Stephen Bannon joins Trump campaign | Media Matters for America

Stephen Bannon joins Trump campaign

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  • Before he joined Trump, Bannon bragged he made Breitbart the home of the "alt-right." Now he's back.

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Stephen Bannon, former White House chief strategist and restored executive chairman of Breitbart.com, orchestrated and supported many of the worst elements of the campaign and presidency of Donald Trump. Before, during, and after his direct involvement with Trump’s political ambitions, Bannon used his experience -- and his extensive and complicated financial connections to the far-right billionaire Mercer family -- to stoke the flames of nativist anger, encourage Trump’s most racist and misogynistic rhetoric, support far-right political candidates across the globe, and attack all perceived enemies of Trumpism, potentially including Trump himself.

  • Legal Questions Abound For Stephen Bannon’s Shady Address Book

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Stephen Bannon has led an itinerant life -- living at various points in either Southern California or Florida or New York or Washington, D.C., or London. But one address -- 8383 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 1000 in Beverly Hills, CA -- has been a fixture in Bannon’s business and financial transactions.

    According to California public records and media reports, the white nationalist website Breitbart was at one point registered at that address. So, too, was Glittering Steel, a film production company helmed by Bannon. As were Freemark Financial, a business management firm that handled Bannon’s financials; the Government Accountability Institute, a Bannon-tied right-wing group that purports to investigate government corruption; and a handful of other Bannon-connected companies, including Bannon Strategic Advisors Inc., and Bannon Film Industries Inc.

    According to The Daily Beast, Freemark Financial, run in part by Steves Rodriguez, “is managing the money of” Bannon and has also worked for Breitbart, as well as the London-based data modeling firm Cambridge Analytica (on whose board Bannon once sat) and Glittering Steel. Bannon has reportedly told utility officials in the past to mail “bills to the office of his business manager on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills,” according to The Washington Post.

    Seemingly, all Bannon-connected companies are currently -- or were, until recently -- registered to the same Beverly Hills address, and the financials are managed by Rodriguez and his partners at Freemark Financial.

    Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports also show Make America Number 1 -- a pro-Trump super PAC ran by Bannon and Trump confidante Rebekah Mercer -- paid millions of dollars both to Glittering Steel and to Cambridge Analytica, which was also used by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. And though Cambridge Analytica has no publicly listed address in California, the super PAC payments were curiously sent to the Bannon-centered Beverly Hills address, prompting legal complaints of campaign finance violations. Newly amended FEC reports show Make America Number 1 continued to pay Cambridge Analytica at the Wilshire Boulevard address throughout the fall, raising a host of questions about whether financial transactions centered around Bannon's office are all above board.

    Make America Number 1's Payments To Cambridge Analytica Went To … Bannon’s Beverly Hills Office

    Rebekah Mercer is a multimillionaire GOP mega-donor with ties to Bannon and several other allies in Trump’s inner circle, including Kellyanne Conway, David Bossie, and Trump himself. She and her father Robert are major investors in Breitbart News (to the tune of $10 million) and the Government Accountability Institute, and they’ve employed Glittering Steel -- all Bannon-affiliated groups.

    Robert Mercer is also the principal owner of Cambridge Analytica, which specializes in “political microtargeting,” and Rebekah Mercer reportedly “used her influence in Trump’s circle to ensure that Cambridge Analytica … would be brought on board by Trump’s campaign team.” The Trump campaign ultimately utilized Cambridge Analytica’s services directly.

    Rebekah Mercer in September assumed all control of the pro-Trump Make America Number 1 super PAC, which was previously run by Kellyanne Conway and later David Bossie, before each joined the Trump campaign. The super PAC’s biggest donor was Robert Mercer.

    FEC filings for June, August, September, and October from the Make America Number 1 super PAC (run by Rebekah Mercer and largely funded by Robert Mercer) show millions of dollars going to Cambridge Analytica (owned and invested in by the Mercers) for “survey research,” “data acquisition,” “media” and “campaign management consulting [services].” These filings also show Make America Number 1 made regular payments to Glittering Steel for “video production.”

    Cambridge Analytica’s website lists U.S.-based addresses in Washington, D.C., and New York. A California business public records search returns no results for Cambridge Analytica, and a Delaware business public records search (that lists Cambridge Analytica’s registration) does not provide address registration. Yet, the FEC filings show the Mercer super PAC’s payments to Cambridge Analytica were all sent to the Bannon-centered 8383 Wilshire Boulevard address. It is unclear where or if Cambridge Analytica publicly lists this Beverly Hills address as its own.

