Steve Bannon accepted $376,000 in pay over four years from a tax-exempt charity he set up in Florida to investigate political corruption.
During that same four-year period, that charity also paid $1.3 million to two other journalists who worked for Breitbart News, which Bannon oversaw as executive chairman, reported the Washington Post.
The nonprofit organization — which Bannon set up in 2012, when he was Breitbart’s executive editor — also bought $200,000 in advertisements from the conservative news website during the same four-year period, according to IRS filings.
The institute was funded with nearly $4 million in donations between 2012 and 2014 from the conservative Donors Trust and the Mercer Family Foundation.
Publicly available documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service detail the close relationship between the nonprofit Government Accountability Institute, a conservative investigative research organization, and the for-profit Breitbart News, a hub for white nationalists, misogynists and anti-Semites who euphemistically call themselves the “alt-right.”
“Whereas Breitbart is gleefully provocative and hard right, the conceit at GAI is that this is a research organization that is going to do digging and stick to the realm of facts, and they’re going to investigate corruption in cronyism in government, be it Republican or Democrat,” said Joshua Green, a senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek, during an interview with NPR.
The IRS filings show Bannon was paid for 30 hours of work a week at the Tallahassee-based charity, while two of his Breitbart employees were paid for 40 hours of weekly work at GAI.
Wynton Hall, GAI’s communications strategist and a writer and social media chief for Breitbart, was paid $600,000 by the conservative nonprofit between 2012 and 2015.
He was promoted this year to managing editor of Breitbart, which served as a Donald Trump propaganda outfit during the election campaign.
Peter Schweizer, an at-large editor for Breitbart, was paid $778,000 by GAI between 2012 and 2015 as he researched and wrote “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich.”
That book prompted some FBI agents to resume their investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails in the days ahead of the presidential election.
Green, the Blooberg reporter, said GAI was a “sleepy shop” before the publication of “Clinton Cash” last year by HarperCollins, and Bannon used the book to shape mainstream media coverage of Clinton’s campaign.
“These ‘Clinton Cash’ stories and the various relationships that the book documented were intentionally not published on right-wing sites like Breitbart News,” Green said. “What GAI did instead was to reach out to investigative reporters and mainstream media outlets like the New York Times, The Washington Post and others and try and encourage their reporters to take this research that they’d done and to go off and do some digging on their own. And they did, and that wound up resulting in front-page stories in a lot of major newspapers that got this negative information about Clinton in front of a whole different audience than reads Breitbart News or listens to talk radio.”
IRS rules prohibit tax-exempt 501(c)3 public charities such as GAI from participating in or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for office.
A spokeswoman for the institute said GAI has always been in “total compliance with all 501(c)3 rules.”
“The Government Accountability Institute’s [GAI] track record investigating Republicans is clear and undeniable. Republicans like John Boehner, Spencer Bachus, Roy Blunt, Dennis Hastert, Ron Paul, Jeb Bush, Saxby Chambliss, Ander Crenshaw, Ray LaHood, Richard Lugar, Marco Rubio, Jerry Lewis, Bill Young, Dave Camp, Tom DeLay, and the National Republican Congressional Committee have all been the subjects of serious GAI reports and books,” the representative said in a statement.