The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust described itself as a new watchdog nonprofit dedicated to exposing unethical conduct by public officials. For Whitaker, it became a lucrative steppingstone in a swift rise from a modest law practice in Iowa to the nation’s top law enforcement job. As FACT’s president, he regularly appeared on radio and television, often to skewer liberals.

But FACT’s origins and the source of funding used to pay Whitaker — now the acting attorney general — remain obscured. An examination of state and federal records, and interviews with those involved, show that the group is part of a national network of nonprofits that often work in concert to amplify conservative messages.

Contrary to its claims in news releases and a tax filing, the group was created under a different name two years before Whitaker’s arrival, according to incorporation and IRS records. At least two of the organizers were involved in another conservative charity using the same address.