    According to The New York Times, Bannon sat on Cambridge Analytica’s board until last August, “when he joined the Trump campaign.” Bannon’s spokesperson told the Times that Bannon no longer has “‘financial involvement’” with the firm.

    So, why were Mercer-approved payments for a Mercer-invested company sent to an address that’s affiliated with Bannon -- and has seemingly no public connections to Cambridge Analytica itself? Were the payments (especially the ones made after August) earmarked for Bannon, though his own spokesperson said he stepped away from Cambridge’s board in August? The shady web of connections among the Make America Number 1 super PAC, Cambridge Analytica, and Stephen Bannon prompted an FEC complaint that raises more questions than answers.

    Campaign Legal Center Filed Complaint Alleging “Illegal Compensation To Stephen Bannon By Mercer-Backed Super PAC”

    On October 6, the campaign finance watchdog Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a complaint with the FEC alleging that the Make America Number 1 super PAC violated FEC laws by making illegal “in-kind contributions to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. in the form of compensation for personal services rendered to the campaign ... and ‘coordinated communications.’” The complaint also noted:

    • The individuals who formed, fund and lead Make America Number 1 were
      responsible for Trump hiring as campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, previous
      president of the super PAC; hiring Stephen K. Bannon as campaign CEO, whose
      projects have long been funded by the individuals who formed, fund and lead
      Make America Number 1; and Make America Number 1 appears to have covered
      the salaries for both Conway and Bannon as they work for the Trump campaign.
    • At the request of Make America Number 1’s founders and funders, the Trump
      campaign has begun contracting with a data firm owned by Make America
      Number 1’s founders and funders and whose board includes Bannon, running
      afoul of the “common vendor” rule designed to preserve the independence of
      campaigns and political committees.

    Then, in December, the CLC “presented new evidence to the Federal Election Commission alleging that the super PAC Make America Number 1 illegally compensated Steve Bannon’s work as Donald Trump’s campaign CEO.” Specifically, the CLC’s new evidence claimed that the super PAC’s payments to Cambridge Analytica were meant as payment for Bannon, not the company at large.

    "If a Mercer-backed super PAC subsidized Bannon’s work for the Trump campaign," the complaint notes, "it violates federal campaign finance law." 

    Importantly, before the October CLC complaint was filed, Make America Number 1’s July monthly and August monthly FEC filings showed that payments to Cambridge Analytica were sent to the Wilshire Boulevard address. Then, after the CLC filed its initial complaint, the super PAC’s payments to Cambridge Analytica (and Glittering Steel) in its September monthly, October monthly, and pre-general election filings started going to new addresses in Virginia. But when the Make America Number 1 super PAC later amended those reports after the presidential election, it changed the Virginia addresses back to the Wilshire Boulevard address.

    In line with the Campaign Legal Center’s FEC complaint, the Make America Number 1 payments to Cambridge Analytica increasingly look like (potentially illegal) payments to Bannon.

    When considering that the FEC reports were amended (as recently as February 21, no less), more questions arise: Why did the super PAC start sending Cambridge Analytica payments to a Virginia address (after the CLC complaint), only to change them back later to Bannon's address? If those payments were earmarked for Bannon, as the CLC alleges, did they continue after he stepped down from the board, given that the amended FEC reports show payments to Cambridge Analytica (at the Wilshire Boulevard address) well past August? What business ties, if any, does Bannon still have with Mercer-backed companies, and if so, do conflict-of-interest laws apply, given that he is a senior White House official?

    Though it’s been documented that Bannon has “lived as a virtual nomad … with no fixed address,” as described by The Washington Post, questions abound about what, if any, legal violations may be looming over the millions of dollars coming into his shady Beverly Hills address.

  • Trump's Desire To Track “Honor Killings” Echoes The Xenophobia Of Breitbart And Bannon, And It’s Not Grounded In Reality

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    President Donald Trump’s new Muslim ban calls on the government to publish information regarding “acts of gender-based violence against women, including so-called ‘honor killings,’ in the United States by foreign nationals.” This order adopts an Islamophobic narrative pushed by conservative outlet Breitbart.com, which was overseen by Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon, but reports suggest that honor killings are not at all common in the United States. 

