Monday, August 24, 2020

In a Rambling Diatribe Brian S. Brown Defends Steve Bannon

Brian S. Brown
Brian S. Brown, for some reason, tries to cast doubt on the indictment of Stephen K. Bannon
Brian S. Brown has sent out lengthy emails on behalf of National Organization for Marriage and International Organization for the Family. These are titled: In Defense of Steve Bannon. The emails are verbose. They link to a page on IOF's blog (bearing the same title). That page is more verbose.

What is Brown trying to prove? The office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York has a conviction rate greater than 95% so the probability is high that Mr. Bannon and his associates are going to be guests of the federal government for a time and the room service sucks. According to the government they face imprisonment for up to 20 years.

Brown's subtitle reads:
Before piling on Steve Bannon, ask yourself these questions: Do you trust the media and do you trust the equal application of the law to conservatives?
Oh, unfair! A fellow ultra-conservative Catholic, Steve Bannon, is accused of bilking donors and making a deliberate effort to hide his malfeasance. My guess is that this matter will end with a plea deal.

We need not “trust” anyone. The fate of this case rests with the evidence. Most of the evidence was accumulated by the office of Philip R. Bartlett, Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the United States Postal Inspection Service.

What? Does Brown think that the USPIS conspired with the U.S. Attorneys of the Southern District of New York and the Northern District of Florida to manufacture a case? The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida is Larry Keefe and his appointment was engineered by the utterly insane Trumper, Rep. Matt Gaetz. Brown continues to kvetch:
The mainstream media announced the indictment of Steve Bannon in a chorus of rapturous ecstasy that would make Verdi blush. The reportage has consisted almost entirely of presenting the most damning details of the indictment with little or no attempt to examine potential weaknesses in the charges or consider possible defenses. …
Actually, the media based most of its reporting on the news release from the U.S. Attorney's office. It is impossible to speculate on possible weaknesses or defenses because Bannon isn't talking. Nor should he.

According to Philip R. Bartlett:
The defendants allegedly engaged in fraud when they misrepresented the true use of donated funds. As alleged, not only did they lie to donors, they schemed to hide their misappropriation of funds by creating sham invoices and accounts to launder donations and cover up their crimes …
The cover-up is often worse than the crime. According to the indictment, an unnamed nonprofit controlled by Bannon received a wire transfer from We Build the Wall in the amount of $250,000. A week later the nonprofit paid Brian Kolfage $100,000 plus $20,000 in each of the following two months.

The nonprofit then issued a 1099 to Kolfage's spouse which is more evidence of an attempted cover-up and tax fraud. Another defendant, Timothy Shea, then set up shell companies which were used as a conduit for payments.

I suspect that the nonprofit organization was Citizens of the American Republic, a 501(c)4. It received more than $1 million from We Build the Wall and Bannon took hundreds of thousands of dollars for personal use.

The government also accuses Timothy Shea and Andrew Badolato of skimming. The indictment lists a number of bank accounts for We Build the Wall and the entities used as conduits. The government is seeking forfeiture of a great deal of money and property.
So where is the conspiracy? Among the US attorneys and the postal inspector or among Bannon and his co-defendants?
The next shoe to drop will be the result of various IRS audits. Bannon's Citizens of the American Republic already lost its tax-exempt status. The 2018 tax return is a mess.

Returning to Brian S. Brown who claims that “this is a classic case of selective enforcement of the law:”
This office has built a reputation as being decidedly anti-Trump. They have targeted many Trump insiders for investigation and prosecution. So, nobody should assume that in going after Steve Bannon, the SDNY is simply motivated by concerns about potential misrepresentations to donors.
Could it be? Perhaps what this demonstrates is that Trump has surrounded himself with a bunch of crooks.
Full-disclosure: I know Steve Bannon, and consider him a friend. Fuller-disclosure: I have seen the results of the left-wing politicization of our bureaucracy and courts first-hand.
From there, Brown ventures into the weeds:
In 2016, the National Organization for Marriage’s donor names were illegally released to the public by the IRS. We sued the IRS but had to settle for a measly $50,000. The facts behind how and why our donor names were released were never made public. …
It cost NOM nearly $700,000 to get that $50,000. The reason for the small “nuisance” settlement was the fact that a low-level employee sent out a copy of a form 990 without first whiting out the donor information. The judge determined, from the evidence, that this was an inadvertent error.

