Breitbart News landed an election scoop that went viral in August 2016: “Exclusive: ‘Black Men for Bernie’ Founder to End Democrat ‘Political Slavery’ of Minority Voters… by Campaigning for Trump.”
If the splashy, counterintuitive story, which circulated on such conservative websites as Truthfeed and Infowars, wasn't exactly fake news, it was carefully orchestrated.
The story’s writer—an employee of the conservative website run by Steve Bannon before he took over Donald Trump’s campaign—spent weeks courting activist Bruce Carter to join Trump’s cause. He approached Carter under the guise of interviewing him. The writer eventually dropped the pretense altogether, signing Carter up for a 10-week blitz aimed at convincing black voters in key states to support the Republican real estate mogul, or simply sit out the election. Trump’s narrow path to victory tightened further if Hillary Clinton could attract a Barack Obama-level turnout.
Bannon’s deployment of the psychological-operations firm Cambridge Analytica in the 2016 campaign drew fresh attention this month, when a former Cambridge employee told a U.S. Senate panel that Bannon tried to use the company to suppress the black vote in key states. Carter’s story shows for the first time how an employee at Bannon’s former news site worked as an off-the-books political operative in the service of a similar goal.
Carter’s recollections and correspondence, which he shared after a falling-out with his fellow Trump supporters, provide a rare look inside the no-holds-barred nature of the Republican’s campaign and how it explored new ways to achieve an age-old political aim: getting the right voters to the polls—and keeping the wrong ones away.
“If you can’t stomach Trump, just don’t vote for the other people and don’t vote at all,” Carter, 47, recalls telling black voters. It’s the message he says the Trump campaign wanted him to deliver. “That’s what they wanted, that’s what they got.”
The work Carter says he did, and the funds he was given to do it, also raise questions as to whether campaign finance laws were broken.
The group Carter founded, Trump for Urban Communities, never disclosed its spending to the Federal Election Commission—a possible violation of election law. In hindsight, Carter says, he believed he was working for the campaign so he wouldn’t have been responsible for reporting the spending.
His descriptions of the operation suggest possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and his nominally independent efforts. If there was coordination, election law dictates that any contributions to groups such as his must fall within individual limits: no more than $2,700 for a candidate. One supporter far exceeded that cap, giving about $100,000 to Carter’s efforts.
Another potential issue is whether the unusual role played by the Breitbart reporter amounted to an in-kind contribution.
“There are some real problems here,” says Lawrence Noble, who served as general counsel at the FEC during Republican and Democratic administrations and is now senior director and general counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan advocacy organization. “I would think this is more than enough evidence for the FEC to open an investigation.”
The Trump campaign and the White House didn't respond to repeated requests for comment. Bannon dismissed allegations that he sought to suppress the black vote, blaming their lower turnout on Clinton. “When you ask them why they didn’t vote for her or why they didn’t turn up, it’s because they didn’t like her policies,” he told Bloomberg in an interview last week. Bannon didn't respond to separate requests to explain his involvement with Carter.
This worked well enough that it helped cost Clinton the Rust Belt states she needed to win. The dirty tricks from "Black Men For Bernie" to sink Clinton made a lot of waves, especially when people like Joan Walsh called them out. And surprise, all this time they were part of Steve Bannon's propaganda machine.
It's still going on in 2018. Believe it. And Trump of course has done nothing to protect our election system from this type of meddling. He never will.
Don't fall for the same nonsense in 2018, folks.