  • The Media Outlets Poised To Become Trump’s Personal Propaganda Machine

    The President-Elect’s Media Allies Are Already Helping Him Control Narratives And Publicly Attack Enemies

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    After the 2016 presidential election, President-elect Donald Trump is coalescing a network of supportive right-wing media outlets, including an online publication owned by his son-in-law, a supermarket tabloid, and a new 24-hour news outlet that has been described as “Trump TV.” Since the primaries, these right-wing media outlets have helped push Trump's agenda and have attacked his political opponents.

  • Breitbart Admits Role As Trump Enforcer, Showing Why It Should Be Denied Congressional Press Credentials

    Breitbart Editor Says Republicans Should Fear The Website If They Cross Trump

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a Politico article detailing how President-elect Donald Trump’s “horde of enforcers” -- Breitbart.com listed prominently among them -- are scaring Republican lawmakers away from criticizing him, a Breitbart editor said Republicans are right to fear the right-wing website, which was previously run by Trump senior counselor Stephen Bannon. This admission from Breitbart that the outlet plans to support Trump, rather than objectively cover his incoming administration, further demonstrates that the website is not editorially independent enough to warrant permanent Capitol Hill press credentials.

    Breitbart applied for permanent Capitol Hill press credentials in November. Media Matters has objected to the request, urging members of the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery in an open letter to reject the request based on Breitbart’s disqualifying inability to demonstrate editorial independence from the Trump team as required by the committee's rules. Breitbart fails this standard in several ways, as several former members of the committee have acknowledged. In a December 21 Politico report headlined “Trump posse browbeats Hill Republicans,” Breitbart further demonstrates why the site must be disqualified from obtaining a permanent press pass by admitting that it will go after Trump’s Republican critics.

    From the Politico article (emphasis added):

    In early December, Rep. Bill Flores made what seemed like an obvious observation to a roomful of conservatives at a conference in Washington. Some of Donald Trump’s proposals, the Texas Republican cautioned, “are not going to line up very well with our conservative policies," though he quickly added that there was plenty the incoming president and GOP Congress could accomplish together. Little did Flores realize the hell that would soon rain down from Trump's throng of enforcers.

    Breitbart seized on Flores' remarks a few days later, calling them proof that House Republicans planned to “isolate and block President Donald Trump’s populist campaign promises.”

    [...]

    It’s little wonder that Capitol Hill Republicans have papered over their not-insignificant policy differences with Trump, shying away from any statement about the president-elect that might possibly be construed as critical. They’re terrified of arousing the ire of their tempestuous new leader — or being labeled a turncoat by his army of followers.

    It's a novel form of party message discipline that stems from Trump but doesn't necessarily require the president-elect to speak or tweet himself. Plenty of others are willing to do it for him. Since the election, numerous congressional Republicans have refused to publicly weigh in on any Trump proposal at odds with Republican orthodoxy, from his border wall to his massive infrastructure package. The most common reason, stated repeatedly but always privately: They're afraid of being attacked by Breitbart or other big-name Trump supporters. "Nobody wants to go first," said Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), who received nasty phone calls, letters and tweets after he penned an August op-ed in The New York Times, calling on Trump to release his tax returns. "People are naturally reticent to be the first out of the block for fear of Sean Hannity, for fear of Breitbart, for fear of local folks."

    An editor at Breitbart, formerly run by senior Trump adviser Steve Bannon, said that fear is well-founded.

    “If any politician in either party veers from what the voters clearly voted for in a landslide election … we stand at the ready to call them out on it and hold them accountable,” the person said.

  • The Right-Wing Media’s Government Takeover, Via Donald Trump

    Trump Has Picked -- Or Considered -- Over A Dozen Right-Wing Media Veterans For His Administration

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    President-elect Donald Trump has picked -- or considered -- nearly a dozen people who have worked in right-wing media, including talk radio, right-wing news sites, Fox News, and conservative newspapers, to fill his administration. And Trump himself made weekly guest appearances on Fox for a number of years while his vice president used to host a conservative talk radio show.

