One of Steve Bannon’s high cards is ostensibly the fact that he gets along just fine with newly appointed Chief of Staff John Kelly. That theory may be tested quickly because just today a government watchdog group sent a formal written complaint to the Department of Justice, the White House, and the Office of Government Ethics making inquiry into Steve Bannon’s shadow press office outside the White House. The purpose of the complaint is to investigate Bannon’s use of a private public relations executive to conduct official White House business, without compensation and to further inquire whether GOP mega donor Rebekah Mercer is paying for services for her business colleague, Bannon, which are expressly prohibited by federal law. Center For Public Integrity:
“Veteran Republican media strategist Alexandra Preate is providing professional services to the White House and White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, yet is not employed by President Donald Trump’s administration or paid by the federal government,” wrote Lawrence Noble and Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit based in Washington, D.C.
The letter, sent today and addressed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Office of Government Ethics Acting Director David Apol and newly hired White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, asks the officials to “exercise the appropriate authority to investigate, prosecute, or make recommendations regarding potential violations of federal laws and regulations.”
The complaint was prompted by a Center for Public Integrity investigation that detailed Bannon’s unorthodox arrangement with veteran Republican strategist Alexandra Preate — one that may violate federal laws.
It also comes less than a month after the Center for Public Integrity and Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting launched #CitizenSleuth — a crowd-sourced investigation that is examining the detailed financial disclosures from more than 400 Trump administration officials, including Bannon.
The Center for Public Integrity working with Campaign Legal Center and CitizenSleuth was reporting in July a story about Bannon’s financial debts. At that time Preate made 18 phone calls during three days on behalf of Bannon.
“If Bannon has accepted Preate’s provision of professional services to the government without any compensation, then Bannon is likely in violation of the Antideficiency Act,” wrote Noble and Fischer, referring to a law which provides that government employees “may not accept voluntary services for [the] government.
“Second, Preate appears to be providing services to the White House, but at other times, she also appears to be providing services to Bannon — indeed, Preate had been serving as spokeswoman for Bannon as far back as August 2016,” Noble and Fischer continued. “Those duties may be intertwined.”
Rebekah Mercer is a marquee client of Preate’s and also part owner of Breitbart Media. Mercer and Bannon continue to co-own at least two companies, Glittering Steel, which is Bannon’s motion picture company, and data firm Cambridge Analytica. If Mercer is paying Preate to provide services to her business associate, Bannon, then that would be a clear violation of federal law, for providing a gift to an executive branch employee which is expressly prohibited.