends for its revenue on the willingness of school boards to purchase their services for racial and gender based indoctrination and other sorts of surveys and data mining. If parents are protesting successfully and stop this sort of activity then the business of Panorama and the son-in-law’s ownership interest is adversely affected. If the parents win then Panorama and its investors lose."
In the filing, obtained by Fox News, AFL points out that Garland previously pledged in his ethics agreement with the Department of Justice that "in the event that an actual or potential conflict of interest arises during my appointment, I will consult with the Department ethics officials and take the measures necessary to resolve the conflict, such as recusal."
AFL also filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with DOJ on earlier this month seeking records related to Garland's Oct. 4 memo, which directed DOJ's National Security Division and the FBI to investigate "threatening" parents at school board meetings speaking out against CRT.
Garland's directive has been criticized for politicizing DOJ because it came just days after a controversial letter from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) to President Biden, suggesting that parents pushing back during school board meetings are engaging in "domestic terrorism." Now, Garland is also under increased scrutiny for his son-in-law's ties to a company that backs CRT.
Last week, the National School Boards Association issued an apology for the letter it sent to the Biden administration. "On behalf of NSBA, we regret and apologize for the letter," the NSBA said, noting that "there was no justification for some of the language included in the letter."
Garland refused to say Thursday when grilled by Republican Rep. Mike Johnson whether he sought ethics guidance concerning his son-in-law’s business before he issued his explosive memo this month saying the FBI will investigate threats by parents against school board members.
Panorama was reportedly paid at least $27 million from as many as 1,500 school districts across the country since 2017, raising questions about how much Garland’s family stands to benefit from law enforcement cracking down on school board opposition.
"An employee of the executive branch is discouraged from engaging in conduct that's likely to affect the financial interest of someone close to them," Johnson told Garland. "Your son-in-law, your daughter, clearly meets that definition. So the question is, did you follow that regulation? Did you have the appropriate agency ethics official look into this? Did you seek guidance as the federal regulation requires?"
Garland repeatedly refused to answer the question, saying only that the memo targets threats of violence against school officials.
"This memorandum is aimed at violence and threats of violence," Garland said.
"Did you seek ethics counsel before you issued a letter that directly relates to the financial interest of your family? Yes or no?" Johnson asked.
"This memorandum does not relate to the financial interests of anyone," Garland responded.
"I take that as a no," Johnson said.
Garland also refused to say whether he would consider submitting to an ethics review.
"Obviously we didn’t find his answers satisfying or convincing," Rubinstein told Fox News. "The appearance of conflict for the attorney general is a significant matter given the nature of how his son in law’s business makes its money."
Rubinstein added that he believes Garland’s staff "let him down" by not instructing him to seek clearance on whether or not he should recuse himself over the school board matter.
Both the Justice Department and Panorama Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fox News.
Fox News’ Kelly Laco and Jessica Chasmar contributed to this report