Watchdog Group Alleges Illegal Super PAC Payments To Steve Bannon

Evan Vucci

A super PAC run by close allies to President-elect Donald Trump is under FEC scrutiny for discrepancies in a filing it made during the presidential campaign, drawing renewed attention to a watchdog group's complaint alleging it funneled improper payments to Steve Bannon, Trump's campaign CEO and now his chief strategist.

A Nov. 9 FEC notice flagged by The Daily Beast alerts the treasurer of Make America Number 1 to several issues in the super PAC's September monthly report, including discrepancies from the previous month’s report and a missing signature that would have affirmed it was not coordinating its activities with any campaign.

That notice drew further attention to the close connections between various members of Trump’s inner circle and the super PAC, which is run by the Republican donors Robert and Rebekah Mercer.

On Oct. 6, the Campaign Legal Center, a non-partisan voting rights and campaign finance watchdog, formally alleged to the FEC that Bannon appeared to have been paid illegally for his services to the Trump campaign via payments from Make America Number 1 to a production company associated with him. Bannon had received no salary from the Trump campaign.

“[T]he Mercers recommended Trump hire Bannon, were in a position to know that the Trump campaign was not paying Bannon,” the complaint alleges.

Neither the super PAC nor Bannon provided a response to the Daily Beast with regard to the allegations.

An anonymous film industry source with connections to Freemark Financial, a wealth management firm that has done work with a mysterious production company named Glittering Steel, told the Daily Beast earlier this month that the company was little more than “a front for Bannon.”

Glittering Steel received $187,500 in five checks from the PAC between Oct. 1 and Nov. 5, according to a recent FEC filing. The company is perhaps best known as the credited production company behind “Clinton Cash,” a movie based on the Peter Schweizer book funded by a Bannon-founded conservative think tank. Rebekah Mercer and Bannon were both individual producers on that film as well.

The complaint makes similar allegations against campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, whose firm, The Polling Company, received “nearly twice as much” compensation from the Mercers’ super PAC as it did from Trump’s campaign during the same period.

“In sum,” the complaint reads, “Rebekah Mercer recommended Trump hire Conway, then used the political committee she controls to pay $246,987.16 to Conway’s firm during the period that Conway provided services to the Trump campaign.”

In September, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump hired Bannon and Conway for his campaign days after Mercer held a private fundraiser for Trump where he recommended them for the job.

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