White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon is a controversial figure. He is most famous for leading and growing Breitbart, for his overt racism, and for being the man who designed President Trump’s immigration executive orders.
However, beyond his controversies, he is now under active investigation in Florida after he lied about his residency in the state.
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) March 11, 2017
For several years, Bannon has had no fixed address. While he owns a condo in California, he listed his residency in Florida, and often spent a lot of time at Breitbart’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.
According to Bannon’s friends, he told them he was living in Washington, New York, London, and Miami.
According to the Washington Post, Bannon registered to vote in Florida at a then-vacant house in the state and to benefit from the state’s lack of state income taxes. In comparison, California, where Bannon has owned a condo for over two decades, the state income tax can exceed 12 percent.
The Post found that Bannon had virtually no trace in Florida. He never registered for a driver’s license in the state and didn’t even own a car in it. On top of that, he leased out his homes there and his utility bills were sent to his business manager in California. Bannon’s Florida neighbors said his ex-wife occupied one of the houses.
Prosecutors in Miami investigated Bannon between 2014 and 2016 and even subpoenaed him in order to get copies of his lease and other documents.
In 2010, Bannon told Orange County election officials that he wanted to become a “permanent absentee voters” and to have all of his ballots mailed to his Laguna Beach home.
By 2011, Bannon helped Sarah Palin develop a documentary for the Victory Film Project, a company located in Florida, which listed him as a manager.
In March of 2012, with the death of Breitbart founder Andrew Breitbart, Bannon assumed a major leadership role and began expanding the news outlet in Washington.
In Nov. 2012, Bannon was still a resident of California, but he voted in Orange County through an absentee ballot. He also renewed his California driver’s license for five years during that time.
In Feb. 2013, Bannon and Diane Clohesy, his now ex-wife, signed a lease for a three-bedroom house in a Miami neighborhood. Bannon signed as an apllicant while his now ex-wife signed as the “applicant’s spouse.”
The application stated that Bannon was “relocating from California,” but Devin Kammerer, the real estate agent who worked with the couple, said he never saw Bannon and only spoke to him through email.
“It was Diane who made the decisions about where she wanted to be, and she’d send over listings to Steve for his approval,” Kammerer said. “Diane was very clear on what she wanted.”
As for the $4,900 monthly rent? Kammerer said Bannon could afford it as he was making over $750,000 yearly from Breitbart alone.
In May 2013, Bannon opened an account in his name for municipal sewer and water services at the house. This account is one of the few public indications of Bannon’s presence in Florida. However, Bannon requested that the bills be mailed to his business manager in California.
“I never saw him,” said Steven Chastain, who lived a few doors away on a nearby street.
“He wasn’t living there,” said Barbara Pope, a longtime resident who often walked her dog on Opechee Drive. “I would have recognized him.”
Neighbors even reported that Bannon’s wife was seeing another man.
One year after Bannon signed the lease, around April 2014, he registered in Florida and listed the home as his legal home. He was not required to show an ID to register and only had to provide the last four digits of his Social Security number in order to verify his identity.
Phillip Sroka, a partner at the Miami accounting firm Morrison, Brown, Argiz, and Farra said it is very sketchy when an individual asks to have their bills sent out of state.
“It gets a little sketchy when you accept employment elsewhere,” he said. “Where it gets a little on the line and subject to interpretation is where you have a lot of other business dealings elsewhere.”
In 2015, Bannon continued living as a nomad. He rented out his home in California. By January, he bought a townhouse in Pinehurst, N.C. and his mailing address for that purchase was listed as his business manager’s address.
On Feb. 18, 2015, Bannon ended the water and server services at one of his houses in Florida and changed his voter registration to Onaway Drive. The landlord claimed that the previous house he was leasing was left in disrepair.
“[E]ntire Jacuzzi bathtub seems to have been covered in acid,” the landlord wrote in the February 2015 email to Bannon.
“I’m out of town,” Bannon replied. “is there any way u can talk with Diane and sort things out ???”
The damage was estimated at $14,000. The landlord ending up keeping the $9,800 security deposit.
Kammerer, the real estate agent who helped them find the place, criticized Bannon and Clohesy.
“I would not work with them after that,” he said. “I would not refer them again as clients of mine.”
In Oct. 2016, SiriuxXM announced that Bannon would be taking part in live broadcasts weekday mornings from 6 am to 9 am from their studios in Washington and New York.
Four months after that, Bannon shut off sewer and water service at his Onaway house in Miami. The house remained empty for several months.
One neighbor claimed he never saw Bannon at the house.
“I often saw Diane,” said Joseph “J.L.” Plummer, a prominent Miami resident who lived next door and was a city commissioner for nearly 30 years. “I never saw him.”
On Aug. 19, after taking over as chief executive of the Trump campaign, Bannon signed an oath saying that he now lived in Florida.
In 2016’s election, Bannon cast an absentee ballot from New York.
Under Florida law, it is a third-degree felony to provide false information on a voter registration application. It is punishable by up to five years in prison. First-time offenders are rarely given more than probation, something that could also lead to the loss of a security clearance.
Officials from the State Attorney’s Office for Miami-Dade County, which is led by an elected Democrat, declined to provide details about their probe into Bannon’s residency claim. In denying a Post request for documents about the investigation, officials cited confidentiality rules for “active criminal investigative information.”
According to a spokesperson for the State Attorney’s Office for Miami-Dade County, an investigation is still possible.
“At this point it is not over,” said spokesman Ed Griffith.