(National Sentinel) West Wing: We’re sure lawmakers had some reason for passing the Antideficiency Act — originally passed in 1884, then updated in 1950 and 1982 — but for the life of us, we can’t figure out why it remains on the books.
The establishment press is making a big deal out of senior White House advisor Steve Bannon’s use of an outside Republican public relations firm to be his press contact. According to the Center for Public Integrity, the person acting as his spokesperson, Alexandra Preate, a 46-year-old New Yorker and veteran Republican media strategist, is working for free.
According to the Government Accountability Office, the law serves a number of purposes, chiefly prohibiting federal employees from:
- making or authorizing an expenditure from, or creating or authorizing an obligation under, any appropriation or fund in excess of the amount available in the appropriation or fund unless authorized by law. 31 U.S.C. § 1341(a)(1)(A).
- involving the government in any obligation to pay money before funds have been appropriated for that purpose, unless otherwise allowed by law. 31 U.S.C. § 1341(a)(1)(B).
- accepting voluntary services for the United States, or employing personal services not authorized by law, except in cases of emergency involving the safety of human life or the protection of property. 31 U.S.C. § 1342.
- making obligations or expenditures in excess of an apportionment or reapportionment, or in excess of the amount permitted by agency regulations. 31 U.S.C. § 1517(a).
Bannon is said to potentially be in violation of “accepting voluntary services for the United States, or employing personal services not authorized by law,” etc.
Yet, the Center for Public Integrity admits that Bannon’s arrangement Preate is unique, noting that “prominent experts” have said it is unprecedented.
But illegal? It’s hard to see how that’s the case, since Bannon could argue he isn’t “accepting voluntary services for the United States” per se, even though he is on the federal payroll.
Nevertheless, it’s just another way the Trump inner circle has now embroiled the president in controversy — at a time when Republicans in Congress continue to defy him and the will of the people by whiffing on their promised repeal-and-replace of Obamacare.
Preate “appears to be organizing the administration’s response to questions sent to the White House,” said Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis and an expert in government ethics. “And the fact that other officials are responsive to her distinguishes this situation from the kind of activity a private lawyer would do.”
If charged and found guilty, willful violators will have committed a Class E felony and could be subject to as much as $5,000 in fines and two years in prison.
No wonder President Donald J. Trump is frustrated.