In a fairly exhaustive article on the politically left's nemesis and now chief strategist for President-Elect Donald Trump, Washington Post writer Robert O'Harrow Jr. demonstrates that Steve Bannon has been working two jobs simultaneously: Breitbart News Network and the Government Accountability Institute. Writer O'Harrow also, in his article makes the case that the Government Accountability Institute essentially violate the IRS rules of not playing partisan politics nor necessarily maintaining an arms-length relationship with Breitbart News raising the question as to whether the Government Accountability Institute is a legitimate nonprofit.
It appears from the article that Mr. Bannon has indeed been working two jobs (and yes, this is America so lots of people work two jobs - most of them out of necessity). It is also likely (based on the reporter's evidence) that the nonprofit that Mr. Bannon works for does indeed cross a thin line in playing partisan politics particularly when considering that the second "employer" effectively is the primary employer that serves as THE distribution vehicle for the work of the first employer (not maintaining an arms-length relationship).
And ok - we are now aware of the evidence but I'm not convinced that there's a lot or anything to be done about these "facts". However, what does interest me is a question as to the non-existent line between staff and board as well as the question of pay for board members, particularly when the staff are the board.
At the Government Accountability Institute, the leadership staff is the board AND also folks who work for the for-profit (the second employer).
The Institute's president, secretary and treasurer is Peter Schweizer, a prominent conservative writer and at-large editor for Breitbart. He received $778,000 in salary from the institute for 2012 through 2015, the IRS filings show.
The institute's vice president is a Tallahassee lawyer, Stuart Christmas. He said he worked from 25 to 40 hours a week and accepted more than $480,000 in salary over four years.
Paying a nonprofit's board members is not illegal unless state law or bylaws specify otherwise. But, when board are staff, the more important question becomes: who is responsible for ensuring that oversight and accountability for financial and mission well-being occurs? Paid staff as board certainly have it in their best interest to ensure there is enough money in the "till" but what about their work? I suppose accountability for mission is left up to the donors. And, in the case of the Government Accountability Institute, there are only 2 of which one also sits on the board.
The institute received nearly $4 million in donations between 2012 and 2014 from two conservative charities - Donors Trust and the Mercer Family Foundation. The institute's board of directors includes Rebekah Mercer, director of the conservative family charity.
The good news about a donor's sitting on the board is that there is deep familiarity with the results of the foundation's investments. This assures some degree of accountability. And maybe the public should be satisfied with this arrangement.
But, there is one final question. The Institute's staff's (aka board) also works for Breitbart. Clearly this is acceptable to the donor. But is this arrangement in the public's best interest - at minimum - four million dollars of tax exempt money effectively being used to sway hearts and minds?