Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #1090 Fascism: 2019 World Tour, Part 5 (Destabilizing China)

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This pro­gram was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.

Intro­duc­tion: We begin with brief review of the Falun Gong cult and its con­nec­tions. Part of a con­stel­la­tion of orga­ni­za­tions and indi­vid­u­als work­ing with for­mer Trump chief of staff Steve Ban­non to neu­tral­ize Chi­na, Falun Gong has gar­nered the sup­port of CIA deriv­a­tive Broad­cast­ing Board of Gov­er­nors in the effort.

The Falun Gong teach­es that: post menopausal women can regain men­stru­a­tion, con­sid­ered manda­to­ry for spir­i­tu­al evo­lu­tion; gays are demo­nized; mixed race peo­ple are demo­nized; cult mem­bers are dis­cour­aged from seek­ing mod­ern med­ical treat­ment; space aliens are inhab­it­ing human bod­ies and are respon­si­ble for mod­ern tech­nol­o­gy such as air­planes and com­put­ers; tiny beings are said to be invad­ing human bod­ies and caus­ing “bad kar­ma;” mas­ter Li Hongzhi knows the secrets of the uni­verse; mas­ter Li Hongzhi can lev­i­tate and walk through walls; mas­ter Li Hongzhi can install a phys­i­cal “Falun”–swastika–in the abdomen of fol­low­ers which revolves in var­i­ous direc­tions; Falun Gong teach­ing demo­nizes fem­i­nists and pop­u­lar music; there will be a “Judge­ment Day” on which com­mu­nists and oth­ers deemed unwor­thy by mas­ter Li Hongzhi will be neu­tral­ized.

Falun Gong–largely through its Epoch Times newspaper–has estab­lished a major social media pres­ence and is a key ally of Pres­i­dent Trump’s re-elec­tion effort: “. . . . In April, at the height of its ad spend­ing, videos from the Epoch Media Group, which includes The Epoch Times and dig­i­tal video out­let New Tang Dynasty, or NTD, com­bined for around 3 bil­lion views on Face­book, YouTube and Twit­ter, rank­ing 11th among all video cre­ators across plat­forms and out­rank­ing every oth­er tra­di­tion­al news pub­lish­er, accord­ing to data from the social media ana­lyt­ics com­pa­ny Tubu­lar. That engage­ment has made The Epoch Times a favorite of the Trump fam­i­ly and a key com­po­nent of the president’s re-elec­tion cam­paign. . . . .”

Pro­gram High­lights Include: The enor­mous amount of mon­ey under con­trol of Falun Gong; sim­i­lar­i­ties to the Uni­fi­ca­tion Church; the anti-com­mu­nist dog­ma of the cult (again, not unlike the Uni­fi­ca­tion Church); the role of the inter­net and social media–Facebook, in particular–in the growth of Falun Gong’s oper­a­tions; the spin put by NBC on Falun Gong’s beliefs.

1.We begin with brief review of the Falun Gong cult and its con­nec­tions. Part of a con­stel­la­tion of orga­ni­za­tions and indi­vid­u­als work­ing with for­mer Trump chief of staff Steve Ban­non to neu­tral­ize Chi­na, Falun Gong has gar­nered the sup­port of CIA deriv­a­tive Broad­cast­ing Board of Gov­er­nors in the effort.

The Falun Gong teach­es that: post menopausal women can regain men­stru­a­tion, con­sid­ered manda­to­ry for spir­i­tu­al evo­lu­tion; gays are demo­nized; mixed race peo­ple are demo­nized; cult mem­bers are dis­cour­aged from seek­ing mod­ern med­ical treat­ment; space aliens are inhab­it­ing human bod­ies and are respon­si­ble for mod­ern tech­nol­o­gy such as air­planes and com­put­ers; tiny beings are said to be invad­ing human bod­ies and caus­ing “bad kar­ma;” mas­ter Li Hongzhi knows the secrets of the uni­verse; mas­ter Li Hongzhi can lev­i­tate and walk through walls; mas­ter Li Hongzhi can install a phys­i­cal “Falun”–swastika–in the abdomen of fol­low­ers which revolves in var­i­ous direc­tions; Falun Gong teach­ing demo­nizes fem­i­nists and pop­u­lar music; there will be a “Judge­ment Day” on which com­mu­nists and oth­ers deemed unwor­thy by mas­ter Li Hongzhi will be neu­tral­ized.

Falun Gong–largely through its Epoch Times newspaper–has estab­lished a major social media pres­ence and is a key ally of Pres­i­dent Trump’s re-elec­tion effort: “. . . . In April, at the height of its ad spend­ing, videos from the Epoch Media Group, which includes The Epoch Times and dig­i­tal video out­let New Tang Dynasty, or NTD, com­bined for around 3 bil­lion views on Face­book, YouTube and Twit­ter, rank­ing 11th among all video cre­ators across plat­forms and out­rank­ing every oth­er tra­di­tion­al news pub­lish­er, accord­ing to data from the social media ana­lyt­ics com­pa­ny Tubu­lar. That engage­ment has made The Epoch Times a favorite of the Trump fam­i­ly and a key com­po­nent of the president’s re-elec­tion cam­paign. . . . .”

“Trump, QAnon and an impend­ing judg­ment day: Behind the Face­book-fueled rise of The Epoch Times” by Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins, NBC News, 08/20/2019

Start­ed almost two decades ago with a stat­ed mis­sion to “pro­vide infor­ma­tion to Chi­nese com­mu­ni­ties to help immi­grants assim­i­late into Amer­i­can soci­ety,” The Epoch Times now wields one of the biggest social media fol­low­ings of any news out­let.

By the num­bers, there is no big­ger advo­cate of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Face­book than The Epoch Times.

The small New York-based non­prof­it news out­let has spent more than $1.5 mil­lion on about 11,000 pro-Trump adver­tise­ments in the last six months, accord­ing to data from Facebook’s adver­tis­ing archive — more than any orga­ni­za­tion out­side of the Trump cam­paign itself, and more than most Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates have spent on their own cam­paigns.

Those video ads — in which uniden­ti­fied spokes­peo­ple thumb through a news­pa­per to praise Trump, ped­dle con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about the “Deep State,” and crit­i­cize “fake news” media — strike a famil­iar tone in the online con­ser­v­a­tive news ecosys­tem. The Epoch Times looks like many of the con­ser­v­a­tive out­lets that have gained fol­low­ings in recent years.

But it isn’t.

Behind the scenes, the media outlet’s own­er­ship and oper­a­tion is close­ly tied to Falun Gong, a Chi­nese spir­i­tu­al com­mu­ni­ty with the stat­ed goal of tak­ing down China’s gov­ern­ment.

It’s that moti­va­tion that helped dri­ve the orga­ni­za­tion toward Trump, accord­ing to inter­views with for­mer Epoch Times staffers, a move that has been both lucra­tive and ben­e­fi­cial for its mes­sage.

For­mer prac­ti­tion­ers of Falun Gong told NBC News that believ­ers think the world is head­ed toward a judg­ment day, where those labeled “com­mu­nists” will be sent to a kind of hell, and those sym­pa­thet­ic to the spir­i­tu­al com­mu­ni­ty will be spared. Trump is viewed as a key ally in the anti-com­mu­nist fight, for­mer Epoch Times employ­ees said.

In part because of that unusu­al back­ground, The Epoch Times has had trou­ble find­ing a foothold in the broad­er con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment.

“It seems like an inter­lop­er — not well inte­grat­ed social­ly with­in the move­ment net­work, and not ter­ri­bly well-cir­cu­lat­ing among right-wingers,” said A.J. Bauer, a vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor of media, cul­ture and com­mu­ni­ca­tion at New York Uni­ver­si­ty, who is part of an ongo­ing study in which he and his col­leagues inter­view con­ser­v­a­tive jour­nal­ists.

“Even when dis­cussing more fringe‑y sites, con­ser­v­a­tive jour­nal­ists tend to ref­er­ence Gate­way Pun­dit or Infowars,” Bauer said. “The Epoch Times doesn’t tend to come up.”

That seems to be chang­ing.

Before 2016, The Epoch Times gen­er­al­ly stayed out of U.S. pol­i­tics, unless they dove­tailed with Chi­nese inter­ests. The publication’s recent ad strat­e­gy, cou­pled with a broad­er cam­paign to embrace social media and con­ser­v­a­tive U.S. pol­i­tics — Trump in par­tic­u­lar — has dou­bled The Epoch Times’ rev­enue, accord­ing to the organization’s tax fil­ings, and pushed it to greater promi­nence in the broad­er con­ser­v­a­tive media world.

Start­ed almost two decades ago as a free news­pa­per and web­site with a stat­ed mis­sion to “pro­vide infor­ma­tion to Chi­nese com­mu­ni­ties to help immi­grants assim­i­late into Amer­i­can soci­ety,” The Epoch Times now wields one of the biggest social media fol­low­ings of any news out­let.

In April, at the height of its ad spend­ing, videos from the Epoch Media Group, which includes The Epoch Times and dig­i­tal video out­let New Tang Dynasty, or NTD, com­bined for around 3 bil­lion views on Face­book, YouTube and Twit­ter, rank­ing 11th among all video cre­ators across plat­forms and out­rank­ing every oth­er tra­di­tion­al news pub­lish­er, accord­ing to data from the social media ana­lyt­ics com­pa­ny Tubu­lar.

That engage­ment has made The Epoch Times a favorite of the Trump fam­i­ly and a key com­po­nent of the president’s re-elec­tion cam­paign. The president’s Face­book page has post­ed Epoch Times con­tent at least half a dozen times this year— with sev­er­al arti­cles writ­ten by mem­bers of the Trump cam­paign. Don­ald Trump Jr. has tweet­ed sev­er­al of their sto­ries, too.

In May, Lara Trump, the president’s daugh­ter-in-law, sat down for a 40-minute inter­view in Trump Tow­er with the paper’s senior edi­tor. And for the first time, The Epoch Times was a main play­er at the con­ser­v­a­tive con­fer­ence CPAC this year, where it secured inter­views with mem­bers of Con­gress, Trump Cab­i­net mem­bers and right-wing celebri­ties.

At the same time, its net­work of news sites and YouTube chan­nels has made it a pow­er­ful con­duit for the internet’s fringi­er con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, includ­ing anti-vac­ci­na­tion pro­pa­gan­da and QAnon, to reach the main­stream.

Despite its grow­ing reach and pow­er, lit­tle is pub­licly known about the pre­cise own­er­ship, ori­gins or influ­ences of The Epoch Times.

The outlet’s opac­i­ty makes it dif­fi­cult to deter­mine an over­all struc­ture, but it is loose­ly orga­nized into sev­er­al region­al tax-free non­prof­its. The Epoch Times oper­ates along­side the video pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny, NTD, under the umbrel­la of The Epoch Media Group, a pri­vate news and enter­tain­ment com­pa­ny whose own­er exec­u­tives have declined to name, cit­ing con­cerns of “pres­sure” that could fol­low.

The Epoch Media Group, along with Shen Yun, a dance troupe known for its ubiq­ui­tous adver­tis­ing and unset­tling per­for­mances, make up the out­reach effort of Falun Gong, a rel­a­tive­ly new spir­i­tu­al prac­tice that com­bines ancient Chi­nese med­i­ta­tive exer­cis­es, mys­ti­cism and often ultra­con­ser­v­a­tive cul­tur­al world­views. Falun Gong’s founder has referred to Epoch Media Group as “our media,” and the group’s prac­tice heav­i­ly informs The Epoch Times’ cov­er­age, accord­ing to for­mer employ­ees who spoke with NBC News.

Exec­u­tives at The Epoch Times declined to be inter­viewed for this arti­cle, but the pub­lish­er, Stephen Gre­go­ry, wrote an edi­to­r­i­al in response to a list of emailed ques­tions from NBC News, call­ing it “high­ly inap­pro­pri­ate” and part of an effort to “dis­cred­it” the pub­li­ca­tion to ask about the company’s affil­i­a­tion with Falun Gong and its stance on the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

Inter­views with for­mer employ­ees, pub­lic finan­cial records and social media data illus­trate how a secre­tive news­pa­per has been able to lever­age the devot­ed fol­low­ers of a reclu­sive spir­i­tu­al leader, polit­i­cal vit­ri­ol, online con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries and the rise of Trump to become a dig­i­tal media pow­er­house that now attracts bil­lions of views each month, all while pub­licly deny­ing or down­play­ing its asso­ci­a­tion with Falun Gong.

Behind the times

In 2009, the founder and leader of Falun Gong, Li Hongzhi, came to speak at The Epoch Times’ offices in Man­hat­tan. Li came with a clear direc­tive for the Falun Gong vol­un­teers who com­prised the company’s staff: “Become reg­u­lar media.”

The pub­li­ca­tion had been found­ed nine years ear­li­er in Geor­gia by John Tang, a Chi­nese Amer­i­can prac­ti­tion­er of Falun Gong and cur­rent pres­i­dent of New Tang Dynasty. But it was falling short of Li’s ambi­tions as stat­ed to his fol­low­ers: to expose the evil of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment and “save all sen­tient beings” in a forth­com­ing divine bat­tle against com­mu­nism.

Rough­ly trans­lat­ed by the group as “law wheel exer­cise,” Falun Gong was start­ed by Li in 1992. The prac­tice, which com­bines bits of Bud­dhism and Tao­ism, involves med­i­ta­tion and gen­tle exer­cis­es and espous­es Li’s con­tro­ver­sial teach­ings.

“Li Hongzhi sim­pli­fied med­i­ta­tion and prac­tices that tra­di­tion­al­ly have many steps and are very con­fus­ing,” said Ming Xia, a pro­fes­sor at the Grad­u­ate Cen­ter of the City Uni­ver­si­ty of New York who has stud­ied Falun Gong. “Basi­cal­ly it’s like fast food, a quick­ie.”

Li’s teach­ings quick­ly built a sig­nif­i­cant fol­low­ing — and ran into ten­sion with China’s lead­ers, who viewed his pop­u­lar­i­ty as a threat to the com­mu­nist government’s hold on pow­er.

In 1999, after thou­sands of Li’s fol­low­ers gath­ered in front of Pres­i­dent Jiang Zemin’s com­pound to qui­et­ly protest the arrest of sev­er­al Falun Gong mem­bers, author­i­ties in Chi­na banned Falun Gong, clos­ing teach­ing cen­ters and arrest­ing Falun Gong orga­niz­ers and prac­ti­tion­ers who refused to give up the prac­tice. Human rights groups have report­ed some adher­ents being tor­tured and killed while in cus­tody.

The crack­down elicit­ed con­dem­na­tion from West­ern coun­tries, and attract­ed a new pool of fol­low­ers in the Unit­ed States, for whom Chi­na and com­mu­nism were com­mon adver­saries.

“The per­se­cu­tion itself ele­vat­ed Li’s sta­tus and brought tremen­dous media atten­tion,” Ming said.

It has also invit­ed scruti­ny of the spir­i­tu­al leader’s more uncon­ven­tion­al ideas. Among them, Li has railed against what he called the wicked­ness of homo­sex­u­al­i­ty, fem­i­nism and pop­u­lar music while hold­ing that he is a god-like fig­ure who can lev­i­tate and walk through walls.

Li has also taught that sick­ness is a symp­tom of evil that can only be tru­ly cured with med­i­ta­tion and devo­tion, and that aliens from undis­cov­ered dimen­sions have invad­ed the minds and bod­ies of humans, bring­ing cor­rup­tion and inven­tions such as com­put­ers and air­planes. The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has used these con­tro­ver­sial teach­ings to label Falun Gong a cult. Falun Gong has denied the government’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion.

The Epoch Times pro­vid­ed Li with an Eng­lish-lan­guage way to push back against Chi­na — a posi­tion that would even­tu­al­ly dove­tail with Trump’s elec­tion.

In 2005, The Epoch Times released its great­est sal­vo, pub­lish­ing the ”Nine Com­men­taries,” a wide­ly dis­trib­uted book-length series of anony­mous edi­to­ri­als that it claimed exposed the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party’s “mas­sive crimes” and “attempts to erad­i­cate all tra­di­tion­al moral­i­ty and reli­gious belief.”

The next year, an Epoch Times reporter was removed from a White House event for Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Hu Jin­tao after inter­rupt­ing the cer­e­mo­ny by shout­ing for sev­er­al min­utes that then-Pres­i­dent George W. Bush must stop the leader from “per­se­cut­ing Falun Gong.”

But despite its small army of devot­ed vol­un­teers, The Epoch Times was still oper­at­ing as a fledg­ling start­up.

Ben Hur­ley is a for­mer Falun Gong prac­ti­tion­er who helped cre­ate Australia’s Eng­lish ver­sion of The Epoch Times out of a liv­ing room in Syd­ney in 2005. He has writ­ten about his expe­ri­ence with the paper and described the ear­ly years as “a giant PR cam­paign” to evan­ge­lize about Falun Gong’s belief in an upcom­ing apoc­a­lypse in which those who think bad­ly of the prac­tice, or well of the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty, will be destroyed.

Hur­ley, who wrote for The Epoch Times until he left in 2013, said he saw prac­ti­tion­ers in lead­er­ship posi­tions begin draw­ing hard­er and hard­er lines about accept­able polit­i­cal posi­tions.

“Their views were always anti-abor­tion and homo­pho­bic, but there was more room for dis­agree­ments in the ear­ly days,” he said.

Hur­ley said Falun Gong prac­ti­tion­ers saw com­mu­nism every­where: for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Clin­ton, movie star Jack­ie Chan and for­mer Unit­ed Nations Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al Kofi Annan were all con­sid­ered to have sold them­selves out to the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, Hur­ley said.

This kind of cov­er­age fore­shad­owed the news organization’s embrace of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries like QAnon, the over­ar­ch­ing the­o­ry that there is an evil cabal of “deep state” oper­a­tors and child preda­tors out to take down the pres­i­dent.

“It is so rabid­ly pro-Trump,” Hur­ley said, refer­ring to The Epoch Times. Devout prac­ti­tion­ers of Falun Gong “believe that Trump was sent by heav­en to destroy the Com­mu­nist Par­ty.”

A rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Li declined an inter­view request. Li lives among hun­dreds of his fol­low­ers near Drag­on Springs, a 400-acre com­pound in upstate New York that hous­es tem­ples, pri­vate schools and quar­ters where per­form­ers for the organization’s dance troupe, Shen Yun, live and rehearse, accord­ing to four for­mer com­pound res­i­dents and for­mer Falun Gong prac­ti­tion­ers who spoke to NBC News.

They said that life in Drag­on Springs is tight­ly con­trolled by Li, that inter­net access is restrict­ed, the use of med­i­cines is dis­cour­aged, and arranged rela­tion­ships are com­mon. Two for­mer res­i­dents on visas said they were offered to be set up with U.S. res­i­dents at the com­pound.

Tiger Huang, a for­mer Drag­on Springs res­i­dent who was on a U.S. stu­dent visa from Tai­wan, said she was set up on three dates on the com­pound, and she believed her abil­i­ty to stay in the U.S. was tied to the arrange­ment.

“The pur­pose of set­ting up the dates was obvi­ous,” Huang said. Her now-hus­band, a for­mer Drag­on Springs res­i­dent, con­firmed the account.

Huang said she was told by Drag­on Springs offi­cials her visa had expired and was told to go back to Tai­wan after months of dat­ing a non­prac­ti­tion­er in the com­pound. She lat­er learned that her visa had not expired when she was told to leave the coun­try.

Cam­paign sea­son

By 2016, The Epoch Times Group appeared to have heed­ed the call from Li to run its oper­a­tion more like a typ­i­cal news orga­ni­za­tion, start­ing with The Epoch Times’ web­site. In March, the com­pa­ny placed job ads on the site Indeed.com and assem­bled a team of sev­en young reporters oth­er­wise uncon­nect­ed to Falun Gong. The aver­age salary for the new recruits was $35,000 a year, paid month­ly, accord­ing to for­mer employ­ees.