The how and why most certainly was made public. Brown goes on to speculate that, had it been Planned Parenthood, the turds would have hit the turbines. Who knows? So what? Nobody forced NOM to launch a costly lawsuit over what was really a triviality.

More importantly, what does any of that have to do with Bannon's indictment for wire fraud? More irrelevance:
We also saw our donors in the successful Proposition 8 referendum in California targeted with death threats and harassment. Did the government swoop in to help them out? No. The courts refused to do anything to protect their privacy.
Campaign donations are public information. Again, what does that have to do with Bannon?
in 2014, we were accused and fined in the state of Maine for something that we did not do. We were brought up on campaign-finance charges related to our referendum efforts to protect marriage in Maine. The charges were bogus and brought by a gay activist, but a campaign finance committee still ruled against us.
In a perverted way, Brown is being truthful when he says that NOM was accused of “something that we did not do.” What they did not do was to file required campaign finance reports; something that NOM refused to do in other locales as a special privilege.

That gay activist, by the way, was Fred Karger. The nature of the person filing the complaint is entirely irrelevant to the complaint and the outcome.
What we know about the case comes from only one source: the statements contained in the grand jury indictment. By operation of law, grand jury criminal indictments are an entirely one-sided affair soley [sic] focused on claims of the prosecutor. The accused is not afforded an opportunity to present a defense.
Possibly. The focus of a grand jury is often invited to testify. Brown has no way of knowing whether or not that happened. And so what? An indictment is not a conviction. Brian Kolfage, Stephen K. Bannon, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea are entitled to their day in court to be judged by a jury based upon the evidence.

The government has the bank records of at least 13 accounts associated with the fraud. They know what went in and what went out. The 13 accounts represent the source for the prospective recovery of funds. There could be more accounts from which the government is not seeking repayment.

There is proof, for example, of money going from We Build the Wall to the nonprofit organization. There is proof that the nonprofit paid Kolfage. There is proof that the 1099 went to Kolfage's wife. There is proof that the payment was made on the false basis that Kolfage's wife performed services for the nonprofit.

Brian S. Brown is literate. He can read the indictment as well as I can. What will be Brown's excuse if these people all plead guilty (as I suspect they will)? Don't even think about trying Brown's defense:
The government’s case rests on the alleged facts that Brian Kolfage solicited funds for on [sic] GoFundMe account to build a wall on the southern border of the United States with the explicit promise that Kolfage would not be paid. …
it is alleged that Steve Bannon received a $1,000,000 donation from We Build the Wall into a separate non-profit organization which Bannon controlled. Out of that $1 million Bannon’s non-profit allegedly paid Kolfage’s wife $350,000 for media consulting and it is claimed that Bannon spent the rest of the money on his lifestyle.
Perhaps Mr. Brown is not literate. Bannon's nonprofit paid Kolfage $140,000. The remaining $210,000 was through other passthroughs. Over $1 million from We Build the Wall was paid to the nonprofit. Bannon used a “substantial portion” of those funds for personal expenses having nothing to do with a wall.

Don't try this at home:
Again, these allegations are the Southern District of New York’s one-sided presentation of its claims through the grand jury. They do not even attempt to examine potential innocent explanations or legal defenses. For example, what if Kolfage’s wife did do work for Bannon’s non-profit? What if Kolfage himself did? What if Bannon’s non-profit received the $1,000,000 for legitimate services it was performing for We Build the Wall, such as the placement of media advertising?
Uh, Brian. The government has all of the bank records. The money did not go to Kolfage's wife. It went to Kolfage. The 1099 is a fraudulent document intended to cover up fraud.

