The Republican former secretary of state of Kansas who is running for state attorney general has resigned from the board of directors of We Build the Wall Inc, a nonprofit organisation facing allegations of money laundering, conspiracy and fraud after allegedly defrauding thousands of people who financially supported the group’s mission of building a wall along the US-Mexico border.
Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist who was convicted on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress earlier this year, was charged in New York on 8 September in connection with the alleged scheme.
Board member Kris Kobach, who also served as the group’s chief counsel, told the Kansas City Star on Friday that he has resigned from both roles, one day after Bannon surrendered to charges in New York.
Mr Kobach – who emerged as an early and prominent proponent of debunked claims of widespread voter fraud – has served on the board of We Build the Wall since at least July 2019 after the group was incorporated, according to government filings
The six-count indictment against the group and Bannon alleges that the group facilitated money laundering, conspiracy and fraud between January or February 2019 and October or December 2019.
The New York charges echo a federal indictment that Bannon evaded with a pardon from then-President Donald Trump as one of his final acts in office.
In a briefing in New York on 8 September, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg accused Bannon and We Build the Wall and its associates of a “years-long fundraising scheme” that defrauded thousands of donors across the US.
Bannon repeatedly and falsely promised that “not a penny” of the funds would go towards the salary of We Build the Wall president Brian Kolfage, Mr Bragg said. Bannon used that phrase “time and time again” while soliciting donations through online campaigns and in media appearances, he added.
The money allegedly laundered by Bannon to pay the group president’s salary is in “direct contradiction to the many, many promises made by Bannon, We Build the Wall and many others” involved with the scheme, Mr Bragg said.
Kolfage received a $250,000 salary from donated funds, which Bannon had obscured, prosecutors allege.
“The simple truth is that it is a crime to profit off the backs of donors by making many false pretenses,” Mr Bragg added.
Kolfage is named in the state’s indictment as “Unindicted Co-Conspirator 1.” He pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges connected to the federal case.
Both Bannon and We Build the Wall have pleaded not guilty to the charges in New York.