Richard W. Painter, who served as the chief ethics lawyer in President George W. Bush’s White House, blasted President Donald Trump’s personal spiritual adviser Paula White, suggesting the religious leader was committing “fraud” and running a “Ponzi scheme.”
The White House recently announced that White, who previously served as the senior pastor of New Destiny Christian Center in Florida, would officially spearhead Trump’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative. Since taking on the official role, the prominent televangelist has continued to sell religious items that she claims will provide spiritual and material benefits to buyers.
“This ‘prosperity gospel’ scam by @Paula_White tests the boundaries between ‘religious freedom’ and criminal mail fraud and wire fraud,” Painter argued in a Wednesday morning tweet. “‘Send me money and God will make you rich.’ Now she uses her White House position to make her sales pitch.”
This “prosperity gospel” scam by @Paula_White tests the boundaries between “religious freedom” and criminal mail fraud and wire fraud.
“Send me money and God will make you rich.”
Now she uses her White House position to make her sales pitch.
— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) November 13, 2019
On Tuesday, Painter raised related concerns about White. “Paula White now is running her faith based Ponzi scheme from inside the White House,” he wrote in a tweet, sharing a link to a Newsweek article that reported on criticism of Trump’s adviser. ‘”Send me your January paycheck and God will pay you back with interest …. [perhaps out of somebody else’s February paycheck],'” he added.
Back in January of 2018, White, whose net worth is estimated to be around $5 million, appealed to her followers to send their first paychecks of the year to support her ministry. She warned that those who did not obey the call would face “consequences” from God.
What exactly is @Paula_White supposed to do in the White House?
She carries around a Bible instead of a copy of Forbes magazine.
But she doesn't read it.
— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) November 12, 2019
In a follow-up post, Painter, who is now a law professor at the University of Minnesota, wrote: “What exactly is @Paula_White supposed to do in the White House? She carries around a Bible instead of a copy of Forbes magazine. But she doesn’t read it.”
The Newsweek article shared by Painter highlighted criticism of White by Melissa Rogers, an expert on religion in public life who served as executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships under President Barack Obama. “White continues to hawk religion-themed items, including items she promises will reward buyers spiritually and materially,” Rogers tweeted. “This is simply wrong.”
“No matter what formal ethics rules say, or how they are interpreted by this White House, it is simply wrong for the White House advisor to the ‘Faith and Opportunity Initiative’ to do these things,” the religion expert, who is now a visiting professor Wake Forest University School of Divinity, added.
Last week, White launched a new prayer initiative with fellow evangelical leaders. During her prayer, she suggested that Trump’s opponents “operate in sorcery and witchcraft.” White previously said during a sermon: “Wherever I go, God rules. When I walk on White House grounds, God walks on White House grounds,” adding, “I have every right and authority to declare the White House as holy ground because I was standing there and where I stand is holy.”
White evangelical Christians remain a strong base of support for Trump, with an October poll showing that 99 percent of Republicans from that demographic are opposed to the president’s impeachment and removal from office. Over 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election, according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute.