Earlier today, federal postal inspectors arrested former Trump campaign chief executive (and Trump administration chief strategist) Steve Bannon. He’s charged with orchestrating “a scheme to defraud hundreds of thousands of donors” in connection with an online fundraising campaign called “We Build the Wall.”
The allegations are rather simple. Bannon and his indicted colleagues, Brian Kolfage and Andrew Badolato, pledged to “not take a penny in salary or compensation” as part of their efforts to build a border wall on America’s southern border. They said, “100% of the funds raised … will be used in the execution of our mission and purpose.” Prosecutors claim that “those representations were false.” Instead, Bannon and his colleagues diverted more than $1 million for their own personal use.
Sadly enough, the more I look at this case, the more it’s symbolic of the corruption that marks much of the populist right. It’s often difficult to discern where the political movement ends and the financial scam begins.
A brief history lesson is in order. The “We Build the Wall” campaign was launched on December 17, 2018. Why is that date significant? Because it came just after the GOP suffered devastating midterm election losses and were swept out of power in the House of Representatives. As a practical matter, it meant the likely death of Trump’s border wall dream.