Trump Chief Strategist’s Firm May Be Evading California Tax

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By Laura Mahoney

A limited liability company chaired by Stephen Bannon, one of President Trump’s top political strategists, is avoiding California taxes and disclosures by failing to register as a in-state business and file state tax returns, an election law advocacy center claimed.

The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) asked California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) and Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) in an April 12 letter to investigate whether the company, Glittering Steel LLC, is violating the California Corporations Code.

The center wants the California officials to require Glittering Steel to register and disclose information about its board members, as well as assess appropriate penalties. The CLC is basing its allegations on information from Bannon’s White House financial disclosures filed March 31.

Becerra and Padilla didn’t respond immediately to requests for comment April 17.

Super PAC Payments

Those disclosures revealed that Glittering Steel, a corporation registered in Delaware, is chaired by Bannon, CLC Program Director Brendan Fischer told Bloomberg BNA April 17. The company received millions of dollars in payments from a super political action committee called Make America Number 1 in 2015 and 2016, according to the super PAC’s disclosures filed with the Federal Elections Commission.

The super PAC’s payments to Glittering Steel were sent to a Los Angeles address that is also the location of Bannon Strategic Advisors Inc., which is registered with the California Secretary of State. Glittering Steel paid Bannon and his companies $167,500 for consulting and director fees in 2016 before Bannon resigned from Glittering Steel on Aug. 16.

According to the CLC, the payments show Glittering Steel was engaged in intrastate commerce in California because it received dozens of payments at a California address and then made payments to Bannon’s California firm. However, the LLC hasn’t registered as a business entity with the Secretary of State or disclosed the names and addresses of its managers and members as is required by California law.

Tax Filing Obligation

Glittering Steel’s payments to Bannon also trigger its obligation to file a California income tax return and pay state taxes and fees, the CLC said it its letter to the California officials. Under the California Revenue and Taxation Code, an entity is doing business in California if it pays someone $50,000 or more in one year.

Fischer told Bloomberg BNA the CLC’s main interest is in the information Glittering Steel would be required to disclose about its members if it registers with the Secretary of State.

The request to Becerra and Padilla adds to complaints the CLC has filed with the Federal Elections Commission alleging the Make America Number 1 super PAC made illegal campaign contributions by paying Bannon for work he did as chief executive to Trump’s presidential campaign. Make America Number 1 is funded by Republican donor Robert Mercer, who is co-CEO of the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies.

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura Mahoney in Sacramento, Calif. at LMahoney@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ryan C. Tuck at rtuck@bna.com

For More Information

Text of the CLC's letter is at http://src.bna.com/n0t.

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