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Government Accountability Institute

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Government Accountability Institute
Type501(c)(3) organization
Area served
United States
Key people
Peter Schweizer
Steve Bannon
Wynton Hall
$1.7 million (2014)[2]

The Government Accountability Institute (GAI) is a conservative think tank[3][4] located in Tallahassee, Florida.[5][6] GAI was founded in 2012[7] by Peter Schweizer and Steve Bannon with funding from Robert Mercer and family.[8] Schweizer serves as the group's president.[9]

The group's stated goal is to investigate and expose government corruption, misuse of taxpayer money, and crony capitalism. It is registered as a nonpartisan organization,[10] but is largely focused on investigations of allegations related to the Democratic Party.[11]



The Government Accountability Institute was set up by Steve Bannon as a tool for transmitting partisan dirt-digging and questionable opposition research to the mainstream media.[12][13] "He realized that, though mainstream reporters were suspicious of partisan opinion, they were open to damning facts about public figures, regardless of the sourcing. He set out, with Schweizer, to produce material that would generate mainstream coverage, and right-wing outrage", wrote The New Yorker's Jane Mayer.[14]

While GAI claims to be "a self-styled corruption watchdog group chaired and funded by conservative mega-donor Rebekah Mercer.",[15] the group became a mainstay of Alt-right media.[16]

Members of GAI's board of directors include Steve Bannon, Peter Schweizer, Hunter Lewis, Ron Robinson (president of Young America's Foundation), and Wynton Hall.[17] Former U.S. representative Jason Chaffetz joined the GAI as a distinguished fellow in 2021.[11]



Between 2012 and 2014, GAI received donations of almost $4 million from the Mercer Family Foundation and the Koch brothers-affiliated Donors Trust.[18][19]

In 2019, the New Yorker reported that most of the GAI's funding came from tax-exempt donations from the family foundation of Robert Mercer, and that in the organization's 2017 tax filings listed his daughter Rebekah as chairman of the GAI board.[14]



The organization published several reports and books with premises and claims that were debunked after—or even before—publication.[20][21][22]

One is Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, a 2015 book that makes false claims about donations made to the Clinton Foundation by foreign entities, paid speeches made by Bill and Hillary Clinton, and the Clintons' personal enrichment since leaving the White House in 2001.[23]

In October 2012, GAI released a report insinuating that the Obama campaign had received unlawful contributions.[24] Citing no evidence, it claimed that "campaigns that aggressively raise money online are soliciting donations from people around the world-whether they intend to or not," and asserted that the Obama campaign had lacked "rigorous screening for donors' citizenship" (it is illegal for non-U.S. citizens to contribute to U.S. campaigns). Multiple media sources had debunked the claim and found no supporting evidence.[25]

Another debunked[26] book is Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends, which was the first printed source about the false Biden–Ukraine conspiracy theory.[1]

Bush Bucks: How Public Service and Corporations Helped Make Jeb Rich, an e-book published in October 2015, raises questions about the millions of dollars former Florida Governor Jeb Bush earned after leaving office from companies that benefited from Bush's policy while he was serving as Florida's governor.[27][28]


A November 2016 investigation by The Washington Post detailed ties between the Government Accountability Institute and the conservative website Breitbart News. Three GAI employees received full-time compensation while simultaneously being employed elsewhere.[29] From 2012 to 2015, GAI co-founder and executive chair Steve Bannon received $376,000 for working 30 hours a week. He simultaneously served as executive chairman for Breitbart News.[18] GAI communications strategist Wynton Hall received $600,000 during the same time. Hall worked as a writer for Breitbart News and was promoted to managing editor in 2013. GAI president and treasurer Peter Schweizer, also an at-large editor and writer for Breitbart News, was paid $778,000 by the GAI from 2012 to 2015.[18]

The Post noted that GAI's political advocacy raises questions about whether the 501(c)(3) public charity has illegally intervened in political campaigns. The Washington Post report also found that, from 2013 to 2015, GAI purchased over $200,000 in advertising from Breitbart's website.[18][30]