Things seemed “strange,” even from the first day, accord­ing to five for­mer reporters who spoke with NBC News — four of whom asked for anonymi­ty over con­cerns that speak­ing neg­a­tive­ly about their expe­ri­ence would affect their rela­tion­ship with cur­rent and future employ­ers.

As part of their ori­en­ta­tion, the new reporters watched a video that laid out the Chi­nese per­se­cu­tion of Falun Gong fol­low­ers. The pub­lish­er, Stephen Gre­go­ry, also spoke to the reporters about his vision for the new dig­i­tal ini­tia­tive. The for­mer employ­ees said Gregory’s talk framed The Epoch Times as an answer to the lib­er­al main­stream media.

Their con­tent was to be crit­i­cal of com­mu­nist Chi­na, clear-eyed about the threat of Islam­ic ter­ror­ism, focused on ille­gal immi­gra­tion and at all times root­ed in “tra­di­tion­al” val­ues, they said. This meant no con­tent about drugs, gay peo­ple or pop­u­lar music.

The reporters said they worked from desks arranged in a U‑shape in a sin­gle-room office that was sep­a­rat­ed by a locked door from the oth­er staff mem­bers who worked on the paper, dozens of Falun Gong vol­un­teers and interns. The new recruits wrote up to five news sto­ries a day in an effort to meet a quo­ta of 100,000 page views, and sub­mit­ted their work to a hand­ful of edi­tors — a team of two Falun Gong-prac­tic­ing mar­ried cou­ples.

“Slave labor may not be the right word, but that’s a lot of arti­cles to write in one day,” one for­mer employ­ee said.

It wasn’t just the amount of writ­ing but also the con­ser­v­a­tive edi­to­r­i­al restric­tions that began to con­cern some of the employ­ees.

“It’s like we were sup­posed to be fight­ing so-called lib­er­al pro­pa­gan­da by mak­ing our own,” said Steve Klett, who cov­ered the Trump cam­paign for The Epoch Times as his first job in jour­nal­ism. Klett likened The Epoch Times to a Russ­ian troll farm and said his arti­cles were edit­ed to remove out­side crit­i­cism of Trump.

“The worst was the Pulse shoot­ing,” Klett said, refer­ring to the 2016 mass shoot­ing in which 50 peo­ple includ­ing the gun­man were killed at a gay night­club in Orlan­do, Flori­da. “We weren’t allowed to cov­er sto­ries involv­ing homo­sex­u­al­i­ty, but that bumps up against them want­i­ng to cov­er Islam­ic ter­ror­ism. So I wrote four arti­cles with­out using the word gay.”

Klett said that the pub­li­ca­tion also began to skew in favor of Trump, who had tar­get­ed Chi­na on the cam­paign trail with talk of a trade war.

“I knew I had to for­get about all the worst parts of Trump,” Klett said.

Klett, how­ev­er, would not end up hav­ing to cov­er the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. Eight days before the elec­tion, the team was called togeth­er and fired as a group.

“I guess the exper­i­ment was over,” a for­mer employ­ee said.

The con­tent

The Epoch Times, dig­i­tal pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny NTD and the heav­i­ly adver­tised dance troupe Shen Yun make up the non­prof­it net­work that Li calls “our media.” Finan­cial doc­u­ments paint a com­pli­cat­ed pic­ture of more than a dozen tech­ni­cal­ly sep­a­rate orga­ni­za­tions that appear to share mis­sions, mon­ey and exec­u­tives. Though the source of their rev­enue is unclear, the most recent finan­cial records from each orga­ni­za­tion paint a pic­ture of an over­all busi­ness thriv­ing in the Trump era.

The Epoch Times brought in $8.1 mil­lion in rev­enue in 2017 — dou­ble what it had the pre­vi­ous year — and report­ed spend­ing $7.2 mil­lion on “print­ing news­pa­per and cre­at­ing web and media pro­grams.” Most of its rev­enue comes from adver­tis­ing and “web and media income,” accord­ing to the group’s annu­al tax fil­ings, while indi­vid­ual dona­tions and sub­scrip­tions to the paper make up less than 10 per­cent of its rev­enue.

New Tang Dynasty’s 2017 rev­enue, accord­ing to IRS records, was $18 mil­lion, a 150 per­cent increase over the year before. It spent $16.2 mil­lion.

That expo­nen­tial growth came around the same time The Epoch Times expand­ed its online pres­ence and increased its ad spend­ing, hon­ing its mes­sage on two basic themes: enthu­si­as­tic sup­port for Trump’s agen­da, and the expo­sure of what the pub­li­ca­tion claims is a labyrinthi­an, glob­al con­spir­a­cy led by Clin­ton and for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma to tear down Trump. One such con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry, loose­ly called “Spy­gate,” has become a com­mon talk­ing point for Fox News host Sean Han­ni­ty and con­ser­v­a­tive news web­sites like Bre­it­bart.

The paper’s “Spy­gate Spe­cial Cov­er­age” sec­tion, which fre­quent­ly sits atop its web­site, the­o­rizes about a grand, years­long plot in which for­mer Oba­ma and Clin­ton staffers, a hand­ful of mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers, pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tors and gov­ern­ment bureau­crats plan to take down the Trump pres­i­den­cy.

In his pub­lished response, pub­lish­er Gre­go­ry said the media outlet’s ads “have no polit­i­cal agen­da.”

While The Epoch Times usu­al­ly strad­dles the line between an ultra­con­ser­v­a­tive news out­let and a con­spir­a­cy ware­house, some pop­u­lar online shows cre­at­ed by Epoch Times employ­ees and pro­duced by NTD cross the line com­plete­ly, and spread far and wide.

One such show is “Edge of Won­der,” a ver­i­fied YouTube chan­nel that releas­es new NTD-pro­duced videos twice every week and now has more than 33 mil­lion views. In addi­tion to claims that alien abduc­tions are real and the drug epi­dem­ic was engi­neered by the “deep state,” the chan­nel push­es the QAnon con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry, which false­ly posits that the same “Spy­gate” cabal is a front for a glob­al pedophile ring being tak­en down by Trump.

One QAnon video, titled “#QANON – 7 facts the MEDIA (MSM) Won’t Admit” has almost 1 mil­lion views on YouTube. Oth­er videos in the channel’s QAnon playlist, which include videos about 9/11 con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries and one titled “13 BLOODLINES & their Dia­bol­i­cal End Game,” gained hun­dreds of thou­sands of views each.

Travis View, a researcher and pod­cast­er who stud­ies the QAnon move­ment, said The Epoch Times has san­i­tized the con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry by push­ing Spy­gate, which drops the wildest and more pruri­ent details of QAnon while retain­ing its con­spir­a­to­r­i­al ele­ments.

“QAnon is high­ly stig­ma­tized among peo­ple try­ing to push the Spy­gate mes­sage. They know how tox­ic QAnon is,” View said. “Spy­gate leaves out the spir­i­tu­al ele­ments, the child sex traf­fick­ing, but it’s cer­tain­ly inte­gral to the QAnon nar­ra­tive.”

Gre­go­ry denied any con­nec­tion with “Edge of Won­der,” writ­ing in a state­ment that his orga­ni­za­tion was “aware of the enter­tain­ment show,” but “is in no way con­nect­ed with it.”

But The Epoch Times has itself pub­lished sev­er­al cred­u­lous reports on QAnon and for years, the web­series hosts Rob Counts and Ben­jamin Chas­teen were employed as the company’s cre­ative direc­tor and chief pho­to edi­tor, respec­tive­ly. In August 2018, six months after the cre­ation of “Edge of Won­der,” Counts tweet­ed that he still worked for Epoch Times. Counts and Chas­teen did not respond to an email seek­ing clar­i­fi­ca­tion on their roles.

Discussion

5 comments for “FTR #1090 Fascism: 2019 World Tour, Part 5 (Destabilizing China)”

  1. Here’s a sto­ry to watch as the Wuhan flu con­tin­ues to grow into a glob­al pan­dem­ic relat­ed to Steve Ban­non’s efforts to desta­bi­lize Chi­na : There’s a ‘news’ web­site found­ed by an exiled Chi­nese bil­lion­aire push­ing the idea that the Wuhan flu virus orig­i­nat­ed in a Chi­nese gov­ern­ment lab. The site also pub­lished a doc­u­ment described as “ques­tion­able” that fueled a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry that the Chi­nese mil­i­tary spread the dis­ease delib­er­ate­ly. The doc­u­ment has been pop­u­lar on mes­sage boards like 4chan, which is par­tic­u­lar­ly pop­u­lar with the ‘Alt Right’. What makes this behav­ior by G News par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing is that this bil­lion­aire, Guo Wen­gui (also known as Miles Kwok and Miles Guo), recent­ly hired Steve Ban­non for $1 mil­lion to make intro­duc­tions to “media per­son­al­i­ties” and advise on “indus­try stan­dards.” Ban­non and Buo also fre­quent­ly appear togeth­er in videos on G News that attack the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment

    Anoth­er Amer­i­can who appears to be asso­ci­at­ed with G New is hedge fund man­ag­er J. Kyle Bass who report­ed­ly has invest­ment posi­tions that prof­it from a decline in the val­ue if Chi­na’s econ­o­my fails. Bass is the chair of the Rule of Law Foun­da­tion, a non­prof­it that runs ban­ner ads at the top and bot­tom of the G News web­site. Guo and Ban­non hap­pen to run a $100 mil­lion invest­ment fund called the Rule of Law Fund, but Bass claims that his Rule of Law Foun­da­tion has no ties to that fund and that he has ties to G News at all.

    As we’re going to see in the sec­ond arti­cle below, Bass has tied to the Trump admin­is­tra­tion via his friend­ly with Tom­my Hick, Jr., a long-time friend of Don­ald Trump Jr. and cur­rent co-chair­man of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee. Bass has report­ed­ly used his con­nec­tions to Hicks to meet with the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and share his views on Chi­na.
    Recall how Hicks was one of the fig­ures who report­ed­ly met with Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man as they were work­ing on their Naftogaz scheme in Ukraine.

    So a new anti-Chi­na dis­in­for­ma­tion site just popped up that appears to be work­ing with Ban­non and Kyle Bass and Bass appears to be work­ing with the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. Ok, first, here’s the sto­ry about the new G News site and its ties to Ban­non and Bass:

    Buz­zFeed News

    A Site Tied To Steve Ban­non Is Writ­ing Fake News About The Coro­n­avirus

    Found­ed by an exiled bil­lion­aire and crit­ic of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, G News claimed with­out proof that Chi­na was pre­pared to admit the dis­ease orig­i­nat­ed in its labs.

    Jane Lytvy­nenko Buz­zFeed News Reporter
    Post­ed on Feb­ru­ary 3, 2020, at 12:03 p.m. ET

    A web­site that pub­lished two false coro­n­avirus claims, which paint­ed Chi­na in a neg­a­tive light, pre­vi­ous­ly had a con­tract with for­mer White House chief strate­gist Steve Ban­non and was cre­at­ed by an exiled Chi­nese bil­lion­aire and crit­ic of the rul­ing Com­mu­nist Par­ty.

    On Jan. 25, G News pub­lished a false sto­ry say­ing the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment was prepar­ing to admit that the coro­n­avirus orig­i­nat­ed in one of its labs. It did not, but the arti­cle still racked up over 19,000 tweets and 18,000 Face­book engage­ments, accord­ing to social track­ing web­site Buz­zSumo. The sto­ry was debunked by Face­book fact-check­ing part­ner Poli­ti­Fact.

    The web­site also pub­lished a ques­tion­able doc­u­ment that fed a con­spir­a­cy that the Chi­nese mil­i­tary spread the dis­ease delib­er­ate­ly. That doc­u­ment, which seems to have come from G News orig­i­nal­ly, has been pop­u­lar on anony­mous mes­sage boards like 4chan and 2chan.

    G News is part of Guo Media, a project fund­ed by Chi­nese bil­lion­aire Guo Wen­gui, also known as Miles Kwok and Miles Guo. He fled Chi­na in 2014 and has been accused of bribery, mon­ey laun­der­ing, and fraud by the main­land gov­ern­ment. He has denied the charges, call­ing them polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed, and has become a vocal crit­ic of Bei­jing.

    In August 2018, Guo’s orga­ni­za­tion signed what Axios report­ed to be a $1 mil­lion con­tract with Steve Ban­non, for­mer White House strate­gist and for­mer chair of the hyper­par­ti­san news site Bre­it­bart. The con­tract required Ban­non to make intro­duc­tions to “media per­son­al­i­ties” and advise on “indus­try stan­dards,” accord­ing to Axios. Guo and Ban­non fre­quent­ly appear togeth­er in videos on G News that attack the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment.

    ...

    Anoth­er per­son con­nect­ed to G News, hedge fund man­ag­er J. Kyle Bass, also spread a false coro­n­avirus claim in a tweet. His hedge fund report­ed­ly had invest­ments that will increase in val­ue if the Chi­nese econ­o­my fails, but he told Buz­zFeed News he no longer holds “any Chi­nese equi­ty posi­tions what­so­ev­er.” Bass has remained a Chi­na crit­ic, fre­quent­ly echo­ing Ban­non.

    “A hus­band and wife Chi­nese spy team were recent­ly removed from a Lev­el 4 Infec­tious Dis­ease facil­i­ty in Cana­da for send­ing pathogens to the Wuhan facil­i­ty. The hus­band spe­cial­ized in coro­n­avirus research,” Bass tweet­ed, link­ing to a CBC News arti­cle that did not sup­port his claim.

    His tweet gar­nered almost 13,000 retweets and caused Cana­di­an offi­cials to issue a clar­i­fi­ca­tion deny­ing that coro­n­avirus was stolen from the Win­nipeg lab. “This is mis­in­for­ma­tion and there is no fac­tu­al basis for claims being made on social media,” Eric Mor­ris­sette, the chief of media rela­tions for Health Cana­da and the Pub­lic Health Agency of Cana­da, told CBC News.

    When asked about his tweet, Bass said he had no plan to remove it.

    “I am extreme­ly con­cerned about the spread of mis­in­for­ma­tion about the coro­n­avirus by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment,” he said.

    Bass is the chair of the Rule of Law Foun­da­tion, a non­prof­it that runs ban­ner ads at the top and bot­tom of the G News web­site solic­it­ing dona­tions. He said he had no affil­i­a­tion with the site.

    “I have noth­ing to do with G News or its con­tent,” he said. “Guo Wen­gui has no lead­er­ship posi­tion, oper­at­ing con­trol, or legal posi­tion with the Rule of Law Foun­da­tion.”

    Bass added that he hadn’t “read any G News sto­ry. Peri­od.” He also claimed that the Rule of Law Foun­da­tion was sep­a­rate from the $100 mil­lion fund start­ed by Guo and Ban­non called the Rule of Law Fund.

    Aside from Guo’s site shar­ing false infor­ma­tion dur­ing the coro­n­avirus out­break, he has been a source of con­tro­ver­sy since arriv­ing in the US. Accord­ing to Politi­co, he is involved in a legal dis­pute stem­ming from his alleged hir­ing of a pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tion firm to dig up dirt on Chi­nese nation­als.

    After being exiled from Chi­na, he has faced accu­sa­tions of both finan­cial and sex­u­al mis­con­duct, includ­ing a rape alle­ga­tion from a for­mer assis­tant. Guo has main­tained his inno­cence, say­ing that alle­ga­tions were polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed.

    ———-

    “A Site Tied To Steve Ban­non Is Writ­ing Fake News About The Coro­n­avirus” by Jane Lytvy­nenko; Buz­zFeed News; 02/03/2020

    “On Jan. 25, G News pub­lished a false sto­ry say­ing the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment was prepar­ing to admit that the coro­n­avirus orig­i­nat­ed in one of its labs. It did not, but the arti­cle still racked up over 19,000 tweets and 18,000 Face­book engage­ments, accord­ing to social track­ing web­site Buz­zSumo. The sto­ry was debunked by Face­book fact-check­ing part­ner Poli­ti­Fact.”

    Mak­ing up fake news for Machi­avel­lian pur­pos­es. It’s like a Chi­nese dis­si­dent bil­lion­aire Bre­it­bart, includ­ing the involve­ment of Steve Ban­non, who was paid $1 mil­lion to advise on “indus­try stan­dard”. Pre­sum­ably that advice involves Ban­non’s exper­tise in shred­ding those indus­try stan­dards:

    ...
    The web­site also pub­lished a ques­tion­able doc­u­ment that fed a con­spir­a­cy that the Chi­nese mil­i­tary spread the dis­ease delib­er­ate­ly. That doc­u­ment, which seems to have come from G News orig­i­nal­ly, has been pop­u­lar on anony­mous mes­sage boards like 4chan and 2chan.

    G News is part of Guo Media, a project fund­ed by Chi­nese bil­lion­aire Guo Wen­gui, also known as Miles Kwok and Miles Guo. He fled Chi­na in 2014 and has been accused of bribery, mon­ey laun­der­ing, and fraud by the main­land gov­ern­ment. He has denied the charges, call­ing them polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed, and has become a vocal crit­ic of Bei­jing.

    In August 2018, Guo’s orga­ni­za­tion signed what Axios report­ed to be a $1 mil­lion con­tract with Steve Ban­non, for­mer White House strate­gist and for­mer chair of the hyper­par­ti­san news site Bre­it­bart. The con­tract required Ban­non to make intro­duc­tions to “media per­son­al­i­ties” and advise on “indus­try stan­dards,” accord­ing to Axios. Guo and Ban­non fre­quent­ly appear togeth­er in videos on G News that attack the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment.
    ...

    $1 mil­lion for mak­ing intro­duc­tions to “media per­son­al­i­ties” and advis­ing on “indus­try stan­dards”. Nice work if you can get it.

    And then there’s the involve­ment of US hedge fund man­ag­er J. Kyle Bass, who report­ed­ly had invest­ments that ben­e­fit from a weak­ened Chi­nese econ­o­my but who also claims to have no involve­ment with G News at all despite all of the avail­able evi­dence:

    ...
    Anoth­er per­son con­nect­ed to G News, hedge fund man­ag­er J. Kyle Bass, also spread a false coro­n­avirus claim in a tweet. His hedge fund report­ed­ly had invest­ments that will increase in val­ue if the Chi­nese econ­o­my fails, but he told Buz­zFeed News he no longer holds “any Chi­nese equi­ty posi­tions what­so­ev­er.” Bass has remained a Chi­na crit­ic, fre­quent­ly echo­ing Ban­non.

    ...

    Bass is the chair of the Rule of Law Foun­da­tion, a non­prof­it that runs ban­ner ads at the top and bot­tom of the G News web­site solic­it­ing dona­tions. He said he had no affil­i­a­tion with the site.

    “I have noth­ing to do with G News or its con­tent,” he said. “Guo Wen­gui has no lead­er­ship posi­tion, oper­at­ing con­trol, or legal posi­tion with the Rule of Law Foun­da­tion.”

    Bass added that he hadn’t “read any G News sto­ry. Peri­od.” He also claimed that the Rule of Law Foun­da­tion was sep­a­rate from the $100 mil­lion fund start­ed by Guo and Ban­non called the Rule of Law Fund.
    ...

    No ties at all. It’s just a coin­ci­dence that Bass hap­pens to chair the Rule of Law Foun­da­tion which runs ban­ner das on the G News site and it’s just a coin­ci­dence that Ban­non and Guo start­ed a $100 mil­lion fund called the “Rule of Law Fund”. That’s Kyle Bass’s offi­cial answer on these mat­ters.