If the nonprofit performed legitimate services for We Build the Wall there would be expenses related to that work. The government also has text messages.
Did Bannon’s nonprofit group have an understanding of services that they would perform with We Build the Wall funds? What portion of funds might have been used for out-of-pocket expenses, travel, or other legitimate expenses for We Build the Wall?
Based upon the bank records and other information, the government claims that “Bannon used a substantial portion of those funds for personal uses and expenses unrelated to We Build the Wall.”
…The indictment contains a very telling statement about what happened with those funds: “…We Build the Wall spent money on the construction of a border wall…” but it’s alleged that “hundreds of thousands of dollars” were siphoned off by the defendants. This is a tacit admission by the government that somewhere between 96% and 98% of funds were used exactly as donors were told, to further construction of a southern border wall. No matter. They want to make an example of Steve Bannon.
Over $1.25 million was siphoned off (over $1 million going to the nonprofit and at least $250 thousand to the subsequent conduits). That is a lot of money. We do not know how much money was spent on constructing a wall which is not the same as the amount of funds raised.

For all we know, regardless of the amount raised, more money could have gone to the defendants than was actually spent on building a wall.

More importantly, the percentage that was used illicitly is irrelevant. Regardless of the percentage it is still wire fraud. It is still money laundering.
…if the issue comes down to the false or misleading claims of fundraising emails, what of all of the false and misleading claims I receive from liberal politicians and PACs? Will they be brought up on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to money launder?
On that note, this blog is stuffed with false and misleading claims made by Brian S. Brown to attract donations. Yet NOM is probably not guilty of money laundering. Although … (I'll use some restraint). Money laundering means taking steps to conceal ill-gotten gains, typically through transfers of money through other entities.

When NOM claims that they will use donations to frustrate the Equality Act that is deceptive. If they said that they were using those donations for that purpose and then transferred the money to Brian S. Brown through fraudulent transactions with other organizations then that is money laundering.
One example out of the hundreds of fundraising emails I receive monthly with exaggerated and potentially false claimes [sic] is an innovative PAC email request from Amy McGrath, the Democrat challenger to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, claiming a 450 percent match. The email further claims that unless Amy receives “$9,203.00 right now,” that they will pull all ads. If they did not receive the $9,203.00 and did not pull these ads, should the Feds investigate? Given the Bannon precedence why would they not?
Uh, no Brian. Not even close unless a) money intended for the ads ended up in Ms. McGrath's bank account and; b) that was concealed through a fraudulent ad buy. For example, the media company receives funds from the PAC for ads. Instead of buying air time it cuts a check for that amount to McGrath falsely claiming it was for services rendered and then processes a 1099 to McGrath's husband.
I’ll tell you why in two words: Selective enforcement.
In this case selective enforcement means prosecuting real crime vs. not real crime.

Brown then indulges in a preposterous and lengthy tirade about justice in communist countries, bakers being sued for discrimination, cultural Marxism, Planned Parenthood, David Daleiden, truth, justice and the American way. Brown trots out every clich├ęd conservative meme that he can think of.

This comes to a merciful conclusion:
…You should refuse to accept the grand jury indictment as definitive proof of wrongdoing, and you should look for plausible reasons to question this indictment.

Conservatives should not let good men down on the field of battle. We should do what we can to stand with those who have stood with us. And at the very least, we should understand that the MSM and the establishment hates Steve Bannon—and that might just have something to do with this indictment.
The indictment reflects evidence without considering a defense. Why should anyone “look for plausible reasons to question this indictment?” That is what a jury will be tasked to do with guidance from defense lawyers. Their job will be to determine if these men are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

I doubt it will get that far. If a conviction seems inevitable then these defendants will negotiate a plea. They will do less time (if any time at all) and they won't go bankrupt from legal fees.

Brian S. Brown is not a conservative. Mr. Brown is a religious conservative. There is a difference. The notion that Brian S. Brown has an obligation to promote doubt regarding an indictment is idiotic. What will Brown say if Bannon is found guilty or takes a plea deal?

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