  1. ^ a b Green, Joshua (October 8, 2015). "This Man Is the Most Dangerous Political Operative in America". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  2. ^ "2014 Form 990" (PDF). GuideStar. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  3. ^ Gold, Matea (March 17, 2017). "The Mercers and Stephen Bannon: How a populist power base was funded and built". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-09-30.
  4. ^ Rutenberg, Jim (2020-09-30). "How Trump's 'Voter Fraud' Lie Is Disenfranchising Americans". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-09-30.
  5. ^ Thiessen, Marc (September 10, 2012). "Marc Thiessen: Why is Obama skipping more than half of his daily intelligence meetings?". Washington Post. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  6. ^ Nader, Ralph (2014). Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State. Nation Books. ISBN 9781568584553.
  7. ^ Thiessen, Marc (September 10, 2012). "Why is Obama skipping more than half of his daily intelligence meetings?". Washington Post. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  8. ^ Zuckerman, Gregory, Keach Hagey, Scott Patterson and Rebecca Ballhaus, "Meet the Mercers: A Quiet Tycoon and His Daughter Become Power Brokers in Trump’s Washington" (subscription), The Wall Street Journal, January 8, 2017. Retrieved 2017-01-08.
  9. ^ "CNN Report on "Legalized Extortion": Politics, Money and Influence". Real Clear Politics. January 22, 2014. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  10. ^ Davies, Dave (October 9, 2019). "How a Political Hit Job Backfired, and Led to Trump's Impeachment Peril". Fresh Air. NPR.
  11. ^ a b Schwarz, D. Hunter (March 16, 2021). "Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz just joined this conservative think tank". Deseret News.
  12. ^ Tillman, Seth Barrett (2022). "Disqualification from the Presidency and a Trump Plea Bargain". SSRN Electronic Journal. doi:10.2139/ssrn.4194941. ISSN 1556-5068.
  13. ^ Green, Joshua (2017). Devil's bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the storming of the presidency. Penguin. p. 155.
  14. ^ a b "The Invention of the Conspiracy Theory on Biden and Ukraine". The New Yorker. 2019-10-04. Retrieved 2021-11-12.
  15. ^ Korte, Gregory; Mider, Zachary (3 October 2019). "Trump's Story of Hunter Biden's Chinese Venture Is Full of Holes". Bloomberg. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  16. ^ Gold, Matea (March 17, 2017). "The Mercers and Stephen Bannon: How a populist power base was funded and built". Washington Post. Retrieved 2023-06-17.
  17. ^ "About". Government Accountability Institute. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  18. ^ a b c d O'Harrow Jr., Robert (November 23, 2016). "Trump adviser received salary from charity while steering Breitbart News". Washington Post.
  19. ^ Schweers, Jeffrey (November 23, 2016). "Breitbart chief Bannon got nearly $400k from nonprofit he created". Tallahassee Democrat.
  20. ^ Erichsen, Kristen; Schrock, Douglas; Dowd-Arrow, Benjamin; Dignam, Pierce (2020-07-16). "Bitchifying Hillary: Trump Supporters' Vilification of Clinton during the 2016 Presidential Election". Social Currents. 7 (6): 526–542. doi:10.1177/2329496520941022. ISSN 2329-4965.
  21. ^ Mayopu, Richard G.; Wang, Yi-Yun; Chen, Long-Sheng (2023-04-20). "Analyzing Online Fake News Using Latent Semantic Analysis: Case of USA Election Campaign". Big Data and Cognitive Computing. 7 (2): 81. doi:10.3390/bdcc7020081. ISSN 2504-2289.
  22. ^ Geoghegan, Peter (2018-10-18), "Covering Trump: Reflections from the Campaign Trail and the Challenge for Journalism", Trump’s Media War, Cham: Springer International Publishing, pp. 101–112, ISBN 978-3-319-94068-7, retrieved 2023-06-17
  23. ^ Benkler, Yochai; Faris, Robert; Roberts, Hal (2018-11-29), "Mainstream Media Failure Modes and Self-Healing in a Propaganda-Rich Environment", Network Propaganda, Oxford University PressNew York, pp. 189–222, ISBN 0-19-092362-8, retrieved 2023-06-17
  24. ^ Mike Burns, Fox Hypes Unsubstantiated Claim That Obama May Be Receiving Illegal Foreign Donations, Media Matters for America (October 9, 2012).
  25. ^ Dwyer, Devin (October 9, 2012). "Group Warns of Foreign, Fraudulent Donors to Obama Campaign". ABC News. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  26. ^ Mayer, Jane (2019-10-04). "The Invention of the Conspiracy Theory on Biden and Ukraine". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2023-06-17.
  27. ^ Bender, Michael C. (October 20, 2015). "New Peter Schweizer E-Book Questions Jeb Bush's Earnings". Bloomberg Politics. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  28. ^ "Report Traces Jeb Bush's Ties to Companies That Had Business With Florida". New York Times. October 21, 2015. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  29. ^ Wyland, Michael (November 28, 2016). "Trump Adviser Double-dipping from Breitbart and Nonprofit Foundation| Nonprofit Quarterly". Nonprofit Quarterly.
  30. ^ Smilowitz, Elliot (November 23, 2016). "Fla. charity paid Bannon, other Breitbart employees: report". The Hill.