When we discussed the arrests of Steve Bannon, Brian Kolfage and two of their associates from We Build The Wall yesterday morning, details of the charges against them were still sparse. Over the course of the day and up through the first court appearance, the picture being painted by the prosecutors became a bit more clear. Bannon is the far bigger scalp for the media to collect and he’s drawn the most attention, though the original WBTW idea was Kolfage’s.
It’s being alleged that Bannon pocketed a full million dollars from the donated funds which works out to roughly 4% of the total haul. That’s not insignificant. $100K of that was allegedly paid out to Kolfage up front, after which he collected $20K per month for an eventual total of $350K. But when the time came, Bannon entered a plea of not guilty. He wasn’t physically in the courtroom, however. He appeared via video from a holding cell with his lawyers dialed in on the phone. (NY Post)
Former White House adviser Steve Bannon pleaded not guilty to charges he defrauded donors to a $25 million campaign to build a border wall during his first court appearance in Manhattan federal court Thursday.
Bannon, 66, was expected to walk free after agreeing to pony up a $5 million bond following his initial court hearing in the Southern District of New York, where he was arraigned via video conference.
US Postal Service agents arrested Bannon at around 7:15 a.m. this morning on a 150-foot yacht called the “Lady May” near Westbrook, Connecticut.
There’s no word yet on how the rest of the defendants will plead. As for Bannon, it’s entirely possible that his attorneys are only entering an initial not guilty plea while they maneuver for a possible deal if Bannon is willing to testify in another case, possibly against exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, as Allahpundit suggested yesterday. The other possibility is that they’re just buying time until after the election, at which point President Trump could issue a pardon whether he wins or loses. (He might hesitate in pardoning Bannon before then because of the dreadful optics.)
The other revelation of the day had to do with WBTW founder Brian Kolfage. It turns out that in addition to allegedly pocketing some of the money that he had promised to “not take one dime of,” he had been shopping around the contact information for all of the donors to the wall project.
The founder of “We Build the Wall” — who was charged Thursday with defrauding donors to the project — was also planning on selling their data, according to a report.
Brian Kolfage, 38, used his organization to compile millions of email addresses and phone numbers in order to start a political consulting business, according to The Daily Beast.
The triple-amputee Air Force veteran shopped around the idea to a Republican strategist earlier this year, claiming his voter contact list was one of the largest in GOP politics, in an email that was seen by the website.
There’s probably nothing illegal about this activity, though that depends on how the initial non-profit dealing with the GoFundMe campaign was structured. When you manage to launch an enterprise that collects that much money in donations – particularly from small-dollar donors – it’s arguable that their contact data is worth more than the actual donations. Plenty of politicians and other organizations will pay handsomely for an extensive, national list of proven donors. I wouldn’t call it particularly ethical, but in the world of politics, this happens all the time. Any of you who have ever donated to a candidate or a nonprofit have no doubt noticed how you “coincidentally” start getting a lot of spam from other organizations looking for a few bucks.
All four of the men who were indicted are looking at possible 20-year sentences if convicted. With no serious priors, it would probably be considerably less, but Steve Bannon is almost 67 years old already and he’s not exactly the picture of health and fitness. I doubt he’s interested in doing a long stretch in the crowbar motel that could potentially eat up much, if not all of the rest of his life. Unless his lawyers think he has an iron-clad defense, I would guess he’ll either be angling for a bargain or a pardon. Kolfage is only 37, along with being a veteran and a triple amputee. He might fare a bit better if Bannon is truly the big fish that the prosecutors are looking to land.