    Now here’s the ProP­ub­li­ca report from last year that described how Bass’s hedge fund was posi­tioned to ben­e­fit from a falling Chi­nese econ­o­my. The report is actu­al­ly pri­mar­i­ly about Tom­my Hicks Jr., a long-time friend of Don­ald Trump Jr. who was named the co-chair of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee in Jan­u­ary of 2019. Hick and Bass appear to be quite close too. The arti­cle describes the role Hicks has played in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion devel­op­ing a nation­al strat­e­gy around 5G wire­less tech­nol­o­gy, a top­ic that involves ques­tions of nation­al secu­ri­ty and pos­si­ble risks asso­ci­at­ed with Chi­nese tech­nol­o­gy firms. Hick appears to have reg­u­lar­ly met with White House offi­cials on the top­ic and uses his ties to the Trump fam­i­ly to arrange for asso­ciates to meet with White House offi­cials. Asso­ciates like Kyle Bass, who was allowed to present his views China’s bank­ing sys­tem to Heath Tar­bert, an assis­tant sec­re­tary at Trea­sury in charge of a pow­er­ful inter­gov­ern­men­tal com­mit­tee that reviews for­eign invest­ments in the U.S. for nation­al secu­ri­ty con­cerns. As the arti­cle notes, Bass has become a vocal advo­cate for an aggres­sive US pol­i­cy against Chi­na:

    ProP­ub­li­ca

    Want to Meet With the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion? Don­ald Trump Jr.’s Hunt­ing Bud­dy Can Help

    Tom­my Hicks Jr. isn’t in gov­ern­ment, but he’s a long­time pal of the president’s son. That has put him in the room when the admin­is­tra­tion talks Chi­na and 5G pol­i­cy, and it lets him help oth­ers — includ­ing one friend who had $143 mil­lion rid­ing on the out­come.

    by Jake Pear­son
    July 22, 2019, 4 a.m. EDT

    Over the past two years, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has been grap­pling with how to han­dle the tran­si­tion to the next gen­er­a­tion of mobile broad­band tech­nol­o­gy. With spend­ing expect­ed to run into hun­dreds of bil­lions of dol­lars, the admin­is­tra­tion views it as an ultra-high-stakes com­pe­ti­tion between U.S. and Chi­nese com­pa­nies, with enor­mous impli­ca­tions both for tech­nol­o­gy and for nation­al secu­ri­ty. Top offi­cials from a raft of depart­ments have been meet­ing to hash out the best approach.

    But there’s been one per­son at some of the dis­cus­sions who has a dif­fer­ent back­ground: He’s Don­ald Trump Jr.’s hunt­ing bud­dy. Over the past two decades, the two have trained their sights on duck, pheas­ant and white-tailed deer on mul­ti­ple con­ti­nents. (An email from anoth­er Trump Jr. pal char­ac­ter­ized one of their joint duck-hunt­ing trips to Mex­i­co years ago as “muy aggre­si­vo.”)

    Tom­my Hicks Jr., 41, isn’t a gov­ern­ment offi­cial; he’s a wealthy pri­vate investor. And he has been a part of dis­cus­sions relat­ed to Chi­na and tech­nol­o­gy with top offi­cials from the Trea­sury Depart­ment, Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, Com­merce Depart­ment and oth­ers, accord­ing to emails and doc­u­ments obtained by ProP­ub­li­ca. In one email, Hicks refers to a meet­ing at “Lan­g­ley,” an appar­ent ref­er­ence to the CIA’s head­quar­ters.

    Hicks’ finan­cial inter­ests, if any, in the mat­ters he has dis­cussed aren’t clear. The inter­ests are much more appar­ent when it comes to at least one of his asso­ciates. Hicks used his con­nec­tions to arrange for a hedge fund man­ag­er friend, Kyle Bass — who has $143 mil­lion in invest­ments that will pay off if China’s econ­o­my tanks — to present his views on the Chi­nese econ­o­my to high-lev­el gov­ern­ment offi­cials at an inter­a­gency meet­ing at the Trea­sury Depart­ment, accord­ing to the doc­u­ments.

    Hicks is hard­ly the first pri­vate-sec­tor pow­er bro­ker to emerge in a pres­i­den­tial admin­is­tra­tion, but he may rep­re­sent a new sub­species: The Friend of the President’s Kid.

    In fact, Hicks’ influ­ence and career over­whelm­ing­ly hinge on two peo­ple: Trump Jr., his friend of about two decades, and, first and fore­most, Hicks’ father. In a rough­ly 20-year career, Hicks has spent 17 of them work­ing for invest­ment funds and sports teams owned by his wealthy financier dad, Thomas Hicks Sr., and the oth­er three work­ing for a client of his father.

    The gen­er­al­ly priv­i­leged life of the younger Hicks has been speck­led with occa­sion­al instances of mis­be­hav­ior, one of them seri­ous. At age 18, he plead­ed no con­test to mis­de­meanor assault, reduced from an orig­i­nal charge of felony aggra­vat­ed assault, after he and two oth­ers were arrest­ed in the beat­ing of a fel­low high school stu­dent at a par­ty. (The vic­tim was also kicked in the face dur­ing the assault, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the case. He told police that one of the three assailants — he didn’t say which — asked him, “What is your name, fag­got?”) The crim­i­nal con­vic­tion did not pre­vent Hicks from being admit­ted to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas, where his father was an alum­nus, a mem­ber of the Board of Regents and soon there­after the first chair­man of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas Invest­ment Man­age­ment Com­pa­ny, which man­ages the school’s endow­ment and oth­er assets.

    As an adult, friends say, Hicks’ carous­ing ways and occa­sion­al bel­liger­ent out­bursts led some in his cir­cle to bestow a heav­i­ly iron­ic nick­name: “Sen­a­tor Hicks.” His tenure as a direc­tor of the soc­cer team his father owned in Liv­er­pool, Eng­land, a decade ago end­ed right after an email he sent to a heck­ling fan — “Blow me fuc kface. Go to Hell. I’m sick of you.” — sur­faced pub­licly.

    Friends say Hicks has matured, par­tic­u­lar­ly since he mar­ried and had three daugh­ters. He has risen quick­ly in recent years. Hicks lever­aged his Dal­las finan­cial net­work to become a top Trump cam­paign fundrais­er in 2016 and a vice chair­man of the inau­gur­al finance com­mit­tee; in Jan­u­ary, he was named co-chair­man of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee. His friends say he is moti­vat­ed by patri­o­tism.

    Hicks also played a behind-the-scenes role, accord­ing to two peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter and an account by a Turk­ish jour­nal­ist, in the free­ing last year of Andrew Brun­son, an Amer­i­can pas­tor who was detained for two years by the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment on what the U.S. gov­ern­ment viewed as pho­ny charges of spy­ing and help­ing ter­ror­ists.

    Even before becom­ing the sec­ond high­est-rank­ing GOP offi­cial, Hicks was a fre­quent White House guest. He liked to have lunch in the White House mess with his half sis­ter, who worked for a time in the com­mu­ni­ca­tions oper­a­tion. (The fam­i­ly is not relat­ed to Hope Hicks, the for­mer White House com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor.) Hicks would then stroll the halls, accord­ing to a for­mer senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial, drop­ping in to offices for impromp­tu chats with var­i­ous offi­cials, includ­ing Jared Kush­n­er.

    Those sorts of con­nec­tions have giv­en Hicks a con­ven­ing pow­er, the abil­i­ty to call togeth­er mul­ti­ple offi­cials. “He basi­cal­ly opened the door for hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with peo­ple who I didn’t know but need­ed to know,” said Robert Spald­ing, a for­mer senior direc­tor for strate­gic plan­ning at the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil dur­ing the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

    The efforts, detailed in hun­dreds of pages of gov­ern­ment emails and oth­er doc­u­ments obtained under the Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act, show that Hicks had access to the high­est lev­els of gov­ern­ment to influ­ence pol­i­cy­mak­ing in ways that could lead to painful eco­nom­ic out­comes for the Chi­nese — and a poten­tial­ly lucra­tive result for Hicks’ hedge fund friend, Bass.

    “When some­body comes in like this, a hedge fund man­ag­er who has an inter­est in the via­bil­i­ty of China’s econ­o­my, you’re giv­ing them an oppor­tu­ni­ty to influ­ence pol­i­cy,” said Vir­ginia Can­ter, a for­mer ethics lawyer at the Trea­sury Depart­ment who now serves as chief ethics coun­sel for Cit­i­zens for Respon­si­bil­i­ty and Ethics in Wash­ing­ton, a watch­dog group. (CREW has sued Don­ald Trump for accept­ing emol­u­ments from for­eign gov­ern­ments.) “The ques­tion is why?”

    Hicks’ unusu­al role as a non­govern­ment employ­ee who opened doors on behalf of both indus­try and oth­ers, Can­ter said, put him in a gray zone of ethics and lob­by­ing reg­u­la­tions. “He’s act­ing in a lob­by­ist role when he may fall out­side the lob­by­ist dis­clo­sure rules, and it’s not clear how he ben­e­fits finan­cial­ly,” she said. “So the ques­tion is: What’s he get­ting out of it? What are his friends get­ting out of it? And is the gov­ern­ment pro­cess­ing it in a way that ensures the pub­lic ben­e­fits?”

    Bass pre­sent­ed his views on China’s bank­ing sys­tem in the office of Heath Tar­bert, an assis­tant sec­re­tary at Trea­sury in charge of inter­na­tion­al mar­kets and invest­ment pol­i­cy and a pow­er­ful inter­gov­ern­men­tal com­mit­tee that reviews for­eign invest­ments in the U.S. for nation­al secu­ri­ty con­cerns. Among the offi­cials at the meet­ing with Tar­bert were Bill Hin­man, the direc­tor of the divi­sion of cor­po­ra­tion finance at the Secu­ri­ties and Exchange Com­mis­sion, and Ray Wash­burne, a wealthy Dal­las restau­rant own­er and fam­i­ly friend of Hicks’ who was nom­i­nat­ed by Trump to head the Over­seas Pri­vate Invest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion.

    Hicks and Bass, both Dal­las res­i­dents and long­time denizens of the finan­cial com­mu­ni­ty there, have invest­ed togeth­er since at least 2011, accord­ing to secu­ri­ties fil­ings and court records. They’ve owned shares of a pub­licly trad­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tions-tech­nol­o­gy man­u­fac­tur­er. And they were among the biggest cred­i­tors to the bank­rupt law enforce­ment con­tract­ing com­pa­ny run by Chris Kyle, the ex-Navy SEAL por­trayed by Bradley Coop­er in “Amer­i­can Sniper.” The man­ag­ing direc­tor of a new invest­ment fund start­ed by Hicks had pre­vi­ous­ly advised Bass on the suc­cess­ful stock-short­ing of a Texas real estate lender, accord­ing to cor­po­rate fil­ings and court papers from a law­suit in state court in Dal­las.

    But it’s not clear if Hicks or his fam­i­ly have an invest­ment in Bass’ Chi­na-relat­ed funds. Reached twice on his cell­phone, Hicks declined to be inter­viewed by ProP­ub­li­ca. In the sec­ond call, in June, Hicks didn’t dis­pute that he and his fam­i­ly have invest­ed in Bass’ funds. But when asked to detail their busi­ness rela­tion­ship, he cut the con­ver­sa­tion short. “I’ve got to run. Let me see if I can get back to you,” Hicks said before hang­ing up. He didn’t call back.

    Weeks lat­er, after ProP­ub­li­ca fol­lowed up with ques­tions to the RNC, a spokesman respond­ed by email­ing a “state­ment attrib­uted to Tom­my Hicks.” It read: “As a busi­ness­man, I pas­sion­ate­ly sup­port­ed caus­es I believed in and, if appro­pri­ate, would some­times meet with gov­ern­ment offi­cials to pro­mote them. There is noth­ing wrong with that. I have tak­en every pre­cau­tion dur­ing my time as Co-Chair of the RNC to ensure there is no con­flict of inter­est between my job here and any per­son­al busi­ness­es.” (The spokesper­son also emailed a state­ment on behalf of the RNC: “Tom­my has done an out­stand­ing job work­ing on behalf of Pres­i­dent Trump and his agen­da.”)

    Bass, who made his name and for­tune by bet­ting against sub­prime mort­gages before the crash and is known for large bets that economies or cer­tain macro trends will turn down­ward, declined to com­ment. “I’m not inter­est­ed in talk­ing with you about my friends or any meet­ings I have or haven’t had pri­vate­ly with any­one,” he wrote in an email. In a sub­se­quent mes­sage, Bass wrote that any sug­ges­tion “that we had cor­rupt inten­tions in meet­ing with Trea­sury offi­cials... is cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly false and defam­a­to­ry and could neg­a­tive­ly affect our busi­ness.”

    An admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial briefed on the Bass meet­ing at the Trea­sury down­played it as “strict­ly a lis­ten­ing ses­sion.” He said Bass did not ask the atten­dees to take any actions, nor did the atten­dees divulge any­thing about U.S.-China pol­i­cy. Gov­ern­ment ethics offi­cers vet­ted the fed­er­al employ­ees for any con­flicts and found none, the offi­cial said. He acknowl­edged that the review didn’t include an exam­i­na­tion of any finan­cial rela­tion­ship between Hicks and Bass.

    Spald­ing said the con­ver­sa­tion cen­tered pri­mar­i­ly on Bass’ analy­sis of pub­licly avail­able records on the Chi­nese finan­cial sys­tem. “I think the thing that I’ve dis­cov­ered over the past years is that the infor­ma­tion in the pri­vate sec­tor is bet­ter than any­thing we have in gov­ern­ment,” Spald­ing said of Bass’ pre­sen­ta­tion. “You have to reach out to where the exper­tise is. In our coun­try, that’s where the tal­ent is.”

    ...

    Bass has become a vocal advo­cate for an aggres­sive U.S. pol­i­cy toward Chi­na. On Twit­ter and on cable busi­ness chan­nels he’s denounced every­thing from the country’s Com­mu­nist Par­ty gov­ern­ment to its busi­ness prac­tices. Secu­ri­ties fil­ings show Bass raised $143 mil­lion from about 81 investors in two funds — invest­ments that would ben­e­fit if China’s cur­ren­cy were deval­ued or the coun­try faced cred­it or bank­ing crises. In April, in a let­ter to his investors, Bass wrote that his com­pa­ny, Hay­man Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, was posi­tioned for com­ing prob­lems in Hong Kong and was set up to “main­tain a mas­sive asym­me­try to a neg­a­tive out­come in Hong Kong and/or Chi­na.”

    Hicks’ work on the 5G ini­tia­tive was exten­sive.

    Over just a few months in late 2017 and 2018, records show, he was part of an infor­mal group led by then NSC offi­cial Spald­ing, that advo­cat­ed for a strat­e­gy in which the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment would plan out a nation­al pol­i­cy for 5G. One memo described their goal as the “equiv­a­lent of the Eisen­how­er Nation­al High­way Sys­tem — a sin­gle, inher­ent­ly pro­tect­ed, infor­ma­tion trans­porta­tion super­high­way.”

    The group con­duct­ed mul­ti­ple meet­ings and brief­in­gs. For exam­ple, Hicks, Spald­ing and oth­ers trav­eled to Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics’ Dal­las-area offices for one meet­ing in Jan­u­ary 2018.

    That same month Hicks attend­ed a 5G meet­ing that he’d arranged with Com­merce Sec­re­tary Wilbur Ross. Com­merce plays a key role in the future of 5G since a divi­sion with­in the agency man­ages gov­ern­ment spec­trum and anoth­er main­tains a list of com­pa­nies the gov­ern­ment believes are, or will become, nation­al secu­ri­ty threats. Com­pa­nies that end up on that list can be effec­tive­ly shut out from glob­al deal-mak­ing. The meet­ing with Ross focused heav­i­ly on the threat of Chi­na, said Ira Green­stein, who served as a White House aide and was part of Spalding’s 5G crew.

    Hicks was one of a dozen non­govern­ment employ­ees, includ­ing exec­u­tives from Wells Far­go, Nokia, Eric­s­son and Google, that Spald­ing sent read­ing mate­ri­als to ahead of a 5G dis­cus­sion in the Eisen­how­er Exec­u­tive Office Build­ing. Copied on the email were top Com­merce Depart­ment offi­cials, a Booz Allen Hamil­ton con­trac­tor and a senior advis­er for cyber­se­cu­ri­ty and IT mod­ern­iza­tion at the White House Office of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy. On the agen­da? “Mid Band vs High Band” spec­trum, “secu­ri­ty,” “sup­ply chain,” “financ­ing” and oth­er crit­i­cal issues.

    Hicks wasn’t just a pas­sive observ­er. On Jan. 2, 2018, the man­ag­ing direc­tor of OPIC, which pro­vides finan­cial back­ing to Amer­i­can com­pa­nies expand­ing into for­eign mar­kets, emailed Spald­ing and oth­ers to say that the CEO of a satel­lite com­pa­ny called OneWeb had a plan to pro­vide world­wide 5G cov­er­age by 2027. Hicks fired back a note from his iPhone. “2027 is too late,” he wrote. “Let’s dis­cuss as a small­er group tomor­row.”

    Spald­ing was forced out of the West Wing in ear­ly 2018 after a draft 20-page brief­ing memo he authored propos­ing a gov­ern­ment-orga­nized nation­al 5G net­work was leaked, then panned as an attempt to nation­al­ize the wire­less broad­band indus­try. Trump has not pur­sued such an ini­tia­tive, ulti­mate­ly defer­ring to wire­less car­ri­ers to bid on pub­licly main­tained spec­trum and devel­op their own net­works as has tra­di­tion­al­ly been the case.

    Still, the admin­is­tra­tion has made sig­nif­i­cant efforts to counter Chi­nese influ­ence in 5G and relat­ed tech­nolo­gies, which are said to be crit­i­cal for indus­tries such as dri­ver­less cars, arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, machine learn­ing and much more. In May the Com­merce Depart­ment barred Chi­nese tele­com equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­er Huawei from doing busi­ness in the U.S. for nation­al secu­ri­ty rea­sons. And the top Depart­ment of Defense offi­cial in charge of acqui­si­tions also recent­ly announced the cre­ation of a gov­ern­ment-approved pri­vate mar­ket­place to pair Amer­i­can pri­vate equi­ty firms with U.S. tech­nol­o­gy com­pa­nies pro­duc­ing prod­ucts with nation­al secu­ri­ty appli­ca­tions to keep Chi­nese mon­ey out of 5G.

    It isn’t clear what influ­ence, if any, Hicks had in those deci­sions. But his pro­file is only ris­ing. In April, he led a Repub­li­can del­e­ga­tion to Tai­wan along­side a U.S. gov­ern­ment del­e­ga­tion. Hicks met with the country’s pres­i­dent, Tsai Ing-wen, who has late­ly been posi­tion­ing her country’s cor­po­ra­tions as safer providers of 5G equip­ment than those in Chi­na. Tsai thanked the U.S. for sell­ing arms to Tai­wan. She asked Hicks to con­vey her regards to the Trumps.
    ———-

    “Want to Meet With the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion? Don­ald Trump Jr.’s Hunt­ing Bud­dy Can Help” by Jake Pear­son; ProP­ub­li­ca; 07/22/2019

    “Tom­my Hicks Jr., 41, isn’t a gov­ern­ment offi­cial; he’s a wealthy pri­vate investor. And he has been a part of dis­cus­sions relat­ed to Chi­na and tech­nol­o­gy with top offi­cials from the Trea­sury Depart­ment, Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, Com­merce Depart­ment and oth­ers, accord­ing to emails and doc­u­ments obtained by ProP­ub­li­ca. In one email, Hicks refers to a meet­ing at “Lan­g­ley,” an appar­ent ref­er­ence to the CIA’s head­quar­ters.”