  • How Mainstream Headlines Have Been Normalizing Donald Trump

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    President-elect Donald Trump is not a normal politician, which is evidenced by his actions, statements, and tendency to make and promote outright lies. But Trump’s break from the norm would not be clear to readers who only glance at headlines, as most do. For months, media have helped normalize Trump with headlines that sanitize his ties to extremists, uncritically echo his lies, and whitewash his incendiary comments. As media prepare to cover a Trump administration, they must work harder to craft headlines that portray Trump’s actions and statements accurately.

    Headlines about the appointments Trump has made to his cabinet and White House staff have helped sanitize his nominees, despite their bigoted rhetoric. After Trump appointed Stephen Bannon, the former head of Breitbart.com, to serve as his chief strategist, newspapers labeled Bannon as a “Conservative flame-thrower,” a “conservative firebrand,” and a “tormenter of establishment GOP.” These descriptions downplay the fact that Bannon ran an unabashedly white nationalist and anti-Semitic website, as well as Bannon’s own history of alleged anti-Semitism. Even when The New York Times reported that Bannon “occasionally talked about the genetic superiority of some people and once mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners,” the headline referred to him as “Combative, Populist Steve Bannon,” ignoring completely his remarks. When Trump appointed Ret. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to serve as his national security adviser, headlines downplayed his Islamophobia and his conflicts of interest and branded him as someone who “brings experience and controversy” and is “not afraid to ruffle feathers.” While the headlines may be accurate, they do not give readers the essential information they need to know about the people who will have Trump's ear.

    Headlines have also left out important context about Trump’s lies. After Trump falsely claimed that he “worked hard” to keep a Ford plant “in Kentucky,” media promoted Trump’s spin in headlines, leaving out the fact that the plant in question was never going to close. After Trump lied in a tweet claiming that he would have “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” mainstream media uncritically echoed him in their headlines and on social media. Trump is an unprecedented liar, and by simply echoing Trump’s statements, the headlines might as well have come from a Trump press release.

    This problem persisted before the election as well. When Trump addressed his history with the birther movement, headlines failed to mention that Trump had not apologized for his years-long crusade to delegitimize President Obama and that he lied by asserting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton had started the rumors that President Obama was born in Kenya.

    In the run-up to the election, headlines also helped normalize Trump’s behavior, which would be unacceptable for anyone else, let alone a candidate for president. Following the release of a 2005 Access Hollywood video where Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women, media headlines characterized the conversation as “lewd.” Lewd is correct, but it misses the point. Trump was talking about imposing himself physically on women without consent. That is sexual assault. Media shouldn’t hide behind creative adjectives to normalize this behavior.

    Headlines are indisputably the most important part of an article. As The Washington Post reported, “roughly six in 10 people acknowledge that they have done nothing more than read news headlines in the past week,” and “that number is almost certainly higher than that, since plenty of people won't want to admit to just being headline-gazers but, in fact, are.” By continually refusing to use headlines to call out Trump’s ties to extremists, incessant lying, and his atrocious behavior, media are normalizing his actions. There have been pleas from many in media to stop normalizing Trump. Headlines would be a good place to start.

  • Fox News Media Critic Has The Worst Take On Trump Being Normalized

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz lambasted the media for failing to “normalize” President-elect Donald Trump, but nothing about Trump’s campaign or his transition is normal -- nor should the media consider it as such. 

    Kurtz’s November 20 column on FoxNews.com criticized “many in the media, mostly on the liberal side,” who say Trump “should not be normalized,” which Kurtz incorrectly interpreted as a denial of the validity of the presidential election results. To back up this assertion, Kurtz wildly claimed that the media's valid questions about many of Trump’s actions are akin to the racist attacks that began about President Obama's faith and birthplace after he was elected, many on Kurtz’s own network. Kurtz’s strawman argument ignores the conduct that demands Trump not be normalized: his campaign of bigotry and division and his cabinet appointees rumored and actual who despise the press, have long histories of hatred, and, in one case, support white nationalist ideology.

    Trump’s policies and behavior are not normal and should not be treated as such, and it is media’s role to hold elected officials accountable. Trump’s team has already soft-pitched internment camps as “precedent” for a Muslim registry, and Kurtz’s Fox News colleagues are already defending the fundamentally anti-American idea. Not only that, but Trump’s transition has raised eyebrows about “mind-boggling” conflicts of interest with the Trump Organization, potential self-enrichment by Trump’s children, and Trump’s extremely disturbing habit of ditching the press as president-elect to maneuver in secrecy, which Kurtz already said is not a problem. This is not normal.

