Donald Trump and Steve Bannon have more in common than just denying their connection to white supremacists: they both broke charity laws for their own benefit.
Donald Trump’s chief White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon accepted $376,000 in pay over four years for working 30 hours a week at a tiny tax-exempt charity in Tallahassee while also serving as the hands-on executive chairman of Breitbart News Network.
The charity, called the Government Accountability Institute, lists itself with the IRS as an independent, nonpartisan operation. But not only were they delivering a full-time salary to Bannon, they were also paying out to at least two other Breitbart reporters—while drawing their funds from the same people who installed Bannon in Trump’s campaign.
During the same four-year period, the charity paid about $1.3 million in salaries to two other journalists who said they put in 40 hours a week there while also working for the politically conservative news outlet, according to publicly available documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service.
It’s what Trump did in using money from the Trump Foundation for personal gain—except even worse.
Bannon launched the institute in 2012, shortly after taking the helm of Breitbart. He sought tax-exempt status from the IRS by describing the institute as an education group to help the United States and other countries maintain a “higher quality of life” through “promotion of economic freedom,” according to IRS filings.
Bannon actually created this “nonpartisan charitable institute” for the express purpose of paying himself and other writers at the extremely partisan, and absolutely for profit, Breitbart News. The money for the institute came from a pair of conservative funds, Donors Trust and the Mercer Family Foundation. The same groups were also major contributors to the Trump campaign and behind Bannon’s move to take the position of Trump’s campaign CEO.
Neither the GAI nor Breitbart are independent organizations. Both are part of intentionally confusing webs of PACs, “charities” and organizations funded by a handful of billionaires.
The institute’s communications strategist, Wynton Hall, a conservative writer and activist, received $600,000 in pay from 2012 through 2015.
In its filings, the institute told the IRS that Hall worked 40 hours a week there. He has worked at Breitbart as a writer and social-media chief, and in 2013 was promoted to managing editor. Hall did not respond to a request for comment.
It’s clear that GAI isn’t a “nonpartisan” organization, and that it has violated IRS rules. However, with Donald Trump able to name the IRS director the odds of anything being done about the Bannon and the Mercers violating both the spirit and the letter of the law seem unlikely.
The institute’s president, secretary and treasurer is Peter Schweizer, a prominent conservative writer and at-large editor for Breitbart. He received $778,000 in salary from the institute for 2012 through 2015, the IRS filings show.
Not only with Schweitzer writing for Breitbart and supposedly doing a 40-hour week for the GAI, this is the period in which he wrote the book Clinton Cash.
It’s clear that the “work” Bannon, Hall, and Schweizer did for GAI was simply—nothing at all. Except cashing the checks. The GAI seems to exist for no other reason than allowing conservative billionaires to funnel money into the “alt right” without dirtying their hands by directly paying Nazis.
Steve Bannon may be providing the “platform” for white supremacy. The Mercer Family Foundation is providing the funding.