Use of Private Spokesperson by Bannon may Violate White House Gifts Law

Aug 4, 2017
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CLC calls for investigation into why Bannon Publicist Alexandra Preate ‘has not received a dime’ for professional PR services provided

WASHINGTON – Today, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) called for an investigation of White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon for his apparently illegal arrangement with his private publicist Alexandra Preate, who is effectively functioning as an unpaid employee of the White House press team. This arrangement was uncovered by investigative reporter Christina Wilkie with the Center for Public Integrity (story).

“Once again, it appears the White House is ignoring longstanding government ethics rules, this time by outsourcing White House press office functions to an unpaid private public relations consultant,” said Larry Noble, senior director and general counsel at CLC.

“The White House and White House officials receiving secretly-funded professional services raises serious concerns about outside influence over government decision making,” said Brendan Fischer, director, federal & FEC reform program at CLC. “We expect that the new White House Chief of Staff will take remedial action to address these violations of the law.”

Preate’s work for the White House and Bannon raises two potential legal violations, as outlined in the letter sent to the White House, Attorney General’s Office and Office of Government Ethics (OGE).

First, if Bannon accepted Preate’s professional services on behalf of the White House, then Bannon is likely in violation of the Antideficiency Act, which provides that a government employee “may not accept voluntary services for [the] government or employ personal services exceeding that authorized by law.” Second, to the extent that Preate’s services were provided to Bannon in his personal capacity, Bannon may be violating executive branch ethics rules.

There is also reason to believe that a third-party has been subsidizing Preate’s work for the White House and Bannon. Preate’s top client and a major source of her firm’s income is Breitbart News, which Bannon led until recently, and Preate has also represented Trump donor Rebekah Mercer, whose family is part-owner of Breitbart, and who has a long relationship with Bannon.

CLC filed a letter with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in April 2017 about evidence that a Mercer-backed super PAC illegally compensated Bannon’s work and participated in illegal coordination through use of a common vendor.

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