    Trump’s cabinet is similarly filling up with people who espouse horrific beliefs. His appointees so far includes a national security adviser who shares fake news and tells people “fear of Muslims is rational,” a chief strategist who is described as a “white nationalist” by opponents and supporters alike, and an attorney general who was once denied a federal judgeship for being too racist, a fact that Kurtz’s Fox colleagues repeatedly dismissed. Other potential appointees include a bigoted press secretary who hates the press, a commerce secretary who wants to know “what’s with all the hoods in the hizzy,” and a homeland security secretary who calls civil rights activists “primitive,” “unmanageable misfits.” This is not normal.

    When media outlets resist “normalizing” Trump, they are resisting the normalization of racism, Islamophobia, sexism, homophobia, and other types of division and discrimination present in his growing administration. Many outlets, however, are already failing this test. When Trump’s hostilities toward women and minorities are paired with his regular threats against the free press, the media’s role in naming bigotry wherever it is found -- even in the White House -- is more important than ever.

  • Fox Says "Controversy" Surrounding Trump's White Nationalist-Enabling Adviser Stephen Bannon Is That He Doesn't Like Paul Ryan

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News featured a discussion with Special Report anchor Bret Baier about the "controversy" surrounding President-elect Donald Trump's pick for chief strategist, Stephen Bannon. Baier and Happening Now host Jon Scott covered Bannon's "call for Paul Ryan to be removed as speaker," but not Bannon's embrace of anti-Semitism and white nationalism.

    Baier characterized Bannon as "someone who, from the outside, … wanted to take down the Republican Party," and Scott noted that Bannon "called for ... the ouster of Paul Ryan." Baier added that Bannon "does come with a lot of controversy" and has "stoked real concerns, especially on the left." Their vague language obscures the reality of what makes Bannon so controversial. Under Bannon's tenure, Breitbart News ran multiple atrocious headlines such as "Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew" and "Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive And Crazy." Bannon himself trumpeted Breitbart News as "the platform for the 'alt-right'," and Breitbart dutifully helped boost Trump's chances in the election. Furthermore, Bannon encouraged the Trump campaign to incorporate bigoted "alt-right" beliefs and policies into their platform, to the delight of white nationalists. But Baier and Scott found none of this "controversy" worth mentioning. From the November 14 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:

    BRET BAIER: Steve Bannon is someone who, from the outside, wants to -- wanted to -- take down the Republican Party -- and made no bones about saying that. So you have the guy who embodies the Republican Party and the guy who wanted to take down the Republican Party working together inside the Trump White House.

    [...]

    JON SCOTT (CO-HOST): Stephen Bannon's title, chief strategist. … He has been a Navy officer, he was, as we mentioned, head of Breitbart News, he's been an investment banker for Goldman Sachs. But he also, as you pointed out, called for Paul Ryan's elim -- you know, stepping down, the ouster of Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan and Reince Priebus are very close, like this. It's an odd combination, sort of like President Lincoln's team of rivals. 

    BAIER: Well, that's right, and I think that the structure in the campaign seemed to work for the Trump campaign and that's why you put Bannon in there in this role to provide some cover from the Trump folks who would worry that he was automatically being absorbed into this establishment structure inside Washington. However, Priebus is right -- you need relationships up on Capitol Hill to get stuff across the finish line. There is an excitement on the Republican side that they are going to get a lot done, quickly, and it's going to tick down, and in order to do that orderly, you have to have some relationship on the inside and up on Capitol Hill.

    SCOTT: So if you've got a Republican-led House and Senate, nobody is going to be able to help you get legislation passed more quickly than the guy who up till now has headed the Republican National Committee. 

    BAIER: Exactly. And you’re going to have those inside conversations. He’s going to be able to say which trains come on the tracks, you know, get into the oval office -- that's the chief job of the chief of staff is who gets in to see the president. But Steve Bannon, much like David Axelrod in a strategist role inside the White House, not only puts you close to the president but also prevents, perhaps, him from running this movement on the outside to take down the Republican Party. Whether that was a serious thought of why he was chosen, we don't know. I will say this: He come with a lot of controversy, a lot of things he has said before, a lot of things that online has come out of Breitbart has really stoked some real concerns, especially on the left, and they'll have to deal with that as they get ready to take office January 20th.