    Yep, Tom­my Hicks Jr. isn’t part of the gov­ern­ment, but he sure acts like it, at least when it comes to issues relat­ed to Chi­na and tech­nol­o­gy, which both heav­i­ly over­lap with US 5G wire­less tech­nol­o­gy poli­cies. And it’s that clear con­flict of inter­est that gets more con­flict­ed when we learn that Hicks has been using his Trump fam­i­ly con­nec­tions to arrange for meet­ings by Kyle Bass so Bass can air his views on Chi­na:

    ...
    Hicks’ finan­cial inter­ests, if any, in the mat­ters he has dis­cussed aren’t clear. The inter­ests are much more appar­ent when it comes to at least one of his asso­ciates. Hicks used his con­nec­tions to arrange for a hedge fund man­ag­er friend, Kyle Bass — who has $143 mil­lion in invest­ments that will pay off if China’s econ­o­my tanks — to present his views on the Chi­nese econ­o­my to high-lev­el gov­ern­ment offi­cials at an inter­a­gency meet­ing at the Trea­sury Depart­ment, accord­ing to the doc­u­ments.

    ...

    Friends say Hicks has matured, par­tic­u­lar­ly since he mar­ried and had three daugh­ters. He has risen quick­ly in recent years. Hicks lever­aged his Dal­las finan­cial net­work to become a top Trump cam­paign fundrais­er in 2016 and a vice chair­man of the inau­gur­al finance com­mit­tee; in Jan­u­ary, he was named co-chair­man of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee. His friends say he is moti­vat­ed by patri­o­tism.

    Hicks also played a behind-the-scenes role, accord­ing to two peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter and an account by a Turk­ish jour­nal­ist, in the free­ing last year of Andrew Brun­son, an Amer­i­can pas­tor who was detained for two years by the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment on what the U.S. gov­ern­ment viewed as pho­ny charges of spy­ing and help­ing ter­ror­ists.

    Even before becom­ing the sec­ond high­est-rank­ing GOP offi­cial, Hicks was a fre­quent White House guest. He liked to have lunch in the White House mess with his half sis­ter, who worked for a time in the com­mu­ni­ca­tions oper­a­tion. (The fam­i­ly is not relat­ed to Hope Hicks, the for­mer White House com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor.) Hicks would then stroll the halls, accord­ing to a for­mer senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial, drop­ping in to offices for impromp­tu chats with var­i­ous offi­cials, includ­ing Jared Kush­n­er.

    Those sorts of con­nec­tions have giv­en Hicks a con­ven­ing pow­er, the abil­i­ty to call togeth­er mul­ti­ple offi­cials. “He basi­cal­ly opened the door for hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with peo­ple who I didn’t know but need­ed to know,” said Robert Spald­ing, a for­mer senior direc­tor for strate­gic plan­ning at the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil dur­ing the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

    ...

    Hicks’ work on the 5G ini­tia­tive was exten­sive.

    Over just a few months in late 2017 and 2018, records show, he was part of an infor­mal group led by then NSC offi­cial Spald­ing, that advo­cat­ed for a strat­e­gy in which the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment would plan out a nation­al pol­i­cy for 5G. One memo described their goal as the “equiv­a­lent of the Eisen­how­er Nation­al High­way Sys­tem — a sin­gle, inher­ent­ly pro­tect­ed, infor­ma­tion trans­porta­tion super­high­way.”

    The group con­duct­ed mul­ti­ple meet­ings and brief­in­gs. For exam­ple, Hicks, Spald­ing and oth­ers trav­eled to Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics’ Dal­las-area offices for one meet­ing in Jan­u­ary 2018.

    That same month Hicks attend­ed a 5G meet­ing that he’d arranged with Com­merce Sec­re­tary Wilbur Ross. Com­merce plays a key role in the future of 5G since a divi­sion with­in the agency man­ages gov­ern­ment spec­trum and anoth­er main­tains a list of com­pa­nies the gov­ern­ment believes are, or will become, nation­al secu­ri­ty threats. Com­pa­nies that end up on that list can be effec­tive­ly shut out from glob­al deal-mak­ing. The meet­ing with Ross focused heav­i­ly on the threat of Chi­na, said Ira Green­stein, who served as a White House aide and was part of Spalding’s 5G crew.

    Hicks was one of a dozen non­govern­ment employ­ees, includ­ing exec­u­tives from Wells Far­go, Nokia, Eric­s­son and Google, that Spald­ing sent read­ing mate­ri­als to ahead of a 5G dis­cus­sion in the Eisen­how­er Exec­u­tive Office Build­ing. Copied on the email were top Com­merce Depart­ment offi­cials, a Booz Allen Hamil­ton con­trac­tor and a senior advis­er for cyber­se­cu­ri­ty and IT mod­ern­iza­tion at the White House Office of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy. On the agen­da? “Mid Band vs High Band” spec­trum, “secu­ri­ty,” “sup­ply chain,” “financ­ing” and oth­er crit­i­cal issues.

    ...

    It isn’t clear what influ­ence, if any, Hicks had in those deci­sions. But his pro­file is only ris­ing. In April, he led a Repub­li­can del­e­ga­tion to Tai­wan along­side a U.S. gov­ern­ment del­e­ga­tion. Hicks met with the country’s pres­i­dent, Tsai Ing-wen, who has late­ly been posi­tion­ing her country’s cor­po­ra­tions as safer providers of 5G equip­ment than those in Chi­na. Tsai thanked the U.S. for sell­ing arms to Tai­wan. She asked Hicks to con­vey her regards to the Trumps.
    ...

    And it was Hicks act­ing as this lob­by­ist mid­dle-man that arranged for Bass, an advo­cate for aggres­sive poli­cies towards Chi­na, to be allowed to basi­cal­ly per­son­al­ly lob­by the per­son in charge of a pow­er­ful inter­gov­ern­men­tal com­mit­tee that reviews for­eign invest­ments in the U.S. for nation­al secu­ri­ty con­cerns. And Bass just hap­pens to have raised $143 mil­lion in invest­ments for two funds that ben­e­fit from a declin­ing Chi­nese econ­o­my:

    ...
    Bass pre­sent­ed his views on China’s bank­ing sys­tem in the office of Heath Tar­bert, an assis­tant sec­re­tary at Trea­sury in charge of inter­na­tion­al mar­kets and invest­ment pol­i­cy and a pow­er­ful inter­gov­ern­men­tal com­mit­tee that reviews for­eign invest­ments in the U.S. for nation­al secu­ri­ty con­cerns. Among the offi­cials at the meet­ing with Tar­bert were Bill Hin­man, the direc­tor of the divi­sion of cor­po­ra­tion finance at the Secu­ri­ties and Exchange Com­mis­sion, and Ray Wash­burne, a wealthy Dal­las restau­rant own­er and fam­i­ly friend of Hicks’ who was nom­i­nat­ed by Trump to head the Over­seas Pri­vate Invest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion.

    ...

    Bass, who made his name and for­tune by bet­ting against sub­prime mort­gages before the crash and is known for large bets that economies or cer­tain macro trends will turn down­ward, declined to com­ment. “I’m not inter­est­ed in talk­ing with you about my friends or any meet­ings I have or haven’t had pri­vate­ly with any­one,” he wrote in an email. In a sub­se­quent mes­sage, Bass wrote that any sug­ges­tion “that we had cor­rupt inten­tions in meet­ing with Trea­sury offi­cials... is cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly false and defam­a­to­ry and could neg­a­tive­ly affect our busi­ness.”

    ...

    Bass has become a vocal advo­cate for an aggres­sive U.S. pol­i­cy toward Chi­na. On Twit­ter and on cable busi­ness chan­nels he’s denounced every­thing from the country’s Com­mu­nist Par­ty gov­ern­ment to its busi­ness prac­tices. Secu­ri­ties fil­ings show Bass raised $143 mil­lion from about 81 investors in two funds — invest­ments that would ben­e­fit if China’s cur­ren­cy were deval­ued or the coun­try faced cred­it or bank­ing crises. In April, in a let­ter to his investors, Bass wrote that his com­pa­ny, Hay­man Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, was posi­tioned for com­ing prob­lems in Hong Kong and was set up to “main­tain a mas­sive asym­me­try to a neg­a­tive out­come in Hong Kong and/or Chi­na.”
    ...

    Adding to the con­flicts of inter­est in this whole arrange­ment is that Hicks and Bass have invest­ed togeth­er since at least 2011 and Hicks does­n’t dis­pute that he and his fam­i­ly are invest­ed in Bass’s funds:

    ...
    Hicks and Bass, both Dal­las res­i­dents and long­time denizens of the finan­cial com­mu­ni­ty there, have invest­ed togeth­er since at least 2011, accord­ing to secu­ri­ties fil­ings and court records. They’ve owned shares of a pub­licly trad­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tions-tech­nol­o­gy man­u­fac­tur­er. And they were among the biggest cred­i­tors to the bank­rupt law enforce­ment con­tract­ing com­pa­ny run by Chris Kyle, the ex-Navy SEAL por­trayed by Bradley Coop­er in “Amer­i­can Sniper.” The man­ag­ing direc­tor of a new invest­ment fund start­ed by Hicks had pre­vi­ous­ly advised Bass on the suc­cess­ful stock-short­ing of a Texas real estate lender, accord­ing to cor­po­rate fil­ings and court papers from a law­suit in state court in Dal­las.

    But it’s not clear if Hicks or his fam­i­ly have an invest­ment in Bass’ Chi­na-relat­ed funds. Reached twice on his cell­phone, Hicks declined to be inter­viewed by ProP­ub­li­ca. In the sec­ond call, in June, Hicks didn’t dis­pute that he and his fam­i­ly have invest­ed in Bass’ funds. But when asked to detail their busi­ness rela­tion­ship, he cut the con­ver­sa­tion short. “I’ve got to run. Let me see if I can get back to you,” Hicks said before hang­ing up. He didn’t call back.
    ...

    So, on one lev­el, it’s just anoth­er tale of cor­rupt insid­er deal­ing com­ing out of the Trump White House involv­ing Trump’s fam­i­ly and friends. A typ­i­cal sto­ry we should expect at this point.

    But it still seems like an unusu­al­ly cor­rupt sto­ry even by the debased stan­dards of Trump-relat­ed cor­rup­tion. Because we have the cre­ation of a web­site that’s explic­it­ly pump­ing out fake news that appears to be designed to pro­voke anger in the Chi­nese pop­u­lace against the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment. The site appears to be a co-cre­ation of Steve Ban­non and tied to Kyle Bass, who man­ages funds that explic­it­ly ben­e­fit from a declin­ing Chi­nese econ­o­my. And Bass appears to have an inside track to White House Chi­na pol­i­cy via his friend­ly with Tom­my Hicks, Jr., the long-time friend of Don­ald Trump, Jr. We’re used to sto­ries involv­ing right-wing fake news, sto­ries about the Trump chil­dren sell­ing their access to the White House, sto­ries involv­ing busi­ness insid­ers prof­it­ing from their Trump poli­cies, and sto­ries about Trump try­ing to desta­bi­lize entire coun­tries. This sto­ry has it all, which is reminder that the desta­bi­liza­tion of soci­eties can make a lot of mon­ey, espe­cial­ly for the peo­ple car­ry­ing out the actu­al desta­bi­liza­tion.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 4, 2020, 5:11 pm
  2. The issue of grow­ing anti-Asian sen­ti­ments in Amer­i­ca was back into the head­lines on Tues­day fol­low­ing a string of mass shoot­ings at a trio of Asian mas­sage par­lors in Atlanta. While the motive of the shoot­ings remains unclear — with ear­ly reports indi­cat­ing the shoot­er was strug­gling with deep reli­gious con­vic­tions and a sex addic­tion — the events served as a grim reminder of the nation­al wave of anti-Asian hate crimes since the start of the coro­n­avirus lock­downs last year fueled by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s per­sis­tent usage of terms like “the Kung Flu” and insin­u­a­tions that the coro­n­avirus was the fault of the Chi­na gov­ern­ment.

    But, of course, the anti-Asian fer­vor did­n’t sud­den­ly erupt with the out­break of the coro­n­avirus. Recall the July 2019 Nation­al Con­ser­vatism con­fer­ence, where Peter Thiel called for an inves­ti­ga­tion into Google based on Thiel’s spec­u­la­tion that it was secret­ly col­lud­ing with the Chi­na mil­i­tary. As the fol­low­ing arti­cle points out, when Thiel made that speech, he was echo­ing the mes­sage Steve Ban­non had been push­ing for years, like the inter­view Ban­non did of Don­ald Trump in 2015, where Ban­non basi­cal­ly said there are too many Asian CEO in Sil­i­con Val­ley and that Asian stu­dents grad­u­at­ing from US uni­ver­si­ties should be return­ing to their coun­tries. That was the mes­sage Thiel was ampli­fy­ing. A mes­sage warn­ing against not just the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, but Chi­nese and Asian immi­grants in gen­er­al:

    The Guardian

    Peter Thiel and Steve Ban­non fuel a new Yel­low Per­il over Google and Chi­na

    Claims of a Chi­nese fifth col­umn with­in Google stoke para­noia against Asian Amer­i­cans and threat­en to ruin the econ­o­my – and our democ­ra­cy

    Frank H Wu
    Wed 17 Jul 2019 01.00 EDT

    The bil­lion­aire investor Peter Thiel has accused Google of “trea­son” and called for a law enforce­ment inves­ti­ga­tion of the search engine’s par­ent com­pa­ny. He spec­u­lat­ed that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has invad­ed its employ­ee ranks. A Ger­man immi­grant via South Africa, Thiel is not alone; his remarks echo the repeat­ed asser­tions of the rab­ble rouser Steve Ban­non that there are too many Asian CEOs in Sil­i­con Val­ley.

    These claims, com­bined with sim­i­lar charges of wrong­do­ing against stu­dents and pro­fes­sors of Chi­nese ori­gin on cam­pus­es across the coun­try, are as omi­nous as they are lurid. While Thiel presents no evi­dence, Ban­non dis­plays ample prej­u­dice. They are inspir­ing para­noia about every­one of Chi­nese her­itage.

    At a Sun­day appear­ance which opened the Nation­al Con­ser­vatism Con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton DC fol­lowed by an appear­ance with the Fox TV host Tuck­er Carl­son, Thiel, the founder of the Pay­Pal finan­cial ser­vice, relied on rhetor­i­cal ques­tions. He asked Google who was work­ing on arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, whether “senior man­age­ment con­sid­ers itself to have been thor­ough­ly infil­trat­ed” and if the Chi­nese would steal the infor­ma­tion any­way.

    Google answered by reit­er­at­ing that “we do not work with the Chi­nese mil­i­tary”.

    Thiel left Sil­i­con Val­ley last year in protest over its lib­er­al­ism. He is also behind Palan­tir, the secre­tive sur­veil­lance firm, and has been a sup­port­er of tar­iffs. Google had been report­ed to be devel­op­ing a Chi­na-com­pat­i­ble search engine code­named Drag­on­fly. They stopped due to employ­ee objec­tions.

    The open hos­til­i­ty to Chi­nese peo­ple, as dis­tinct from the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, vio­lates norms inte­gral to Amer­i­ca itself. On the face of these utter­ances is the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of a com­mu­ni­ty, named by ances­try, as a prob­lem. Last year, the FBI direc­tor, Christo­pher Wray, char­ac­ter­ized it as a “whole of soci­ety” threat to Amer­i­can val­ues.

    Guilt by asso­ci­a­tion is not what the Amer­i­can dream has promised to those who have sac­ri­ficed every­thing for that prover­bial oppor­tu­ni­ty. What­ev­er the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment may be up to, their poli­cies should not com­pro­mise the sta­tus of Chi­nese peo­ple, almost all of whom are ordi­nary folks, not spies, “sleep­ers”, agents of influ­ence or oth­er­wise con­spir­a­tors.

    Although in this new Yel­low Per­il, a spe­cif­ic eth­nic­i­ty is tar­get­ed as a group, no line is drawn between cit­i­zens and for­eign­ers. The orig­i­nal Yel­low Per­il was the notion, pro­mot­ed by Germany’s Kaiser Wil­helm II in the late 19th cen­tu­ry and by the Amer­i­can author Jack Lon­don, that Asians might con­tend against Euro­peans and white Amer­i­cans in a con­test of racial supe­ri­or­i­ty. Pro­pa­gan­dists such as Lothrop Stod­dard wrote titles that would sum­ma­rize the the­sis: The Ris­ing Tide of Col­or Against White World Suprema­cy was a 1920 best­seller.

    Nowa­days as ear­li­er, the peo­ple who fear an Asian takeover of Sil­i­con Val­ley do not both­er to add that Asians who become Amer­i­cans are accept­able. They can­not dis­tin­guish by look­ing at a line­up of ran­dom Asians, whether the one is a vis­it­ing schol­ar “fresh off the boat” in that pejo­ra­tive phrase being reap­pro­pri­at­ed, the oth­er a sixth-gen­er­a­tion Cal­i­forn­ian “banana” (yel­low on the out­side, white on the inside, in anoth­er deroga­to­ry term). If they did clar­i­fy that they meant no dis­par­age­ment of those whose fam­i­lies came before their own, at least they would be pure nativists rather than also racists.

    The con­fu­sion of Asians over­seas and “Asian Amer­i­cans” (a con­cept coined dur­ing the social jus­tice move­ments cir­ca 1968) has been a recur­ring theme through­out his­to­ry. Dem­a­gogues suc­ceed­ed in per­suad­ing Con­gress to pass the Chi­nese Exclu­sion Act of 1882. They argued the “Ori­en­tals” would out­com­pete Occi­den­tal rivals but remain loy­al to a for­eign empire. The pro­hi­bi­tion was then expand­ed to an Asi­at­ic Barred Zone intend­ed to main­tain eth­nic pro­por­tions favor­ing white Anglo-Sax­on Protes­tants in the Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion (even Catholics, Jews and Euro­peans too south­ern and east­ern were to be lim­it­ed albeit not as strict­ly). Japan­ese Amer­i­cans were locked up dur­ing the sec­ond world war no mat­ter that they were bona fide Unit­ed States cit­i­zens two gen­er­a­tions removed from Tokyo and base­ball-play­ing Chris­tians.

    ...

    Civ­il rights and nation­al inter­est are com­pat­i­ble. For those who fear Chi­nese will help Chi­na in achiev­ing glob­al dom­i­nance, there is a rem­e­dy: turn those Chi­nese into Chi­nese Amer­i­cans who will con­tribute to the Unit­ed States, or who will embrace a con­cep­tion of belong­ing that is cos­mopoli­tan instead of nation­al­is­tic. There could be no greater gift for Shen­zhen and Shang­hai, the per­ceived usurpers of west­ern cen­ters of tech­nol­o­gy and finance, respec­tive­ly, than to dri­ve out Chi­nese who oth­er­wise would be stake­hold­ers on this side of the Pacif­ic Ocean.

    Google relies on Chi­nese, Chi­nese immi­grants and Chi­nese Amer­i­can engi­neers, along­side numer­ous Indi­ans and oth­er Asians, as do oth­er tech­nol­o­gy firms. Only a few of those experts are pro­mot­ed to exec­u­tives.

    So it is true that there are many Chi­nese, Indi­ans, oth­er Asians and entre­pre­neurs from the world over who are attract­ed to these shores. That is to be cel­e­brat­ed. If they were to leave, how­ev­er vol­un­tary their depar­ture, that would ruin the econ­o­my. Thiel and Ban­non expose the real con­flict: between those who val­ue democ­ra­cy and diver­si­ty and those who do not.

    ———–

    “Peter Thiel and Steve Ban­non fuel a new Yel­low Per­il over Google and Chi­na” by Frank H Wu; The Guardian; 07/17/2019

    “The bil­lion­aire investor Peter Thiel has accused Google of “trea­son” and called for a law enforce­ment inves­ti­ga­tion of the search engine’s par­ent com­pa­ny. He spec­u­lat­ed that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has invad­ed its employ­ee ranks. A Ger­man immi­grant via South Africa, Thiel is not alone; his remarks echo the repeat­ed asser­tions of the rab­ble rouser Steve Ban­non that there are too many Asian CEOs in Sil­i­con Val­ley.”

