Former Breitbart CEO turned White House strategist Steve Bannon may be breaking the Antideficiency Act of 1982 by having Alexandra Preate, his longtime associate and “personal spokesman,” help shape White House communications strategy on a volunteer basis.
According to Christina Wilkie at the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity, “the White House is referring questions for senior presidential adviser Stephen K. Bannon to an outside public relations agent whose firm says she is working for free” — an arrangement that alarms government ethics professionals.
Preate … “appears to be organizing the administration’s response to questions sent to the White House,” said Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis and an expert in government ethics. “And the fact that other officials are responsive to her distinguishes this situation from the kind of activity a private lawyer would do.”
Said Norm Eisen, ethics czar during the Obama administration: “She seems to be privy to government information, and she appears to be acting on behalf of a government entity, either Bannon or the White House Press Office. If she’s doing it for free, then that is a potential violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act.”
The Antideficiency Act forbids federal employees from “accepting voluntary services for the United States, or employing personal services not authorized by law, except in cases of emergency involving the safety of human life or the protection of property.”
Bannon is already rumored to have come under investigation by a federal grand jury that has been rolled up into Robert Mueller’s office of special counsel. He has also played fast and loose with federal campaign finance regulations for many years.
While no one has ever been convicted under the Antideficiency Act, any violation is a potential felony that comes with a possible “$5,000 fine, confinement for up to two years, or both” upon conviction.
Preate is a longtime associate of Bannon, who calls her his “PR guru” according to POLITICO. “Preate has previously served as both Bannon’s spokeswoman and a spokeswoman for Breitbart News,” the website reported in February.
Olivia Nuzzi calls Preate Bannon’s “personal hack.” Known for event planning, Preate’s anti-populist opinions would seem a strange bedfellow to the political brand that Bannon helped to create for Donald Trump. But she was Bannon’s point of contact with the press even during the campaign, when he was Trump’s “volunteer” CEO.
Preate is also a Republican fundraising consultant. She worked with a Newt Gingrich super PAC in 2012 and has been spotted at CPAC with Rebekah Mercer, daughter of the racist right wing billionaire who bankrolled Breitbart during Bannon’s tenure.
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