Campaign Finance Scandal Drives Wedge Between Bannon And Billionaire Patron
Reprinted with permission from AlterNet
In 2016, the British data firm Cambridge Analytic (which supported Donald Trump during that year's presidential election) used Steve Bannon as its director of U.S. operations — and Cambridge had a billionaire backer in Rebekah Mercer. But now, according to the Daily Beast's Roger Sollenberger, Mercer is distancing herself from the far-right MAGA Republican.
"The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center alleges that the Trump campaign and a pro-Trump super PAC run by Bannon illegally coordinated through Cambridge to pump out millions of dollars in political ads for Trump," Sollenberger reports in an article published on November 16. "Brendan Fischer, director of reform at CLC, said the evidence generated in the closed investigation specifically strengthens their case against Bannon, who was named in the foreign national probe but was never questioned."Bannon and Mercer were allies in 2016. But now, according to Fischer, Mercer appears to be throwing Bannon under the bus.
"Federal election filings show the Trump campaign paid Cambridge Analytica $5.9 million in the 2016 cycle, and MAN1 reported paying another $5 million to the firm after the super PAC began backing Trump," Sollenberger explains. "It is illegal for campaigns and outside groups to coordinate election-related activity through a common vendor without appropriate firewalls in place. Fischer pointed out that Mercer, Bannon's former business partner and billionaire Cambridge financier, appears to have betrayed Bannon, with the right-wing mega-donor pinning the blame for any illicit activity on him."
Fischer told the Beast, "The response from Mercer's attorney was that Bannon was running the show, so the idea that he'd also been running both the super PAC and the Trump campaign — and that both of them were contracting with the firm Bannon had also been running just boggles the mind. These are not novel issues. It's anticipated in the law that a shared vendor might act illegally as a conduit between campaigns, but this is something we haven't really seen before."
According to Mercer's attorney, Mark Hansen, any problematic activity with Cambridge could not be blamed on her, but would lie with Bannon or Cambridge CEO Alexander Nix.
"While Hansen acknowledged that Mercer worked at 'a high level' in the organization," Sollenberger writes, "she had been 'simply swept in' with Bannon and Nix, he said. As the company's top executives, Hansen continued, it was Bannon and Nix who 'directed what CA employees did or did not do in their U.S. campaign work for US political campaigns.'"
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