    The Amer­i­can far right has­n’t exact­ly been keep­ing it a secret: they don’t par­tic­u­lar­ly care for Asians either.

    And yet, as we’ve seen, one of Ban­non’s biggest projects in recent years has simul­ta­ne­ous­ly been the foment­ing of rev­o­lu­tion in Hong Kong — with an eye on rev­o­lu­tions in Chi­na — and some of his clos­est allies in this endeav­or have been Chi­nese dis­si­dents like exiled bil­lion­aire Guo Wen­gui and the Falun Gong cult. Falun Gong’s Epoch Times has, in turn, became one of the biggest pro­mot­ers of Don­ald Trump on social media.

    It all rais­es a dark­ly fas­ci­nat­ing ques­tion: so do Steven Ban­non’s Asian allies care about the fact that one of his main hob­bies is whip­ping up anti-Asian sen­ti­ment in Amer­i­ca? It’s the kind of ques­tion that’s been repeat­ed­ly raised in recent years giv­en the sur­pris­ing num­ber of Asian groups that appear to be open to work­ing with Ban­non.

    And not just Chi­nese dis­si­dent groups. For exam­ple, what might the pre­dom­i­nant­ly eth­nic Kore­an and Japan­ese con­gre­ga­tion of the Uni­fi­ca­tion Church and its off­shoots think about Ban­non’s anti-Asian hob­bies? The Uni­fi­ca­tion Church has a long-stand­ing close alliance with the Repub­li­can Par­ty. What does the Uni­fi­ca­tion Church lead­er­ship have to say about the Ban­non-led grow­ing anti-Asian move­ment with­in the par­ty. It would have been a great ques­tion to ask the church’s lead­er­ship back in Octo­ber dur­ing the sec­ond annu­al Rod of Iron Free­dom Fes­ti­val — a pro-gun fes­ti­val thrown by Justin Moon’s Kahr Arms gunafter they invit­ed Ban­non to make a vir­tu­al appear­ance at the event:

    The Trace

    Far-Right Gun Fes­ti­val Boosts Elec­tion Con­spir­a­cy The­o­ries

    A Penn­syl­va­nia event orga­nized by the sons of the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon fea­tured speak­ers like Steve Ban­non, who repeat­ed unfound­ed claims about vot­er fraud.

    By Champe Bar­ton
    Oct 22, 2020

    Dur­ing the week­end of Octo­ber 9, more than 5,000 gun enthu­si­asts filled the park­ing lot of Kahr Arms’s Tom­my Gun Ware­house in Gree­ley, a small Penn­syl­va­nia town with just 1,300 res­i­dents. The group had assem­bled for the sec­ond annu­al Rod of Iron Free­dom Fes­ti­val, a gath­er­ing of far-right ide­o­logues and Sec­ond Amend­ment activists orga­nized by the sons of the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the con­tro­ver­sial Kore­an reli­gious leader. At the cen­ter of the asphalt lot, orga­niz­ers erect­ed a stage, and ven­dors, includ­ing mem­bers of the Nation­al Rifle Asso­ci­a­tion, sur­round­ed it, sell­ing food, mar­ket­ing law enforce­ment and cit­i­zen defense groups, and hawk­ing Trump-themed clothes and decor.

    Atten­dees were treat­ed to a smor­gas­bord of fringe con­spir­a­cies trot­ted out by politi­cians, right-wing icons, mil­i­tary vet­er­ans, and reli­gious lead­ers. Stephen Ban­non, the for­mer White House senior coun­selor and Bre­it­bart founder, even made a spe­cial vir­tu­al appear­ance, in which he warned of a Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­spir­a­cy to rob Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump of the elec­tion through vot­er fraud, “par­tic­u­lar­ly in cer­tain areas of Penn­syl­va­nia.” He encour­aged the crowd to watch polling places to pro­tect against such attack, adding, “We need tough peo­ple.”

    “What the left intends to do — and you’re see­ing it in Penn­syl­va­nia right now,” Ban­non told the crowd. “Use the courts, use social media, use the main­stream media to try to make sure Trump is not declared the win­ner that night.” He said false­ly that “uncer­ti­fi­able” mail-in bal­lots would be used to “steal the pres­i­den­cy” away from Trump. “Look we’re going to win this thing,” he said. “Penn­syl­va­nia is the key that picks the lock for a sec­ond Trump term.”

    As The Trace has report­ed, elec­tion offi­cials across the coun­try have expressed con­cern over how fear mon­ger­ing about vote fraud, which has been repeat­ed­ly debunked, might lead to instances of vot­er intim­i­da­tion.

    Oth­er speak­ers at the event sim­i­lar­ly leaned on false or mis­lead­ing talk­ing points to ener­gize the crowd. Pas­tor George Cook gave a fiery, some­times-racist invo­ca­tion thank­ing God for Trump’s “rapid heal­ing from a so-called Chi­nese virus” that he “van­quished in three days.” Event orga­niz­er Kook-Jin “Justin” Moon, who found­ed Kahr Arms, spoke of a “1776 Take Two” if a Pres­i­dent Joe Biden came for the public’s guns. His broth­er Hyung Jin “Sean” Moon, who helms the Rod of Iron Min­istries, alleged a glob­al con­spir­a­cy to “[low­er] the sex­u­al age con­sent lim­it to 10 years old” and sub­ject Amer­i­cans to “Satan­ic com­mu­nist” rule.

    NRA-backed Repub­li­can con­gres­sion­al can­di­date Jim Bognet also appeared at the event. Behind a lectern styled with a “Patri­ots for Trump” ban­ner, Bognet spoke about increas­ing fund­ing for police depart­ments and the unfound­ed threat of mass dis­ar­ma­ment in the event of a Biden vic­to­ry. Bognet’s cam­paign did not respond to requests for com­ment about whether or not his cam­paign stood by the remarks made by the Moons and some of the festival’s oth­er speak­ers.

    The Moon broth­ers mar­ket­ed the fes­ti­val, which was free to attend, through their busi­ness­es — an arms man­u­fac­tur­er and a church — both of which main­tain devot­ed fol­low­ings. Their late father, Sun Myung Moon, gar­nered noto­ri­ety in the 1970s for his eccen­tric reli­gious rit­u­als, among them mass wed­ding cer­e­monies. Fol­low­ing his death, Sean Moon broke away from the church to start his own con­gre­ga­tion, and refined his own con­tro­ver­sial brand of reli­gion cen­tered around firearms. In 2018, just weeks after the Park­land school shoot­ing, he drew crit­i­cism for a cer­e­mo­ny in which con­gre­gants donned crowns of bul­let cas­ings and blessed their rifles. Justin Moon remained in step with his broth­er and found­ed the Kahr Firearms Group, which includes the gun­mak­ers Kahr Arms, Auto-Ord­nance, and Mag­num Research. Nei­ther Justin nor Sean Moon returned requests for com­ment.

    The size of the fes­ti­val, which was con­firmed to The Trace by local offi­cials and event orga­niz­ers, appears to have vio­lat­ed a July order from Penn­syl­va­nia Gov­er­nor Tom Wolf pro­hibit­ing large gath­er­ings to lim­it the spread of the coro­n­avirus. But speak­ers and atten­dees appeared unboth­ered by the risk — although orga­niz­ers con­tract­ed with a local com­pa­ny to pro­mote COVID-19 safe­ty pre­cau­tions, accord­ing to local cov­er­age, most atten­dees did not wear masks, and many speak­ers open­ly down­played the threat of the virus.

    ...

    Nicholas Maz­za, the chair­man of Bloom­ing Grove Town­ship, where Gree­ley is locat­ed, told The Trace that the Moons did not need to seek a per­mit for the event because it was held on prop­er­ty owned by Kahr Arms. The Governor’s Office did not return a request for com­ment. A spokesper­son for the Penn­syl­va­nia State Police, which has juris­dic­tion in the town­ship, said the agency was aware of the event, but chose not to inter­vene because it received no com­plaints. “Crim­i­nal penal­ties (typ­i­cal­ly a sum­ma­ry offense) are pos­si­ble for vio­la­tors,” Ryan Tarkows­ki, the agency’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor, wrote in an email. “PSP does not have the author­i­ty to pre-emp­tive­ly stop a gath­er­ing from occur­ring.”

    Such an event presents an out­size risk for the spread of the coro­n­avirus, which caus­es COVID-19. Many of the atten­dees drove from out of state or flew from out­side the coun­try — many from South Korea and Japan — con­verg­ing on a small town­ship that to date has one of Pennsylvania’s low­est virus case counts.

    Maz­za said he, for one, was uncon­cerned about the risk of a coro­n­avirus out­break at the fes­ti­val, and added that he was unboth­ered by the speak­ers’ rhetoric. He described the Moons as “some of the nicest peo­ple you’ll ever meet” and explained that dur­ing the con­struc­tion of the Kahr Arms facil­i­ties, the broth­ers had halt­ed con­struc­tion to safe­ly remove a den of bears rather than killing the ani­mals. Maz­za said that the Rev. Moon’s remarks about Democ­rats sup­port­ing pedophil­ia or com­mu­nist mil­i­tary takeovers did not make him wor­ried about poten­tial vio­lence between his con­stituents over their polit­i­cal views. “It doesn’t sound like he’s preach­ing insur­rec­tion as much as he’s preach­ing prepa­ra­tion,” he said. With regard to Justin Moon’s warn­ings of a “1776 Take Two” in the event of aggres­sive Biden gun reform, Maz­za said, “I haven’t heard any­thing like that,” and added that he was more con­cerned about vio­lence from left­ist groups than from con­ser­v­a­tives or gun enthu­si­asts.

    ————

    “Far-Right Gun Fes­ti­val Boosts Elec­tion Con­spir­a­cy The­o­ries” by Champe Bar­ton; The Trace; 10/22/2020

    ” Atten­dees were treat­ed to a smor­gas­bord of fringe con­spir­a­cies trot­ted out by politi­cians, right-wing icons, mil­i­tary vet­er­ans, and reli­gious lead­ers. Stephen Ban­non, the for­mer White House senior coun­selor and Bre­it­bart founder, even made a spe­cial vir­tu­al appear­ance, in which he warned of a Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­spir­a­cy to rob Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump of the elec­tion through vot­er fraud, “par­tic­u­lar­ly in cer­tain areas of Penn­syl­va­nia.” He encour­aged the crowd to watch polling places to pro­tect against such attack, adding, “We need tough peo­ple.”

    Steve Ban­non and the Uni­fi­ca­tion Church are clear­ly see­ing eye to eye on a broad range of polit­i­cal top­ics. He would­n’t have been invit­ed if he was­n’t. But this was­n’t sim­ply a Kahr Arms pro-gun rights event. Kahr Arms is basi­cal­ly an exten­sion of Justin Moon’s fun-focused Uni­fi­ca­tion Church off­shoot, with many peo­ple from Korea and Japan com­ing to attend the event. This was effec­tive­ly a joint guns/Unification event:

    ...
    Such an event presents an out­size risk for the spread of the coro­n­avirus, which caus­es COVID-19. Many of the atten­dees drove from out of state or flew from out­side the coun­try — many from South Korea and Japan — con­verg­ing on a small town­ship that to date has one of Pennsylvania’s low­est virus case counts.
    ...

    So, again, we have to ask: do the mem­bers of these pre­dom­i­nant­ly Asian far right move­ments allied with white nation­al­ists like Steve Ban­non actu­al­ly care that Ban­non is active­ly focused on whip­ping up gener­ic anti-Asian antipathies intend­ed to make Asian unwel­come in the broad­er Amer­i­can soci­ety?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 17, 2021, 3:30 pm
  3. Here’s a pair of arti­cles about the inves­ti­ga­tions sur­round­ing Guo Wen­gui that raise a num­ber of inter­est­ing ques­tions about the nature of Guo’s orga­ni­za­tion and fol­low­ing. In par­tic­u­lar, ques­tions about whether or not he’s attempt­ing to cul­ti­vate a cult-like fol­low­ing more along the lines of Falun Gong. Because as we’re going to see, part of what makes the ongo­ing US inves­ti­ga­tion in Guo in rela­tion to the fraud­u­lent GTV Stock issuance so scan­dalous is the fact that Guo and his co-con­spir­a­tors were fleec­ing Guo’s ador­ing audi­ence. And the scams weren’t lim­it­ed to stock. Guo was issu­ing cryp­tocur­ren­cies — G‑Coins or G‑Dollars — that he was sell­ing to audi­ences as an invest­ment that would yield “sig­nif­i­cant returns”. The idea was these coins would even­tu­al­ly be usable to spend on a new online plat­form that they would also be cre­at­ing with the mon­ey issued by the stock issuance. So the scam was­n’t just a stock issuance scam. There was a par­al­lel cryp­tocur­ren­cy scam.

    And based on the nature of the pitch they were mak­ing to poten­tial investors, it sounds like the cryp­tocur­ren­cy part of this scam was tar­get­ing a par­tic­u­lar­ly committed/gullible set of investors. You have to tru­ly believe Guo’s going to cre­ate this vibrant plat­form that has so much demand the val­ue of the G‑Coins and G‑Dollars is going to be great­ly out­stripped by the demand. It’s like invest­ing in cult mon­ey, based on the assump­tion that the cult’s mem­ber­ship is poised to grow. A cult with it’s own cryp­tocur­ren­cy, where the ear­li­est investors get the cult coins at the best price. It sounds like that was kind of what Guo was try­ing to cre­ate here which, again, rais­es the ques­tion of whether or not we are see­ing Guo attempt to achieve real cult-like sta­tus. He cer­tain­ly seems to have cult leader attrib­ut­es like a larg­er-than-life per­son­al­i­ty and eager­ness to make him­self the focus of his media empire.

    Anoth­er fea­ture of these G‑Coins/G‑Dollars pitched to investors is as a safe haven against the col­lapse of the Chi­nese cur­ren­cy. Recall how Guo took $100 mil­lion of the raised mon­ey and gave it to Kyle Bass’s Hay­man Cap­i­tal to make major spec­u­la­tive bets on the desta­bi­liza­tion of the Hong Kong dol­lar (while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly lob­by­ing the Trump admin­is­tra­tion to make moves to trig­ger that desta­bi­liza­tion). So Guo was rais­ing mon­ey to make those Hong Kong dol­lar mega-bets, in part by issu­ing a cryp­tocur­ren­cy pitched to investors as a safe haven against the desta­bi­liza­tion of the Yuan. It shows of Guo is keen­ly inter­est­ed in simul­ta­ne­ous­ly desta­bi­liz­ing Chi­nese cur­ren­cy mar­kets and mak­ing a for­tune doing it. It also hints that part of the plan may have been specif­i­cal­ly tar­get­ed at res­i­dent in Chi­na, who the­o­ret­i­cal­ly might be able to sur­rep­ti­tious­ly pur­chase these G‑coins online inside Chi­na. Recall how unreg­u­lat­ed flight cap­i­tal has been one of the Chi­nese gov­ern­men­t’s key fears regard­ing Bit­coin. If Guo could man­age to sell these coins to a domes­tic Chi­nese audi­ence it could be an excep­tion­al­ly lucra­tive mar­ket, espe­cial­ly dur­ing a peri­od of mar­ket tur­moil for the val­ue Yuan.

    And then there’s Guo’s appar­ent attempt to intim­i­date oth­er mem­bers of the Chi­nese dis­si­dent com­mu­ni­ty, send­ing mobs of unhinged peo­ple to stalk the homes of his per­ceived ene­mies. Are any of those gang-stalked indi­vid­u­als Falun Gong-affil­i­at­ed peo­ple? If so, it was­n’t men­tioned in the reports. How about the mobs of peo­ple Guo sent to do the gang-stalk­ing. Are any of them Falun Gong? Again, we haven’t heard reports one way or anoth­er, but it’s sure hard to ignore the cult-like behav­ior of these mobs.

    Final­ly, as we’re going to see in the sec­ond excerpt below, it sounds like a num­ber of peo­ple invest­ed large por­tions of their sav­ings, fueled through a faith in Guo him­self. “His word is very attrac­tive,” As one of the scammed investors put it. “He said he’s the only one who can save the world.” It just screams “cult!”. So giv­en that this GTV stock scam involved the issuance of “G‑Coin”/“G‑Dollar” coins tar­get­ed at Chi­nese dis­si­dents promis­ing to expand his pro­pa­gan­da empire, and this pitch man­aged to raise $487 mil­lion in the process, just how much of a cult of per­son­al­i­ty has Guo man­aged to cul­ti­vate?

    Finan­cial Times

    Media com­pa­nies linked to Guo Wen­gui pay $539m to set­tle SEC case
    US reg­u­la­tor alleges that com­pa­nies engaged in ille­gal offer­ings of stock and dig­i­tal assets

    Ste­fa­nia Pal­ma in Rome
    Sep­tem­ber 13 2021

    Three media com­pa­nies linked to Guo Wen­gui, a Chi­nese busi­ness­man and promi­nent crit­ic of the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist par­ty liv­ing in exile in the US, will pay $539m to US reg­u­la­tors to resolve alle­ga­tions that they issued ille­gal secu­ri­ties to more than 5,000 investors.

    The US Secu­ri­ties and Exchange Com­mis­sion announced on Mon­day the civ­il action against GTV Media Group, its par­ent Sara­ca Media Group and Voice of Guo Media for an alleged unlaw­ful offer­ing of GTV stock, the reg­u­la­tor said in a state­ment. GTV, which owns and oper­ates a Chi­nese-lan­guage social media plat­form, and Sara­ca were also accused of ille­gal­ly issu­ing a dig­i­tal asset secu­ri­ty called G‑Coins or G‑Dollars.

    “Thou­sands of investors pur­chased GTV stock, G‑Coins, and G‑Dollars based on the respon­dents’ solic­i­ta­tion of the gen­er­al pub­lic with lim­it­ed dis­clo­sures,” Richard Best, direc­tor of the SEC’s New York region­al office, said in a state­ment.

    They failed to reg­is­ter both stock and dig­i­tal asset offer­ings, from which they raised about $487m in total, the SEC said.

    New York attor­ney-gen­er­al Leti­tia James also announced that her office had reached an agree­ment with GTV and Sara­ca, which have been linked to Guo, to resolve an inves­ti­ga­tion into whether they had failed to reg­is­ter as sell­ers of stock and dig­i­tal instru­ments.

    “In a sin­gle year — as the nation faced a pan­dem­ic and a finan­cial cri­sis — GTV Media and Sara­ca Media’s cor­po­rate greed led the com­pa­nies to ille­gal­ly take in near­ly half a bil­lion dol­lars from investors by cut­ting cor­ners and fail­ing to fol­low New York laws,” James said in a state­ment on Mon­day.

    The com­pa­nies agreed to pay more than $539m to set­tle the SEC and New York attorney-general’s claims with­out either admit­ting or deny­ing their find­ings.

    A lawyer for GTV and Sara­ca said in a state­ment that the com­pa­nies “are pleased to have reached this res­o­lu­tion, which achieves our goal of return­ing funds to our sup­port­ers, an objec­tive we have had since these reg­u­la­to­ry mat­ters com­menced”.

    The GTV stock offer­ing mem­o­ran­dum tout­ed a recent­ly launched social media plat­form focused on news that would be “the first ever plat­form which will com­bine the pow­er of cit­i­zen jour­nal­ism and social news with state of the art tech­nol­o­gy, big data, arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, blockchain tech­nol­o­gy and real-time inter­ac­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion”, accord­ing to the SEC’s order.

    The new plat­form aimed to be “the only uncen­sored and inde­pen­dent bridge between Chi­na and the West­ern world” the mem­o­ran­dum said, accord­ing to the SEC.

