Back in November, Breitbart began the process to secure official Capitol Hill credentials. On Friday, the site’s CEO, Larry Solov, appeared before the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery and revealed, for what is believed to be the first time, who owns the right-wing nationalist site that has grown exponentially in influence over the past few years.
According to BuzzFeed’s Steve Perlberg, who live-tweeted the meeting, Solov revealed that the owners are himself, founder Andrew Breitbart’s widow, Susie Breitbart, and the Republican megadonor family the Mercers. Breitbart’s family owns the largest stake.
Within the rules of admission to the gallery, there is a clause that states the person and organization holding the pass “must not be engaged in any lobbying or paid advocacy, advertising, publicity or promotion work for any individual, political party, corporation, organization, or agency of the U.S. government.” In order to prove that they are not engaged in any of the above and are an editorially independent institution, the Standing Committee can ask for information or proof on how the business is structured.
Solov said during the meeting that he wants “to disclose as little as possible about financial and ownership structure.” But the Standing Committee had questions, per Perlberg, about Steve Bannon’s involvement. Bannon was Breitbart’s chairman until he joined the Trump campaign last August, and is now chief strategist at the White House.
In the meeting, the committee asked for proof of Bannon’s disassociation from the site. Solov said Bannon resigned to him “via phone,” but the committee said it wanted a letter stating the date of his resignation, that it’s a termination and not a leave, and for the letter to address any editorial and financial interest.
“If I could get Bannon to write it down, I would,” Solov said, according to Perlberg.
Breitbart has publicly said in the past that it does not discuss its investors. The Mercer family, who backed both Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, had been believed to be major backers of the site. There were rumors early in the 2016 primary campaign that Trump himself was financially involved, but that’s been denied by both parties.
In the meantime, Breitbart reporters have been able to report from the Capitol using a temporary pass, until a decision has been reached on permanent credentials.
Other publications, such as the well-regarded SCOTUSblog, have been denied credentials by the gallery. In the case of SCOTUSblog, it was because of the dual role of the publisher, who was also the proprietor of a law firm that argues before the court.