Steve Bannon Reported To FBI For Breaking Campaign Finance Laws

Christine Beswick - Author
By

Dec. 30 2016, Updated 5:12 p.m. ET

A liberal grassroots organization known as the Democratic Coalition Against Trump has filed a complaint with the FBI alleging that Trump Campaign Chairman Stephen Bannon had violated campaign finance laws, reports the Huffington Post. The Huffington Post stated that the FBI complaint alleges that Steve Bannon coordinated Super PAC activities with the Trump campaign and received payments from the Super PAC after Bannon became an official part of the Republican campaign this August following the resignation of Paul Manafort.

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In addition to being a part of the Trump transition team, Steve Bannon is the head of the Breitbart News media platform, and Trump has been heavily criticized for naming him as a position in the White House in a Trump presidency. Huffington Post reports he runs neo-Conservative headlines to create “shock waves throughout American media.”

Al Franken recently tweeted a copy of many of the headlines run by Breitbart News this year, including, “After the Pulse Club massacre, it’s time for gays to come home to Republican party” and “Gabby Giffords: The Gun control movement’s human shield.”

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In a press release issued by the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, the Coalition stated that they had reported Steve Bannon to the FBI Tuesday morning after they had claimed they had discovered some of his campaign finance dealings. They allege that he broke campaign finance law during his time with the Trump campaign.

The press release further alleges that FEC records show that $950,090 was paid by a pro-Trump super PAC named Make America Number 1 to Bannon’s production company named Glittering Steel LLC over the course of the campaign.

The Make America 1 Super PAC is backed by Robert and Rebekah Mercer. Rebekah Mercer has also reportedly been named to be part of Trump’s Executive Transition Team.

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The Democratic Coalition Against Trump is a liberal grassroots organization with chairs in all 50 states, whose mission was to ensure that Donald Trump never became President, and the organization now plans to ensure the Trump White House is held accountable. The Coalition also runs Artists Against Trump that includes Daily Show creator Lizz Winstead and actor Danny Glover.

Huffington Post reported that Steve Bannon used his production company, Glittering Steel LLC, to create an “electioneering communication” titled “Clinton Cash.” Huffington Post also claimed that payments were sent between Make America Number 1 PAC and Glittering Steel to the tune of almost one million dollars. The alleged transactions occurred “during the 2016 primary and general election cycle” until this September.

Steve Bannon was not a member of the Trump campaign during the primaries.

The Huffington Post also provided a link to a spreadsheet that allegedly shows a list of these payments, with each payment including a link to the corresponding public records on the Federal Election Commission website.

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In one link, for example, an amount of $20,250.00 was requested to be paid to the Make America Number 1 PAC to Glittering Steel LLC with a public disbursement date of February 16, 2016, according to the record on the Federal Election Commission website. At the bottom of this FEC filing, a signature is attached dated June 30, 2016. Above the signature is an oath that reads, “Under penalty of perjury I certify that the independent expenditures reported herein were not made in cooperation, consultation, or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, any candidate or authorized committee or agent of either, or, if the reporting entity is not a political party committee, any political party committee or its agent.”

But Steve Bannon was not with the Trump campaign in February of 2016. He was, however, on the campaign in September 2016. One of the links on the spreadsheet leads to a September 29 date of disbursement on the Federal Election Commission page, listing total independent expenditures $665,937.50 and requesting a disbursement of $11,500.

Whether or not this is a campaign finance violation would be up to the FBI to determine, which is the agency that enforces the Federal Election Campaign Act. Their most recent enforcement of the FEC Act occurred last year when a Virginia man was sentenced to 24 months prison time after pleading guilty to breaking federal campaign laws, reports Knoxville News Sentinel.

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In that case, 34-year-old Tyler Harber pled guilty in February of this year to “illegally coordinating campaign spending between a political-action committee he had helped create and a Virginia congressional campaign” that he managed in 2012. The Knoxville News Sentinel also says that Harber pled guilty to lying to the FBI about the activities.

He was charged in a federal court and sentenced to federal prison time. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark D. Lytle wrote in his sentencing memo, “The defendant’s criminal conduct was not borne of ignorance, naivete, or mistake. Rather the conduct engaged in here was undertaken by an intelligent and careful man with significant experience in politics and campaign finance. He knew exactly what he was doing and exactly the best way to conceal it from his party and from law enforcement.”

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In that case, Knoxville News Sentinel reports that Harber did know what he was doing was against campaign finance law, and he admitted this at the time of sentencing. Harber also reportedly admitted to getting a campaign donor, who had already donated the maximum to Republican Chris Perkins, to donate to the National Republican Victory Fund, a Super PAC launched by Harber.

Harber also reportedly admitted that his mother billed the Super PAC for over $100,000, with his mother keeping $20 thousand of that money, and $118 thousand being used by Harber and his wife for personal use. A 2010 Supreme Court decision does allow for the existence of Super PAC’s and allows for the provision of unlimited fundraising. However, the spending by the Super PAC’s can not be coordinated with the spending of any candidate.

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It is unclear how much of the money listed on the spreadsheet went between the Make America Great Super PAC and Glittering Steel, and how many of those transactions occurred before Steve Bannon became an integral part of the Donald Trump campaign. It was after Paul Manafort’s resignation in August 2016 that Bannon became a part of the campaign, and he was officially appointed to a position with the campaign on August 17 of this year, reports Huffington Post.

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The Democratic Coalition Against Trump stated in their press release, “It is against campaign finance law for super PACs to directly coordinate with the campaigns they support, so Bannon’s role as both an employee of the super PAC and campaign CEO would have broken the law. Additionally, there is a 120-day ‘cooling off’ period for employees once they leave a super PAC to join a campaign to help avoid coordination, which Bannon would have violated when he became Trump’s campaign CEO just 9 days after being paid by Make America Number 1.”

The Huffington Post reports that the Make America Number 1 PAC employed both Steve Bannon and campaign manager Kellyanne Conway. But, whether the dates of the payments and the FEC records are a violation of federal election law remains to be seen, and that decision falls under the jurisdiction of the DOJ. As far as we know, it is only at the complaint stage at this time.

[Featured Image by Gerald Herbert/AP Images]

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