    GTV and Sara­ca also claimed the dig­i­tal coins would like­ly offer “sig­nif­i­cant returns” based on the devel­op­ment of an online plat­form on which investors could use G‑Coins or G‑Dollars, the SEC said.

    Guo fled from Chi­na to the US in 2014, where he allied with demor­alised over­seas dis­si­dents and Chi­na hawks, includ­ing Steve Ban­non, the for­mer White House advis­er to Don­ald Trump.

    Ban­non briefly served as a non-exec­u­tive direc­tor at GTV Media, accord­ing to the New York attorney-general’s office.

    ...

    ———–

    “Media com­pa­nies linked to Guo Wen­gui pay $539m to set­tle SEC case” by Ste­fa­nia Pal­ma; Finan­cial Times; 09/13/2021

    GTV and Sara­ca also claimed the dig­i­tal coins would like­ly offer “sig­nif­i­cant returns” based on the devel­op­ment of an online plat­form on which investors could use G‑Coins or G‑Dollars, the SEC said.”

    Investors who pur­chased the G‑Coins and G‑Dollars were going to like­ly see “sig­nif­i­cant returns”. That’s an exam­ple of the claims made in this offer­ing that that the SEC inves­ti­gat­ed. It was­n’t just a stock offer­ing. It was a ‘dig­i­tal asset’ offer­ing. For coins that could be spent on a plat­form that was going to be devel­oped with the stock offer­ing pro­ceeds. It’s quite a scam. And the audi­ence for this scam is clear­ly the Chi­nese dis­si­dent com­mu­ni­ty, offer­ing them an oppor­tu­ni­ty to invest in Guo’s anti-CCP enter­prise with the promise of major prof­its should he suc­ceed:

    ...
    The US Secu­ri­ties and Exchange Com­mis­sion announced on Mon­day the civ­il action against GTV Media Group, its par­ent Sara­ca Media Group and Voice of Guo Media for an alleged unlaw­ful offer­ing of GTV stock, the reg­u­la­tor said in a state­ment. GTV, which owns and oper­ates a Chi­nese-lan­guage social media plat­form, and Sara­ca were also accused of ille­gal­ly issu­ing a dig­i­tal asset secu­ri­ty called G‑Coins or G‑Dollars.

    ...

    The GTV stock offer­ing mem­o­ran­dum tout­ed a recent­ly launched social media plat­form focused on news that would be “the first ever plat­form which will com­bine the pow­er of cit­i­zen jour­nal­ism and social news with state of the art tech­nol­o­gy, big data, arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, blockchain tech­nol­o­gy and real-time inter­ac­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion”, accord­ing to the SEC’s order.

    The new plat­form aimed to be “the only uncen­sored and inde­pen­dent bridge between Chi­na and the West­ern world” the mem­o­ran­dum said, accord­ing to the SEC.
    ...

    And now here’s an arti­cle from Sep­tem­ber of 2020 giv­ing us a bet­ter idea of the nature of the peo­ple who were tak­en in by this scam. Peo­ple who end­ed up buy­ing tens of thou­sands of dol­lars in stock and coins. And in many cas­es it sounds like these peo­ple have main­tained their faith in Guo and con­sid­er their mon­ey well spent and a con­tri­bu­tion towards the goal of the col­laps­ing the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment. Don’t for­get that the GTV Media com­pa­ny is actu­al­ly up and run­ning, despite the $539 mil­lion fine. So if Guo has man­aged to find an audi­ence that keeps the faith in the face of this fraud inves­ti­ga­tion, we have to ask what Guo could pos­si­bly do to break that faith. Which are the kinds of ques­tions we tend to ask about cults:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    How for­mer Trump advis­er Steve Ban­non joined forces with a Chi­nese bil­lion­aire who has divid­ed the president’s allies

    By Ros­alind S. Hel­der­man, Josh Dawsey, Ger­ry Shih and Matt Zapo­to­sky
    Sep­tem­ber 13, 2020

    When fed­er­al agents arrest­ed for­mer chief White House strate­gist Stephen K. Ban­non off the coast of Con­necti­cut on Aug. 20, he was relax­ing on a 150-foot yacht belong­ing to a flashy Chi­nese bil­lion­aire whose efforts to obtain asy­lum in the Unit­ed States have divid­ed top allies of Pres­i­dent Trump.

    Most of the atten­tion after Bannon’s arrest has been on the fed­er­al charges alleg­ing that he fleeced donors to a non­prof­it group that claimed it was pri­vate­ly build­ing a wall on the U.S.-Mexico bor­der.

    But it has been Bannon’s part­ner­ship with Chi­nese busi­ness­man Guo Wen­gui, on whose yacht Ban­non had told friends he had been liv­ing in recent months, that has come to dom­i­nate his post-White House career — a part­ner­ship that is now also under scruti­ny. A com­pa­ny linked to both is a focus of a sep­a­rate fed­er­al inves­ti­ga­tion, accord­ing to mul­ti­ple peo­ple famil­iar with the probe.

    Guo, who fled Chi­na after he was accused of bribery and oth­er crimes there, forged a rela­tion­ship with Ban­non after he left the White House in 2017. About the same time, Guo began a vocif­er­ous cam­paign attack­ing cor­rup­tion in Bei­jing and what he says is a polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed pros­e­cu­tion against him.

    In the past sev­er­al years, a com­pa­ny linked to the bil­lion­aire, who also goes by Miles Kwok and Miles Guo, has giv­en Ban­non a con­sult­ing con­tract. Guo has also pub­licly pledged to donate $100 mil­lion to a Ban­non-led char­i­ty. Most recent­ly, the month before Bannon’s arrest, Guo announced that Ban­non would serve as chair­man of a new social media com­pa­ny he was launch­ing.

    Ban­non, in turn, has emerged as one of the biggest cham­pi­ons of Guo, who casts him­self as an anti-com­mu­nist dis­si­dent in dozens of fiery videos post­ed online. Even as oth­er crit­ics of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment have grown skep­ti­cal of Guo’s claims that he is a polit­i­cal vic­tim of Bei­jing, Ban­non has said Guo has valu­able insid­er infor­ma­tion that could help take down China’s Com­mu­nist Par­ty, or CCP, and says he has been pre­scient about China’s crack­down on Hong Kong and its han­dling of the nov­el coro­n­avirus.

    “Miles Guo has been the tough­est Chi­nese oppo­nent the CCP has ever encoun­tered,” Ban­non said in a state­ment to The Wash­ing­ton Post. “He has been the world’s lead­ing fight­er expos­ing the lies, the infil­tra­tion, and the malev­o­lence of the CCP.”

    Ban­non added that he thinks the Unit­ed States owes Guo “a debt of grat­i­tude for his relent­less mis­sion against the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty — the exis­ten­tial threat against the Unit­ed States.”

    But there are now signs that fed­er­al inves­ti­ga­tors are scru­ti­niz­ing Guo’s finan­cial activ­i­ties in the Unit­ed States and GTV Media Group, a social media com­pa­ny that Guo said raised $300 mil­lion from investors, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the inves­ti­ga­tion.

    Some of those investors now say they think they were defraud­ed by the com­pa­ny and have been inter­viewed repeat­ed­ly by the FBI in recent months, accord­ing to three peo­ple with knowl­edge of the case. The Wall Street Jour­nal first report­ed the exis­tence of the inquiry.

    ...

    In a state­ment, Guo said the com­pa­ny fol­lowed U.S. secu­ri­ties laws and was guid­ed by legal coun­sel as it raised mon­ey. He said the “over­whelm­ing major­i­ty of investors are ful­ly sat­is­fied” and alleged that the CCP had “prox­ies infil­trate the offer­ing and file polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed com­plaints.”

    Ban­non, who until his arrest served as a direc­tor at the com­pa­ny, declined to com­ment on the inves­ti­ga­tion. A per­son close to him, speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty because of the probe, said he, too, views the alle­ga­tions against GTV as being dri­ven by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, which he thinks sees the inde­pen­dent media enter­prise as a threat.

    ...

    ‘The only one’

    Online, Guo’s influ­ence was grow­ing, par­tic­u­lar­ly with Chi­nese dis­si­dents and Chi­nese Amer­i­cans appalled at the country’s crack­down on Hong Kong and China’s han­dling of the virus.

    In April, he began solic­it­ing funds for a new com­pa­ny called GTV Media, a social media plat­form that he said in online videos would be free from Chi­nese or Amer­i­can con­trol and a safe place to invest should the Chi­nese cur­ren­cy col­lapse. Guo told The Post he is “advi­sor to and spon­sor of” GTV, which his lawyer said is a new ver­sion of Guo Media.

    Jiamei Lu, a Chi­nese Amer­i­can pas­try chef and Web design­er liv­ing in Hawaii, said she and her moth­er, vis­it­ing from Chi­na, became entranced as they watched Guo online.

    “His word is very attrac­tive,” Lu said. “He said he’s the only one who can save the world.”

    Lu said she briefly got a job at GTV, work­ing for one week as a Web design­er before being ter­mi­nat­ed as a result of dis­putes with Guo. She went on to send a total of $40,000 of her mother’s pen­sion sav­ings from Chi­na to a Guo asso­ciate, think­ing she was invest­ing in the new com­pa­ny. She said she grew con­cerned when no one from the com­pa­ny coun­ter­signed a doc­u­ment she sent to reflect her invest­ment.

    She said she has been inter­viewed by the FBI and agents for the Secu­ri­ties and Exchange Com­mis­sion three times since June and knows of oth­ers who have been in touch with U.S. inves­ti­ga­tors, as well.

    Among them is real estate devel­op­er Gao Yuan, who said his father, a for­mer devel­op­er in Chi­na who wor­ships Guo as an anti-Com­mu­nist Par­ty fig­ure, invest­ed $1.1 mil­lion of their fam­i­ly sav­ings into GTV. Gao said he was so con­cerned that he reached out to U.S. author­i­ties.

    Gao, speak­ing from Thai­land, where he lives with his par­ents, said he “strong­ly object­ed and plead­ed” with his father not to invest.

    But his father, he said, has become a Guo devo­tee. “He can’t fall asleep with­out lis­ten­ing to Guo first,” he said of his father.

    He said his father was impressed by Bannon’s involve­ment, too, which he said was the sub­ject of “inces­sant adver­tis­ing” on Guo’s videos. “My dad thought Ban­non had an enor­mous influ­ence on Pres­i­dent Trump and his admin­is­tra­tion,” he said. “He was con­vinced that these guys basi­cal­ly had influ­ence over all U.S. pol­i­cy relat­ed to Chi­na.”

    In a sep­a­rate inter­view, Gao’s father, Gao Baolin, said he thinks his invest­ment in GTV is mon­ey that was well spent. Guo “is the only one in the world who descend­ed from heav­en to elim­i­nate the demon that is the par­ty,” he said.

    Guo said in his state­ment that all of the funds raised for the com­pa­ny are “intact,” adding that most of GTV’s investors are sat­is­fied and that the com­pa­ny fol­lowed SEC rules.

    He described Lu as a dis­grun­tled for­mer employ­ee. She said her com­plaints were unre­lat­ed to her employ­ment, not­ing that after it end­ed, she con­tin­ued to vol­un­teer for Guo and invest­ed addi­tion­al mon­ey.

    Guo has tout­ed Bannon’s role in GTV, say­ing in Chi­nese in a video post­ed online in July that the for­mer Trump advis­er had been elect­ed chair­man of the com­pa­ny. In the record­ing, filmed on the deck of his yacht, Guo is wear­ing a sharply tai­lored busi­ness suit and avi­a­tor sun­glass­es. Ban­non can be seen loung­ing on a ban­quette behind him, wear­ing car­go shorts and a polo shirt, tap­ping on his phone and peri­od­i­cal­ly tip­ping his head back to bask in the sun­shine.

    Guo told The Post that Ban­non had been removed from his role as chair­man of the board after his arrest and played no part in rais­ing funds for the com­pa­ny.

    How­ev­er, the men’s part­ner­ship has con­tin­ued. Ban­non was released from cus­tody last month on a $5 mil­lion bond while he awaits a tri­al sched­uled for May.

    On Tues­day, Guo appeared for near­ly 30 min­utes on Bannon’s pod­cast, broad­cast­ing live from his liv­ing room to dis­cuss their joint goal of over­throw­ing the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment.

    ...

    ———-

    “How for­mer Trump advis­er Steve Ban­non joined forces with a Chi­nese bil­lion­aire who has divid­ed the president’s allies” by Ros­alind S. Hel­der­man, Josh Dawsey, Ger­ry Shih and Matt Zapo­to­sky; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 09/13/2020

    “In April, he began solic­it­ing funds for a new com­pa­ny called GTV Media, a social media plat­form that he said in online videos would be free from Chi­nese or Amer­i­can con­trol and a safe place to invest should the Chi­nese cur­ren­cy col­lapse. Guo told The Post he is “advi­sor to and spon­sor of” GTV, which his lawyer said is a new ver­sion of Guo Media.”

    A safe place to invest should the Chi­nese cur­ren­cy col­lapse. That’s just one exam­ple of the kind of sales pitch­es Guo were rely­ing on in this scheme. But it sounds like Guo’s pitch went far beyond just finan­cial entice­ments. Guo was fun­da­men­tal­ly sell­ing him­self as the core prod­uct. That’s the pic­ture that emerges when we hear from the peo­ple who made these ‘invest­ments’. Peo­ple who lis­ten to Guo dai­ly and treat him like a god sent fig­ure from heav­en who will lib­er­ate Chi­na. Just like a cult leader:

    ...
    Online, Guo’s influ­ence was grow­ing, par­tic­u­lar­ly with Chi­nese dis­si­dents and Chi­nese Amer­i­cans appalled at the country’s crack­down on Hong Kong and China’s han­dling of the virus.

    ...

    Jiamei Lu, a Chi­nese Amer­i­can pas­try chef and Web design­er liv­ing in Hawaii, said she and her moth­er, vis­it­ing from Chi­na, became entranced as they watched Guo online.

    “His word is very attrac­tive,” Lu said. “He said he’s the only one who can save the world.”

    Lu said she briefly got a job at GTV, work­ing for one week as a Web design­er before being ter­mi­nat­ed as a result of dis­putes with Guo. She went on to send a total of $40,000 of her mother’s pen­sion sav­ings from Chi­na to a Guo asso­ciate, think­ing she was invest­ing in the new com­pa­ny. She said she grew con­cerned when no one from the com­pa­ny coun­ter­signed a doc­u­ment she sent to reflect her invest­ment.

    She said she has been inter­viewed by the FBI and agents for the Secu­ri­ties and Exchange Com­mis­sion three times since June and knows of oth­ers who have been in touch with U.S. inves­ti­ga­tors, as well.

    Among them is real estate devel­op­er Gao Yuan, who said his father, a for­mer devel­op­er in Chi­na who wor­ships Guo as an anti-Com­mu­nist Par­ty fig­ure, invest­ed $1.1 mil­lion of their fam­i­ly sav­ings into GTV. Gao said he was so con­cerned that he reached out to U.S. author­i­ties.

    Gao, speak­ing from Thai­land, where he lives with his par­ents, said he “strong­ly object­ed and plead­ed” with his father not to invest.

    But his father, he said, has become a Guo devo­tee. “He can’t fall asleep with­out lis­ten­ing to Guo first,” he said of his father.

    He said his father was impressed by Bannon’s involve­ment, too, which he said was the sub­ject of “inces­sant adver­tis­ing” on Guo’s videos. “My dad thought Ban­non had an enor­mous influ­ence on Pres­i­dent Trump and his admin­is­tra­tion,” he said. “He was con­vinced that these guys basi­cal­ly had influ­ence over all U.S. pol­i­cy relat­ed to Chi­na.”

    In a sep­a­rate inter­view, Gao’s father, Gao Baolin, said he thinks his invest­ment in GTV is mon­ey that was well spent. Guo “is the only one in the world who descend­ed from heav­en to elim­i­nate the demon that is the par­ty,” he said.
    ...

    And don’t for­get Steve Ban­non’s role in this enter­prise. Ban­non was going to be the chair­man of this new GTV Media ven­ture. Giv­en the cult of per­son­al­i­ty dynam­ics around this, we have to won­der to what extent has Ban­non him­self been ele­vat­ed to prophet­ic sta­tus in the minds of Guo’s audi­ence:

    ...
    In the past sev­er­al years, a com­pa­ny linked to the bil­lion­aire, who also goes by Miles Kwok and Miles Guo, has giv­en Ban­non a con­sult­ing con­tract. Guo has also pub­licly pledged to donate $100 mil­lion to a Ban­non-led char­i­ty. Most recent­ly, the month before Bannon’s arrest, Guo announced that Ban­non would serve as chair­man of a new social media com­pa­ny he was launch­ing.
    ...

    Are Guo and Ban­non build­ing a kind of alter­na­tive Falun Gong net­work of fer­vent fol­low­ers? It does kind of look like that. It’s hard to ignore the par­al­lels. Because as the fol­low­ing Guardian arti­cle from April of this year describes, Falun Gong’s Epoch Times media empire isn’t prof­it dri­ven. It’s dri­ven by an agen­da of chang­ing pub­lic opin­ion towards over­throw­ing the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, financed through dona­tions from Falun Gong’s fol­low­ers. And while there is no evi­dence of direct coop­er­a­tion between Guo’s oper­a­tions and the Epoch Times, they’re more or less run­ning the same mes­sages of far right con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries.

    So both Guo and Falun Gong have dona­tion-dri­ven media empires focused on basi­cal­ly the same goal and push­ing basi­cal­ly the same mes­sage and prey­ing on audi­ences with cult-like ado­ra­tion for their lead­ers. And while Guo has gone to war with much of the rest of the Chi­nese dias­po­ra, we don’t have reports of him tak­ing aim of Falun Gong. So we have to ask: Are Guo and Ban­non try­ing to dip into that Falun Gong cult mar­ket­place?

    The Guardian

    Falun Gong-aligned media push fake news about Democ­rats and Chi­nese com­mu­nists
    The Epoch Times, believed to be linked to the Chi­nese reli­gious move­ment, is part of an anti-CCP influ­ence oper­a­tion tap­ping into the US right, accord­ing to a media watch­dog

    Jason Wil­son
    Fri 30 Apr 2021 04.00 EDT

    US news out­lets aligned with Falun Gong, a reli­gious move­ment locked in a decades-long con­flict with the Chi­nese state, have been increas­ing­ly suc­cess­ful in pro­mot­ing con­spir­a­cy nar­ra­tives about Democ­rats, elec­tion fraud and com­mu­nists to the pro-Trump right in Amer­i­ca.

    Experts say that in a future post-pan­dem­ic land­scape, the cable news chan­nel NTD, and espe­cial­ly the mul­ti­me­dia enter­prise the Epoch Times, may ampli­fy the efforts of Repub­li­cans to link Joe Biden and Democ­rats to the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist par­ty (CCP), and to hard­en US pub­lic opin­ion against Chi­na.

    Accord­ing to Ange­lo Caru­sone, pres­i­dent and CEO of the media watch­dog Media Mat­ters for Amer­i­ca, these out­lets, and espe­cial­ly the Epoch Times, were always crit­i­cal of Chi­na, and some­what right-lean­ing, but were not com­mon­ly count­ed as prob­lem­at­ic dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion as spread­ing false­hoods across social media plat­forms like Face­book.

    But in a tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion, Caru­sone said Epoch Times piv­ot­ed hard from 2017 towards mate­r­i­al which stoked con­spir­a­cy nar­ra­tives, and began spend­ing freely in order to make sure that their mes­sage was promi­nent on plat­forms like YouTube.

    “After social media sites moved against the fake news out­lets, it left a gap,” Caru­sone said. “What Epoch Times did so well was to step right into that gap.” And, he says, they secured their niche by hand­ing mon­ey to big tech plat­forms.

