A Laguna Beach home mortgage figures into $2 million in misreported debt on White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon's government disclosure forms.
The Center for Public Integrity, an investigative journalism nonprofit, reports the error it discovered was compounded by top White House ethics officers having certified that Bannon's incomplete disclosure form was complete and complied with federal rules.
It wasn't and didn't.
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This was no center hit job on the former Breitbart News chief. The organization that has won two Pulitzer Prizes launched #CitizenSleuth, a volunteer crowd-sourced investigation that involved examining the disclosure forms of more than 400 Trump administration officials. Of those, Bannon's was the only one that had "HOME LOAN" written on each line where the identities of creditors were supposed to be reported. Creditors are supposed to be disclosed to ensure government officials are paying the market rate on their loans and are not receiving preferential treatment that could be compromising and unethical.
Bannon on June 30 signed a sworn statement claiming the documents were "true, complete and correct to the best of my knowledge." A law professor tells the Center for Public Integrity—whose full report you can see by clicking here—that more significant to her was that the chief ethics officer at the White House signed off on Bannon's forms, raising questions about that person's competence.
Due to the lack of disclosure, the center's sleuths drilled down, studying property deeds and real estate records to piece together Bannon’s four misreported loans totaling $2,012,500 over the span of more than a decade. He used the value of real estate he owned, including a home in Laguna Beach, to obtain the loans. From the center:
Starting in 2002, Bannon borrowed $382,500 from GreenPoint Financial in the form of a 30-year adjustable rate mortgage, or ARM. The 3.125 percent interest rate he reported in his disclosure in March of this year represents the current rate he pays, which is significantly lower than his initial 6.62 percent rate.
A few years later, Bannon borrowed $905,000, using another ARM from GreenPoint, this time borrowing against his home in Laguna Beach, California.
In 2006, Bannon again borrowed against his Laguna Beach house, this time taking out a $500,000 home equity line of credit from Washington Mutual.