WASHINGTON ― The new CEO of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign failed to properly pay his taxes for several years in the 1990s, according to an analysis of public records.
Steve Bannon, executive chairman of the conservative website Breitbart News, will be overseeing the Trump campaign staff and day-to-day operations. On Wednesday, Bannon took a leave of absence from his job at Breitbart, which has been one of Trump’s biggest media cheerleaders. The move was seen as a blow to Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who had overseen the campaign for the last two months. Manafort will retain his title, but insiders said his role in the campaign will be significantly diminished.
In 1990, after a stint as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, Bannon and a few of his colleagues launched Bannon & Co. in Beverly Hills, California. In a profile on Bannon published last year, Bloomberg Businessweek’s Joshua Green described the business as a “boutique investment bank specializing in media”:
At the time, investors preferred hard assets ― manufacturing companies, real estate ― and avoided things like movie studios and film libraries, which were harder to price. Bannon’s group, drawing on data such as VHS cassette sales and TV ratings, devised a model to value intellectual property in the same way as tangible assets. “We got a ton of business,” he says. When the French bank Crédit Lyonnais, a major financier of independent Hollywood studios, almost went bankrupt, Bannon & Co. rolled up its loan portfolio. When MGM went bust, it worked on the studio’s financing. When Polygram Records got into the film business, Bannon’s firm handled its acquisitions ... After Société Générale bought Bannon & Co. in 1998, Bannon, no longer needing a day job, dove into Hollywood moguldom, becoming an executive producer of movies, including Anthony Hopkins’s 1999 Oscar-nominated “Titus.”
According to public records, Bannon had five federal tax liens filed against him at his firm’s Beverly Hills office between 1994 and 1998, totaling $481,951. The federal liens were released by April 2000.
Bannon also had at least three state tax liens totaling $119,736 filed against him in the same period. It’s unclear whether the state liens corresponded to property taxes, income taxes or payroll taxes. Those liens were released by April 2000 as well.
Moreover, Bannon had a civil judgment lien filed against him for $84,075 by creditors in 2011, when he was serving as CEO of a firm called Affinity Media. He left Affinity the following year to serve as executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC, the parent company of Breitbart News.
It’s not unheard of for a public figure to be faced with liens. Former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, for instance, drew plenty of criticism during his confirmation hearings when it was revealed that he’d failed to pay all his taxes while employed at the International Monetary Fund. He was still confirmed for the post.
Bannon’s revelations, like Geithner’s, seem unlikely to have much professional consequence. But they have the potential to distract from a message of fiscal and personal responsibility that the Trump campaign is trying to push.
The Trump campaign didn’t immediately return a request for comment.