    After Epoch Times spent about $11m on Face­book ads in 2019, the plat­form banned them from adver­tis­ing on the grounds that they had vio­lat­ed rules around trans­paren­cy in polit­i­cal adver­tis­ing. But the out­let sim­ply took its busi­ness else­where: accord­ing to data from Path­mat­ics that was ana­lyzed by Media Mat­ters

    In the year to date, Epoch Times has spent an esti­mat­ed $930,000 in dig­i­tal adver­tis­ing pro­mot­ing videos and desk­top dis­play ads. Over 95% of their spend­ing was on YouTube.

    Through 2020 and into the ear­ly life of the Biden admin­is­tra­tion, Epoch Times and NTD alike pro­mot­ed con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries relat­ed to the QAnon move­ment, the sup­pos­ed­ly com­pro­mis­ing inter­na­tion­al ties of Hunter Biden, and even sold mer­chan­dise out­lin­ing half-for­got­ten con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries such as “Ura­ni­um One”, which held that Hillary Clin­ton, as US sec­re­tary of state, engi­neered the sale of ura­ni­um deposits to Russ­ian inter­ests in return for dona­tions to the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion.

    While US rightwing out­lets like One Amer­i­ca News and News­max have prof­it­ed by sup­ply­ing the seem­ing­ly bot­tom­less appetite among the rightwing grass­roots for mate­r­i­al that depicts Amer­i­can pol­i­tics as a tan­gle of elite con­spir­a­cies, Caru­sone says it is a mis­take to view the Falung Gong-aligned out­lets as nor­mal media com­pa­nies.

    The prin­ci­pal goal of Epoch Times – now pub­lish­ing in 36 coun­tries under the super­vi­sion of a net­work of non-prof­its – is not to gen­er­ate prof­it, he says, but to mount a long and broad “influ­ence oper­a­tion”. And the goal of that influ­ence oper­a­tion, in turn, is “to foment anti-CCP sen­ti­ment”.

    By lever­ag­ing the deep par­ti­san polar­iza­tion in US pol­i­tics, and by tap­ping into a long tra­di­tion of anti­com­mu­nism on the Amer­i­can right, accord­ing to Caru­sone, the out­lets have sought to link Biden and the Demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ty to rad­i­cal left­ist move­ments like antifa, and then pub­lish “any­thing that ties them to CCP influ­ence”, how­ev­er spu­ri­ous.

    He envis­ages the pos­si­bil­i­ty that Repub­li­cans will coop­er­ate with these out­lets – who have also spread sig­nif­i­cant amounts of dis­in­for­ma­tion about the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic – to ask “what is Joe Biden going to do about Chi­na caus­ing coro­n­avirus?”

    Although there is no evi­dence of direct coop­er­a­tion, they have already shown a will­ing­ness to echo anti-Chi­na mes­sag­ing with the likes of the for­mer Trump aide Steve Ban­non and bil­lion­aire Chi­nese exile Guo Wen­gui, also known as Miles Kwok, who has financed Bannon’s activ­i­ties through con­sult­ing con­tracts and dona­tions.

    From as ear­ly as Jan­u­ary 2020, Ban­non and Kwok were attempt­ing to spread a nar­ra­tive alleg­ing that the pan­dem­ic was caused by a Chi­nese bioweapon, both on Bannon’s radio pro­gram and on their shared media ven­ture, G News. The Epoch Times fol­lowed that April with a doc­u­men­tary that repeat­ed the bioweapon claims, and have tak­en fur­ther oppor­tu­ni­ties to allege, with­out basis, that China’s gov­ern­ment start­ed the pan­dem­ic delib­er­ate­ly.

    Accord­ing to Caru­sone, such oppor­tunis­tic retread­ing of exist­ing con­spir­a­cy nar­ra­tives is char­ac­ter­is­tic of these out­lets. “They’re not dri­vers, they’re not weav­ing new con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, they’re ampli­fy­ing what’s already out there,” he said.

    This effort appears to be increas­ing­ly well-resourced. Although the finan­cial arrange­ments of the many Epoch Times non-prof­its vary, the orig­i­nal Epoch Times Asso­ci­a­tion Inc, head­quar­tered in New York City, saw rev­enues and dona­tions increase sharply every year between 2016 and 2019 accord­ing to IRS 990 dec­la­ra­tions inspect­ed by the Guardian. While in 2016, the asso­ci­a­tion took in $3.9m in rev­enue, in 2019 they brought in $15.4m, and cleared $1.86m after salaries and expens­es.

    Nei­ther out­let has ever explic­it­ly con­firmed its links to Falun Gong, a reli­gious orga­ni­za­tion which emerged from the so-called “qijong” move­ment, which teach­es adher­ents to prac­tice breath­ing, move­ment and med­i­ta­tion exer­cis­es. But for­mer employ­ees report­ed­ly say that they are run by move­ment adher­ents, and that Falun Gong founder and leader, Li Hongzhi, and oth­ers in the movement’s hier­ar­chy exer­cise a pow­er­ful influ­ence over the out­lets’ anti-Chi­na mes­sag­ing.

    Along­side the Eng­lish lan­guage out­lets, Chi­nese lan­guage out­lets and a dance troupe spread the group’s mes­sages.

    Though Falun Gong emerged in Chi­na in the 1990s, its founder now lives in the US.

    ...

    ———–

    “Falun Gong-aligned media push fake news about Democ­rats and Chi­nese com­mu­nists” by Jason Wil­son; The Guardian; 04/30/2021

    The prin­ci­pal goal of Epoch Times – now pub­lish­ing in 36 coun­tries under the super­vi­sion of a net­work of non-prof­its – is not to gen­er­ate prof­it, he says, but to mount a long and broad “influ­ence oper­a­tion”. And the goal of that influ­ence oper­a­tion, in turn, is “to foment anti-CCP sen­ti­ment”.”

    It’s not about mak­ing mon­ey. It’s about run­ning an influ­ence oper­a­tion. An oper­a­tion financed pri­mar­i­ly by dona­tions from Falun Gong fol­low­ers. Com­pare that to the GTV Media scam, which has more or less the exact same influ­ence oper­a­tion goals and man­aged to raise near­ly $500 mil­lion from Guo’s fol­low­ers. Grant­ed, in the case of GTV they were sell­ing stock in what would osten­si­bly be a for-prof­it media oper­a­tion. But the under­ly­ing dynam­ic is the same between these two orga­ni­za­tions: they are both run­ning more or less the same influ­ence oper­a­tion, heav­i­ly financed from the fol­low­ers of the group’s charis­mat­ic lead­ers:

    ...
    Although there is no evi­dence of direct coop­er­a­tion, they have already shown a will­ing­ness to echo anti-Chi­na mes­sag­ing with the likes of the for­mer Trump aide Steve Ban­non and bil­lion­aire Chi­nese exile Guo Wen­gui, also known as Miles Kwok, who has financed Bannon’s activ­i­ties through con­sult­ing con­tracts and dona­tions.

    From as ear­ly as Jan­u­ary 2020, Ban­non and Kwok were attempt­ing to spread a nar­ra­tive alleg­ing that the pan­dem­ic was caused by a Chi­nese bioweapon, both on Bannon’s radio pro­gram and on their shared media ven­ture, G News. The Epoch Times fol­lowed that April with a doc­u­men­tary that repeat­ed the bioweapon claims, and have tak­en fur­ther oppor­tu­ni­ties to allege, with­out basis, that China’s gov­ern­ment start­ed the pan­dem­ic delib­er­ate­ly.

    ...

    This effort appears to be increas­ing­ly well-resourced. Although the finan­cial arrange­ments of the many Epoch Times non-prof­its vary, the orig­i­nal Epoch Times Asso­ci­a­tion Inc, head­quar­tered in New York City, saw rev­enues and dona­tions increase sharply every year between 2016 and 2019 accord­ing to IRS 990 dec­la­ra­tions inspect­ed by the Guardian. While in 2016, the asso­ci­a­tion took in $3.9m in rev­enue, in 2019 they brought in $15.4m, and cleared $1.86m after salaries and expens­es.

    Nei­ther out­let has ever explic­it­ly con­firmed its links to Falun Gong, a reli­gious orga­ni­za­tion which emerged from the so-called “qijong” move­ment, which teach­es adher­ents to prac­tice breath­ing, move­ment and med­i­ta­tion exer­cis­es. But for­mer employ­ees report­ed­ly say that they are run by move­ment adher­ents, and that Falun Gong founder and leader, Li Hongzhi, and oth­ers in the movement’s hier­ar­chy exer­cise a pow­er­ful influ­ence over the out­lets’ anti-Chi­na mes­sag­ing.
    ...

    So what are we look­ing at here? Rival cults? Sib­ling cults? Are Guo Wen­gui and Steve Ban­non try­ing to repli­cate the cult-like dynam­ics of the Falun Gong move­ment? Is this a qui­et active part­ner­ship, where Falun Gong mem­bers are effec­tive­ly lent out to Guo’s oper­a­tion? At this point we don’t know but it seems like some­thing that will emerge eventually...after Guo and Ban­non have gang-stalked the rest of the Chi­nese dis­si­dent com­mu­ni­ty into silence and it’s just GTV and Epoch Times left over.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 5, 2021, 3:12 pm
  4. Here’s an update on the fas­ci­nat­ing cryp­tocur­ren­cy scam that end up land­ing Guo Wen­gui’s busi­ness empire with a $539 mil­lion SEC fine. First, recall how that fine was issue in rela­tion to the issuance of stock in a new GTV Media com­pa­ny that was part of a larg­er ambi­tion to cre­ate a cryp­tocur­ren­cy-pow­ered plat­form where “G‑coins” or “G‑dollars” would be used to buy goods and ser­vices from Guo’s affil­i­at­ed busi­ness­es. Part of the pitch to investors was the pro­ject­ed extreme appre­ci­a­tion of the val­ue of these G‑coins.

    So here’s the update: it appears Guo did indeed pull of this scam, despite the $539 mil­lion fine. At least parts of this scam. The loop­hole appears to be that it’s no longer cen­ter around G‑coins and G‑dollars. Now it’s the Himalaya Coin along with a Himalaya Dol­lar sta­ble-coin. So the Himalaya Coin can fluc­tu­ate wild­ly in val­ue while the sta­ble-coin acts more like a cur­ren­cy safe-haven.

    Unlike most cryp­tocur­ren­cies, which can be pur­chased through third-par­ty coin exchanges, the two cryp­tocur­ren­cies are exclu­sive­ly sold and used on a new plat­form, the Himalaya Exchange. Recall the sto­ry about the “Himalayan Embassy” locat­ed in New York City in the man­sion of Argen­tine bil­lion­aire Eduar­do Eurnekian, where Guo’s Rule of Law Foun­da­tion also resided. “Himalayan” appears to be a Guo brand­ing theme.

    Impor­tant­ly, Guo has an agree­ment with the Himalaya Exchange allow­ing his busi­ness clients to buy prod­ucts from firms linked to Guo using the Himalaya Dol­lar. So this Himalaya Exchange sounds like basi­cal­ly the GTV Media scheme for which Guo was already bust­ed but now oper­at­ing under a new entity.And, thus far, no word of this new enter­prise being under inves­ti­ga­tion. So it appears they’ve man­aged to at least get this cryp­tocur­ren­cy pyra­mid scheme set up despite all the fines and inves­ti­ga­tions:

    Bloomberg

    A $27 Bil­lion Token Loved by Exiled Bil­lion­aire and Steve Ban­non

    * Himalaya Coin has surged 270-fold since its debut this month
    * Bil­lion­aire Wen­gui Guo appeared in music video tout­ing it

    By Zijia Song
    Novem­ber 12, 2021, 5:12 PM CST

    Like so much in cryp­tocur­ren­cies, there’s a lot to unpack with Himalaya Coin, which has qui­et­ly zoomed to an appar­ent $27 bil­lion val­u­a­tion in less than two weeks.

    For starters, there’s the music video, “Hcoin to the Moon,” fea­tur­ing exiled Chi­nese bil­lion­aire Wen­gui Guo smok­ing a cig­ar, hang­ing out on a yacht and dri­ving a red sports car.

    The song’s lyrics, most sung in Chi­nese, describe a bleak world: “Free­dom, such a famil­iar word/But it’s unknow­ing­ly get­ting fur­ther and fur­ther away from me.” Oth­er vers­es list the virtues of Himalaya Coin and the relat­ed Himalaya Dol­lar, a sta­ble­coin track­ing the U.S. dol­lar:

    Secu­ri­ty guard­ed by the most advanced encryp­tion tech­nol­o­gy

    No one can take your wealth away from you

    Sta­ble­coin, float­ing coin, unpar­al­leled in the world

    And 20% gold reserve attached to the val­ue

    The cho­rus screams over and over in Eng­lish: “Wel­come to the world/To the new world/Welcome to the world/Hcoin to the moon.”

    “To the moon” is notable because that has become a ral­ly­ing cry, the guid­ing hope among cryp­to traders that the price of a hold­ing will surge enor­mous­ly.

    But sup­port from Guo and Steve Ban­non, the for­mer Don­ald Trump advis­er, sug­gests there’s more than just cryp­to-cheer­lead­ing at work with Himalaya Coin.

    Guo and Ban­non have waged a pub­lic cam­paign against the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment for years, and com­ments last week from Ban­non indi­cate this is the lat­est front in that bat­tle. Himalaya Coin’s debut this month also stands out because, in Sep­tem­ber, Chi­na widened its crack­down on the use of cryp­tocur­ren­cies.

    Guo has tout­ed the dig­i­tal token on social media, and has a busi­ness rela­tion­ship with the exchange where it trades, accord­ing to the chief exec­u­tive offi­cer of that mar­ket­place. Ban­non, dur­ing an inter­view last week, called Himalaya Coin’s debut “mon­u­men­tal” and put it in the con­text of his fight against Chi­na. “If you look at the insti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion of the coun­terof­fen­sive to the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty, it’s pret­ty impres­sive,” Ban­non said.

    Himalaya Coin only appears to trade on the Himalaya Exchange. It’s not includ­ed in CoinMarketCap’s long list of glob­al cryp­tocur­ren­cies, which has become the de fac­to source for dig­i­tal token val­u­a­tions. On the Himalaya Exchange, its price has jumped from 10 cents when it start­ed trad­ing at the begin­ning of the month to about $27 now.

    Himalaya Exchange CEO Jesse Brown says one bil­lion of the coins have been issued. That equates to a mar­ket val­ue of about $27 bil­lion, sim­i­lar to what Coin­Mar­ket­Cap says Shi­ba Inu, a dog-themed coin that’s recent­ly surged in pop­u­lar­i­ty, is worth.

    Guo has an agree­ment with the Himalaya Exchange allow­ing his busi­ness clients to buy prod­ucts from firms linked to the bil­lion­aire using the Himalaya Dol­lar sta­ble­coin, Brown said in an inter­view. The trad­ing plat­form has amassed 20,000 accounts, more than half of which are owned by Man­darin-speak­ing investors, Brown said.

    Peo­ple in the U.S., Cana­da and Japan can­not use the exchange, he added, though there are plans to get U.S. access.

    Guo is “using his plat­form to get peo­ple to get involved in cryp­to and finan­cial free­dom,” Brown said. “I think it speaks to his whistle­blow­er pro­gram in Chi­na and how he’s look­ing to get more inde­pen­dence.”

    ...

    GTV Media Group Inc., which has ties to Guo and Ban­non, in Sep­tem­ber set­tled U.S. Secu­ri­ties and Exchange Com­mis­sion alle­ga­tions it par­tic­i­pat­ed in an ille­gal sale of shares and dig­i­tal secu­ri­ties referred to as either G‑Coins or G‑Dollars. Nei­ther Guo nor Ban­non were named by the SEC. GTV and two oth­er enti­ties involved didn’t admit or deny wrong­do­ing. The firms paid more than $539 mil­lion to resolve the case.

    Guo has been an avid cheer­leader for H‑Coin on his YouTube chan­nel, which has about 425,000 sub­scribers, and on con­ser­v­a­tive social media out­let Get­tr. The price of the coin has jumped 270-fold since launch­ing Nov. 1.

    “We’ve got a lot of dia­mond hands,” Brown said, using slang mean­ing traders who hold onto an invest­ment regard­less of volatil­i­ty.

    Or, as “Hcoin to the Moon” puts it:

    Destroy the machine that sucks you dry

    Nev­er be a slave to mon­ey again

    The door to Himalaya Fed­er­al Reserve will always be open for you

    A bright future lies in Himalaya Coin

    ———-

    “A $27 Bil­lion Token Loved by Exiled Bil­lion­aire and Steve Ban­non” by Zijia Song; Bloomberg; 11/12/2021

    “Guo and Ban­non have waged a pub­lic cam­paign against the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment for years, and com­ments last week from Ban­non indi­cate this is the lat­est front in that bat­tle. Himalaya Coin’s debut this month also stands out because, in Sep­tem­ber, Chi­na widened its crack­down on the use of cryp­tocur­ren­cies.

    Guo Wen­gui cer­tain­ly has a knack for oppor­tunism: soon after Chi­na cracks down on cryp­tocur­ren­cies, Guo jumps on board the Himalaya Coin. Steve Ban­non tout­ed the coin as “mon­u­men­tal” in the con­text of the fight against the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment:

    ...
    Guo has tout­ed the dig­i­tal token on social media, and has a busi­ness rela­tion­ship with the exchange where it trades, accord­ing to the chief exec­u­tive offi­cer of that mar­ket­place. Ban­non, dur­ing an inter­view last week, called Himalaya Coin’s debut “mon­u­men­tal” and put it in the con­text of his fight against Chi­na. “If you look at the insti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion of the coun­terof­fen­sive to the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty, it’s pret­ty impres­sive,” Ban­non said.

    ...

    Himalaya Exchange CEO Jesse Brown says one bil­lion of the coins have been issued. That equates to a mar­ket val­ue of about $27 bil­lion, sim­i­lar to what Coin­Mar­ket­Cap says Shi­ba Inu, a dog-themed coin that’s recent­ly surged in pop­u­lar­i­ty, is worth.
    ...

    But here’s the aspect of the Himalaya Coin that makes this stand out from the myr­i­ad of oth­er cryp­tocur­ren­cies out there: the Himalaya Coin appears to only trade on the Himalaya Exchange and isn’t list­ed on any oth­er coin exchanges. It’s also not avail­able to peo­ple in the US, Cana­da, or Japan yet. It’s pri­mar­i­ly a Chi­nese mar­ket, which makes sense giv­en that it’s being brand­ed to Guo’s audi­ence as a finan­cial weapon against the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment. The price of this coin jumped 270-fold jump in just the first cou­ple of weeks of Novem­ber. You have to won­der what kind of extra con­trol over the price of the Himalaya Coin this exclu­sive con­trol gives to the Guo and his part­ners.

    In addi­tion, there’s a sep­a­rate Himalaya Dol­lar “sta­ble coin” also trad­able on this exchange and tied to the dol­lar. Guo, in turn, has an agree­ment with the exchange allows his busi­ness clients to buy prod­ucts from firms linked to Guo using the Himalaya Dol­lar sta­ble­coin. It’s kind of an inno­v­a­tive scam: you lure peo­ple in with the temp­ta­tion of wild gains in the val­ue of the Himalaya Coin, but tem­per their wor­ries about the wild price fluc­tu­a­tions by offer­ing a par­al­lel sta­ble coin. So it’s a plat­form set up for both high­ly spec­u­la­tive cryp­tocur­ren­cy plays while also cater­ing to peo­ple look­ing to pro­tect the val­ue of their wealth from the threat of cur­ren­cy depre­ci­a­tion. It’s like pair of inter­twined pyra­mid schemes set up to inter­act with Guo’s busi­ness empire.

