The 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee, the campaign entity used to fund Donald Trump’s inauguration and related festivities, claimed in its official filing with the Federal Election Commission that it received a $25,000 donation from Katherine Johnson, the distinguished NASA mathematician and physicist. The filing listed her address at 1 NASA Drive in Hampton, Va., the location of NASA’s Langley Research Center. Johnson, who is retired at age 98, does not live at the research center.
Eugene Johnson, who described himself as a friend and power of attorney for Katherine Johnson, told The Intercept that the “donation is fake, she did not make that donation.”
Huffington Post investigative reporter Christina Wilkie noted on Twitter that other major donors do not appear to exist. The filing also lists an “Isabel T. John,” from Englewood, NJ who gave $400,000 for the inauguration. But, as Wilkie noted, John does not appear in public records databases, and the address for the donor matches a corporate parking lot. Wilkie asked the public to help her dig through the disclosure for similar inconsistencies.
The Johnson donation was flagged by Eric Schmeltzer, who posted it on his Facebook page.
The Federal Election Commission is notorious for failing to flag fictitious names in campaign finance reports. In 2008, fake names, including one from “Test Person” living in “Some Place, UT” were found in Barack Obama’s disclosure reports, though the amounts given were relatively small.
The Trump inaugural committee report also revealed other attempts to mask the identities of donors. The report lists a $1 million contribution from the “American Action Network,” a so-called dark money nonprofit group used by House Republicans to engage in elections without revealing donor names.
Johnson’s heroic work on multiple NASA space missions was recently depicted in the award-winning film “Hidden Figures.”