Before Donald Trump appointed Stephen K. Bannon as his presidential campaign’s “CEO’ this week, he was known in media and political circles as the abrasive chief of Breitbart.com — the right-wing website that increasingly reflects white nationalist ideology.
Over the past few several years, however, Bannon has also chaired a shadowy nonprofit group in Tallahassee, Florida called the “Government Accountability Institute.” Its president is Peter Schweizer, author of Clinton Cash, the 2015 HarperCollins bestseller that purported to reveal corruption and self-dealing at the Clinton Foundation. Found to contain many errors and distortions, the book was described in mainstream news outlets as “widely discredited” by the time Trump cited it in a speech attacking the Clintons last spring.
My forthcoming book, Man of the World: The Further Endeavors of Bill Clinton, examines the background of the GAI and its promotion of Clinton Cash. A close look at Bannon, Schweizer, and the GAI reveals that their complaints about the Clinton Foundation represent a textbook example of what psychologists call “projection” — that is, attributing their own questionable behavior and motives to someone else, such as a political adversary.
Exactly how questionable is difficult to tell since, unlike the Clinton Foundation, Bannon and Schweizer have failed to disclose the GAI’s tax forms or other pertinent information from 2015. What follows is excerpted from Man of the World:
When the Government Accountability Institute first appeared on the scene during the 2012 election cycle, the new “nonpartisan” entity almost immediately launched a series of harsh attacks on President Obama that were later determined to be inaccurate by the Washington Post fact-checkers. Eventually, researchers uncovered at least one important source of the money behind the “institute”—an eccentric right-wing hedge-fund executive named Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, based in New York, whose family foundation had given millions of dollars to Schweizer in 2013 and 2014.
The extent of Mercer’s specific support for Clinton Cash is not known, although it seems to have been the main project of GAI during that period. But when HarperCollins editor Adam Bellow, a friend of Schweizer, brought in the book, Schweizer alerted the publisher that GAI’s wealthy supporters were prepared to spend big to promote the book. Without seeking approval from HarperCollins for ads or media outlets, the GAI ran its own Clinton Cash publicity campaign.
The GAI has yet to release its 990 IRS form for 2015, so any specific expenditures on advertising for Clinton Cash remain secret. So does the disposition of the book’s advance and royalties. If Schweizer spent his nonprofit’s money promoting a book whose proceeds accrued to him personally, that would appear to represent precisely the kind of self-dealing for which he had indicted the Clintons. In 2013, the organization disclosed spending more than $100,000 for advertising on the Breitbart website—a company that happened to be chaired by Stephen Bannon, who also chairs the GAI board.
Yes, Bannon spent his nonprofit’s tax-exempt funding to support the profitable media company that he chairs. No wonder Trump likes him so much.