    Notably, that mod­el of hav­ing a cryp­to­coin paired with a cryp­to-sta­ble coin is the same con­cept that Guo and Ban­non already had in mind with the G‑Coin/G‑Dollar cryp­tocur­ren­cies that they were ped­dling to Guo’s fol­low­ers as both a high­ly prof­itable spec­u­la­tive invest­ment and also a hedge against the col­lapse of the Chi­nese cur­ren­cy. Recall, Guo pro­ceed­ed to take a large por­tion of the pro­ceeds raised from the sale of stock in GTV that was going to run this scheme, and pro­ceed­ed to give $100 mil­lion to Kyle Bass’s Hay­man Cap­i­tal to make major bets on the desta­bi­liza­tion of the Hong Kong dol­lar (while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly lob­by­ing the Trump admin­is­tra­tion to take steps to trig­ger that desta­bi­liza­tion). That fias­co is what led to the $539 mil­lion in SEC fines to resolve the case. So it’s rather fas­ci­nat­ing that in the wake of the col­lapse of that crim­i­nal scheme we find a new ‘Himalaya’ plat­form that more or less oper­ates under the exact same mod­el but isn’t tech­ni­cal­ly part of Guo’s busi­ness empire:

    ...
    Himalaya Coin only appears to trade on the Himalaya Exchange. It’s not includ­ed in CoinMarketCap’s long list of glob­al cryp­tocur­ren­cies, which has become the de fac­to source for dig­i­tal token val­u­a­tions. On the Himalaya Exchange, its price has jumped from 10 cents when it start­ed trad­ing at the begin­ning of the month to about $27 now.

    ...

    Guo has an agree­ment with the Himalaya Exchange allow­ing his busi­ness clients to buy prod­ucts from firms linked to the bil­lion­aire using the Himalaya Dol­lar sta­ble­coin, Brown said in an inter­view. The trad­ing plat­form has amassed 20,000 accounts, more than half of which are owned by Man­darin-speak­ing investors, Brown said.

    Peo­ple in the U.S., Cana­da and Japan can­not use the exchange, he added, though there are plans to get U.S. access.

    ...

    GTV Media Group Inc., which has ties to Guo and Ban­non, in Sep­tem­ber set­tled U.S. Secu­ri­ties and Exchange Com­mis­sion alle­ga­tions it par­tic­i­pat­ed in an ille­gal sale of shares and dig­i­tal secu­ri­ties referred to as either G‑Coins or G‑Dollars. Nei­ther Guo nor Ban­non were named by the SEC. GTV and two oth­er enti­ties involved didn’t admit or deny wrong­do­ing. The firms paid more than $539 mil­lion to resolve the case.
    ...

    Who knows how prof­itable this will end up being for Guo. To a large extent that will depend on how many peo­ple he can seduce into join­ing the cult of Guo. But there’s the oth­er obvi­ous major risk: the risk of future fines and legal action. So keep in mind that the val­ue of this new Himalaya Coin was already around $27 bil­lion at the time that arti­cle was pub­lished almost two months ago. That’s com­pared to the $539 mil­lion in fines over set­ting up more or less the same scheme. So while we don’t real­ly know how much Guo will ulti­mate­ly make from this, we can rea­son­able con­clude that it will be more than enough to make those $539 mil­lion in fines just the cost of doing busi­ness.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 10, 2022, 5:35 pm
  5. Here’s a some­what ran­dom and bizarre sto­ry about Steve Ban­non that could end up being a more rel­e­vant as the sto­ry of Ban­non’s adven­tures with Guo Wen­gui plays out. The sto­ry is about a loan appli­ca­tion the Dai­ly Beast just came across filed by Ban­non back in ear­ly Decem­ber 2021. It’s a $1.5 mil­lion stone estate in the plush sub­urb of Wilton, CT. It’s not known how large the loan was that he applied for or whether or not it even­tu­al­ly went through. What we do know is that the bank had ques­tions about the own­er­ship of the assets that the loan was pred­i­cat­ed on. Assets that Ban­non does­n’t appear to have any take in. That’s the start of the mys­tery here: Steve Ban­non just filed for a loan against a prop­er­ty he has no appar­ent ties with.

    But dig­ging a lit­tle fur­ther, we found all sorts of ties between Ban­non and the prop­er­ty. Specif­i­cal­ly, ties between this prop­er­ty and Guo Wen­gui’s Rule of Law Soci­ety. It turns out the Rule of Law Soci­ety briefly owned this same prop­er­ty. And the time of the own­er­ship is high­ly notable. It was ear­ly August of 2020 when the Rule of Law Soci­ety pur­chased the prop­er­ty from con­tro­ver­sial right-wing psy­chi­a­trist Jef­frey Sati­nover. Recall how Steve Ban­non was arrest­ed on August 20, 2020, by US offi­cials while he was being host­ed on Guo Wen­gui’s yacht for his involve­ment in the “We Build the Wall” fundrais­ing scheme. So the pur­chase of this Wilton prop­er­ty hap­pened short­ly before Ban­non faced legal trou­bles, albeit trou­bles for some­thing that was­n’t direct­ly relat­ed to Guo’s activ­i­ties. We Build the Wall was one of Ban­non’s many oth­er scams. The guy stays busy.

    As we’ll see, the Rule of Law Soci­ety sent an email to its board inform­ing them that an all cash offer of $1,500,000 for the prop­er­ty was made and they would be going through with it. A month lat­er, the prop­er­ty was indeed pur­chased by these new mys­tery own­ers for $1,437,500, which we are told was about $40k less than what the Rule of Law Soci­ety paid a few months ear­li­er.

    So the Rule of Law Soci­ety ends up sell­ing this prop­er­ty to mys­tery own­ers at a rel­a­tive­ly small loss three months after the pur­chase (and rough­ly two months after Ban­non’s arrest). Flash for­ward to Decem­ber 2021, and we find Ban­non fil­ing for a loan appli­ca­tion via a cor­po­ra­tion based on out this same prop­er­ty.

    So who are the new mys­tery own­ers? We aren’t told, but they insist they have noth­ing to do with Ban­non or any loan appli­ca­tion, but declined to com­ment fur­ther.

    Also of note if the fact that we’ve been told that Ban­non him­self already left his posi­tion at the Rule of Law Soci­ety. This was based on a report from August of 2021, which includ­ed com­ments from peo­ple famil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion who said Ban­non left the group at the end of the pre­vi­ous sum­mer...in oth­er words, August of 2020, right around the time of his arrest. Relat­ed to this is the bizarre denials by J. Kyle Bass about his rela­tion­ship to this net­work. Recall how, when Bass was the chair of the Rule of Law Foun­da­tion in 2020, he told report­ed that Guo Wen­gui has no asso­ci­a­tion with the group and it was com­plete­ly sep­a­rate from the Rule of Law Fund set up by Ban­non and Guo. And then in August of 2021, Bass was empha­siz­ing to reporters how he had no ties to the Rule of Law Foun­da­tion and had stepped down over a year ago.

    Final­ly, in terms of the iden­ti­ties of the cur­rent mys­tery own­ers of this Wilton estate, also recall how we’ve already learned about how the Rule of Law Foun­da­tion and Rule of Law Soci­ety were both locat­ed at “The Himalayan Embassy”, the Man­hat­tan man­sion of Argen­tin­ian bil­lion­aire Eduar­do Eurnekian. More recent­ly, we’ve found that Guo’s busi­ness empire was able to shirk off the $539 mil­lion in SEC fines over the fleec­ing of investors in a scheme involv­ing the cre­ation of a GTV plat­form oper­at­ing as a G‑coin/G‑dollar cryp­tocur­ren­cy exchange. Fol­low­ing that fine, Guo’s empire has teamed up with a mys­te­ri­ous new “Himalayan Exchange” plat­form that offers pro­pri­etary Himalaya Coins and Himalaya Dol­lar sta­ble­coins in an arrange­ment that sounds like a copy of what Guo had planned before the SEC fine. So there’s already an ongo­ing sto­ry about mys­tery investors work­ing with Guo’s busi­ness­es.

    Are we look­ing at anoth­er Eurnekian prop­er­ty here? We don’t know. That’s all part of the ongo­ing mys­tery. But at least we’re get­ting more clar­i­ty on the (large­ly solved) mys­tery of whether or not Steve Ban­non had actu­al­ly cut ties with this net­work:

    The Dai­ly Beast

    Steve Ban­non Sought Bizarre Loan as His Jan. 6 Woes Spi­raled

    Amid mount­ing legal prob­lems, Ban­non seems to have tried to bor­row against prop­er­ty linked to a non­prof­it he found­ed with a Chi­nese bil­lion­aire.

    William Bred­der­man
    Researcher
    Updat­ed Jan. 08, 2022 3:32PM ET
    Pub­lished Jan. 07, 2022 10:07PM ET

    Ex-White House strate­gist Steve Ban­non appears to have recent­ly sought a loan against a Con­necti­cut prop­er­ty linked to one of his trou­bled non­prof­its, doc­u­ments reviewed by The Dai­ly Beast show, even though the char­i­ta­ble orga­ni­za­tion no longer owns the home.

    The mate­ri­als, addressed direct­ly to Ban­non at the $1.5 mil­lion stone estate in the plush sub­ur­ban town of Wilton, do not reveal the amount of mon­ey sought, nor what Ban­non sought it for. They do, how­ev­er, date the loan appli­ca­tion to Dec. 2, 2021, rough­ly three weeks after a grand jury indict­ed Ban­non for refus­ing to tes­ti­fy before the House com­mit­tee prob­ing the Jan. 6 riot and around two weeks fol­low­ing his ini­tial appear­ances in fed­er­al court.

    They also indi­cate Ban­non attempt­ed to bor­row the dough from a Phoenix branch of KS State­bank, a Kansas-based lender, via a Delaware lim­it­ed lia­bil­i­ty com­pa­ny named for the home’s address.

    Nei­ther a spokesper­son for Ban­non nor his pow­er­house attor­neys respond­ed to repeat­ed requests for com­ment, and calls and emails to the bank and its employ­ees went unan­swered. It is unclear if the mon­ey ever came through, because the bank sig­naled in the doc­u­ments it might want an appraisal of the five-acre com­pound, with its in-ground pool and guest house—and Ban­non in fact does not own the home or any stake in it.

    Rather, pub­lic records and pri­vate com­mu­ni­ca­tions The Dai­ly Beast uncov­ered show that the prop­er­ty briefly belonged to the Rule of Law Soci­ety, a non­prof­it Ban­non found­ed in 2018 with fugi­tive Chi­nese bil­lion­aire Guo Wen­gui. Prop­er­ty records show that a sep­a­rate lim­it­ed lia­bil­i­ty com­pa­ny helmed by two of that nonprofit’s offi­cers, includ­ing its attor­ney Daniel Pod­hask­ie, bought the home from con­tro­ver­sial right-wing psy­chi­a­trist Jef­frey Sati­nover in ear­ly August 2020. Efforts to reach Pod­hask­ie and Sati­nover for com­ment for this sto­ry proved unsuc­cess­ful.

    Just weeks lat­er, fed­er­al agents arrest­ed Ban­non on Guo’s yacht off the Con­necti­cut coast for alleged­ly embez­zling from a sep­a­rate non­prof­it, We Build the Wall. Ban­non would even­tu­al­ly get a par­don from defeat­ed Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and, in the mean­time, the terms of his $5 mil­lion bail allowed him to con­tin­ue trav­el­ing to the Nut­meg State.

    But the Rule of Law Soci­ety appar­ent­ly decid­ed not to hold on to the posh pad. The Dai­ly Beast obtained what appears to be an email Pod­hask­ie sent to the organization’s board on Oct. 15, 2020.

    “I am hap­py to report that with­in two weeks of list­ing the Con­necti­cut house for sale, we have received an all-cash offer of $1,500,000,” Pod­hask­ie wrote in an email, under a sub­ject line includ­ing the property’s address. “The Rule of Law Soci­ety intends to move for­ward with this trans­ac­tion. If any­one has any ques­tions, com­ments or con­cerns, feel free to reach out.”

    The sale went through on Nov. 19, 2020, though Wilton land records show the final price was $1,437,500, almost $40,000 less than the group had paid to acquire the house from Sati­nover just three months before. The new pur­chasers told The Dai­ly Beast they had no involve­ment with Ban­non or any loan appli­ca­tion, but declined to com­ment fur­ther.

    Mak­ing the date list­ed on the mort­gage request even stranger, CNBC report­ed that Ban­non had left the Rule of Society—which pur­ports to pro­mote democ­ra­cy in main­land China—in August 2021. His co-founder, Guo Wen­gui, has since been embroiled in a cryp­tocur­ren­cy con­tro­ver­sy that saw his com­pa­nies cough up half a bil­lion dol­lars to the Secu­ri­ties and Exchange Com­mis­sion and has faced recrim­i­na­tions from for­mer aides and sup­port­ers.

    ...

    ———–

    “Steve Ban­non Sought Bizarre Loan as His Jan. 6 Woes Spi­raled” by William Bred­der­man; The Dai­ly Beast; 01/07/2022

    “The mate­ri­als, addressed direct­ly to Ban­non at the $1.5 mil­lion stone estate in the plush sub­ur­ban town of Wilton, do not reveal the amount of mon­ey sought, nor what Ban­non sought it for. They do, how­ev­er, date the loan appli­ca­tion to Dec. 2, 2021, rough­ly three weeks after a grand jury indict­ed Ban­non for refus­ing to tes­ti­fy before the House com­mit­tee prob­ing the Jan. 6 riot and around two weeks fol­low­ing his ini­tial appear­ances in fed­er­al court.

    A Decem­ber 2, 2021 loan appli­ca­tion for Steve Ban­non, rough­ly three weeks after a grand jury indict­ed Ban­non for his refusal to tes­ti­fy before con­gress. That’s not the super sus­pi­cious part of this sto­ry. What’s super sus­pi­cious is that Ban­non does­n’t actu­al­ly own this prop­er­ty. In addi­tion, he attempt­ed to bor­row the mon­ey via a Delaware lim­it­ed lia­bil­i­ty com­pa­ny named for the home­’s address. So it sounds like Ban­non was try­ing to bor­row against the prop­er­ty of this mys­tery busi­ness locat­ed at the plush $1.5 mil­lion stone estate in Wilton, CT. It’s unclear if the loan ever went through, in part because Ban­non does­n’t actu­al­ly own the home or any stake in it:

    ...
    They also indi­cate Ban­non attempt­ed to bor­row the dough from a Phoenix branch of KS State­bank, a Kansas-based lender, via a Delaware lim­it­ed lia­bil­i­ty com­pa­ny named for the home’s address.

    Nei­ther a spokesper­son for Ban­non nor his pow­er­house attor­neys respond­ed to repeat­ed requests for com­ment, and calls and emails to the bank and its employ­ees went unan­swered. It is unclear if the mon­ey ever came through, because the bank sig­naled in the doc­u­ments it might want an appraisal of the five-acre com­pound, with its in-ground pool and guest house—and Ban­non in fact does not own the home or any stake in it.
    ...

    Who’s the own­er? We don’t know. That’s part of the mys­tery. We just know that the cur­rent mys­tery own­ers pur­chased home from Guo Wen­gui’s The Rule of Law Foun­da­tion. It was a quick turn­around for the foun­da­tion, which pur­chased the prop­er­ty from a right-wing psy­chi­a­trist Jef­frey Sati­nover in ear­ly August 2020, then announced two months lat­er that it received an all-cash offer of $1,500,000, which went through in Novem­ber 2020. Although the new own­ers did­n’t pay the full $1,500,000, and end­ed up pay­ing $1,437,500, almost $40,000 less than the ~$1,477,000 the Foun­da­tion paid in August. So in the end, the Rule of Law Foun­da­tion con­duct­ed some sort of mys­tery trans­ac­tion that result in a $40k loss after hold­ing the prop­er­ty for three months. We don’t know the iden­ti­ties of these new own­ers. Flash for­ward to lash month, when Steve Ban­non attempt­ed to get a loan last month via a com­pa­ny that shared an address with that home. And yet, when asked if they had any involve­ment with Ban­non or any loan appli­ca­tion, the new pur­chasers denied any involve­ment but declined to com­ment fur­ther. Hmm­mm....

    ...
    Rather, pub­lic records and pri­vate com­mu­ni­ca­tions The Dai­ly Beast uncov­ered show that the prop­er­ty briefly belonged to the Rule of Law Soci­ety, a non­prof­it Ban­non found­ed in 2018 with fugi­tive Chi­nese bil­lion­aire Guo Wen­gui. Prop­er­ty records show that a sep­a­rate lim­it­ed lia­bil­i­ty com­pa­ny helmed by two of that nonprofit’s offi­cers, includ­ing its attor­ney Daniel Pod­hask­ie, bought the home from con­tro­ver­sial right-wing psy­chi­a­trist Jef­frey Sati­nover in ear­ly August 2020. Efforts to reach Pod­hask­ie and Sati­nover for com­ment for this sto­ry proved unsuc­cess­ful.

    ...

    But the Rule of Law Soci­ety appar­ent­ly decid­ed not to hold on to the posh pad. The Dai­ly Beast obtained what appears to be an email Pod­hask­ie sent to the organization’s board on Oct. 15, 2020.

    “I am hap­py to report that with­in two weeks of list­ing the Con­necti­cut house for sale, we have received an all-cash offer of $1,500,000,” Pod­hask­ie wrote in an email, under a sub­ject line includ­ing the property’s address. “The Rule of Law Soci­ety intends to move for­ward with this trans­ac­tion. If any­one has any ques­tions, com­ments or con­cerns, feel free to reach out.”

    The sale went through on Nov. 19, 2020, though Wilton land records show the final price was $1,437,500, almost $40,000 less than the group had paid to acquire the house from Sati­nover just three months before. The new pur­chasers told The Dai­ly Beast they had no involve­ment with Ban­non or any loan appli­ca­tion, but declined to com­ment fur­ther.
    ...

    Adding to the mys­tery are the reports from back in August 2021 about Ban­non hav­ing left the Rule of Law Soci­ety. Recall how that report includ­ed com­ments from peo­ple famil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion who assert­ed Ban­non had left the Rule of Law Soci­ety at the end of the sum­mer of 2020. Ban­non was arrest­ed by US offi­cials on Guo’s yacht in August of 2020, so his depar­ture from the Rule of Law Soci­ety was pre­sum­ably around that time:

    ...
    Mak­ing the date list­ed on the mort­gage request even stranger, CNBC report­ed that Ban­non had left the Rule of Society—which pur­ports to pro­mote democ­ra­cy in main­land China—in August 2021. His co-founder, Guo Wen­gui, has since been embroiled in a cryp­tocur­ren­cy con­tro­ver­sy that saw his com­pa­nies cough up half a bil­lion dol­lars to the Secu­ri­ties and Exchange Com­mis­sion and has faced recrim­i­na­tions from for­mer aides and sup­port­ers.
    ...

    And recall how ear­ly August 2020 was the time of the Rule of Law Soci­ety’s pur­chase of this prop­er­ty. So in ear­ly August 2020, the Rule of Law Soci­ety buys this prop­er­ty. Ban­non is arrest­ed on Guo’s yacht a few weeks lat­er, around the time he alleged­ly leaves the Rule of Law Soci­ety. Then, a cou­ple months lat­er, the Rule of Law Soci­ety decides to sell the prop­er­ty for slight­ly less than it paid for it in an all-cash offer from the cur­rent mys­tery own­ers. Flash for­ward to Decem­ber 2021, and Ban­non is apply­ing for loan against a cor­po­ra­tion locat­ed at that prop­er­ty.

    The asser­tions that Ban­non and the Guo’s “Rule of Law” groups always seemed like a ques­tion­able, high­ly con­ve­nient nar­ra­tive. A nar­ra­tive that’s a lot more ques­tion­able now that we’ve learned about this loan. It rais­es to the ques­tion of why Ban­non was will­ing to apply for this loan in the first place. It kind of spoiled the ruse. Grant­ed, the ruse was already kind of spoiled, but still...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 11, 2022, 5:32 pm

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