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Illustration: Mark Wilson/Staff Getty; Timothy A. Clary/Contributor; Aïda Amer/Axios

The mystery of who's funding Steve Bannon's work has been at least partly solved: Guo Media, a company linked to a controversial Chinese billionaire, has contracted Bannon for at least $1 million for “strategic consulting services,” according to contracts obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The billionaire fugitive — a man named Guo Wengui, also known as Miles Kwok — is embroiled in the U.S.-China conflict. He’s a vocal critic of the Chinese Communist Party and is reportedly a member at Mar-a-Lago. He’s on China’s most-wanted list for alleged bribery, fraud and money laundering, per the New York Times (he strongly denies the allegations).

  • Guo has been living in New York while he awaits a decision on his U.S. asylum application. And the Chinese government has asked the Trump administration to extradite him.
  • Bannon declined to comment.

The first contract, signed between Bannon and Guo Media, gives Bannon $1 million for one year of consulting services beginning in August 2018.

  • Bannon is specifically contracted to introduce Guo Media to “media personalities,” and advise the company on “industry standards.”
  • Bannon has made China one of his top issues since leaving the White House in the summer of 2017.

The second contract, which was set to begin in August 2019 and is unsigned, offered Bannon $1 million for consulting and set more specific expectations.

  • In addition to the services requested in the first contract, the second would have required Bannon to serve as senior editor for G News — Guo Media’s news arm — and help to elevate G News as a credible source of news on China.

Guo Media is owned by Saraca Media Group, a company incorporated in Delaware, according to the contracts. Per a March 2019 tax filing, the president and director of Saraca was an individual named Han Chunguang.

“[I]t is my understanding that given Mr. Bannon's cross-border financial expertise at Goldman Sachs and Societe Generale, Saraca previously retained him for strategic advisory work regarding media investments, M&A, joint ventures, and cryptocurrencies,” Daniel Podhaskie, a spokesperson for Guo, tells Axios in an email statement.

  • “Mr. Bannon's work in these areas was complete and he is currently not retained. Mr. Guo had no involvement in him being retained or his work for Saraca.”
  • “Mr. Guo has no financial interest in Saraca Media Group or its media platform known as ‘Guo Media.’ Mr. Guo is merely the face of Guo Media and was requested by Saraca to act in this capacity given Mr. Guo’s outspoken criticism of the Chinese Communist Party.”
  • “Mr. Guo agreed to work with Saraca, but insisted that he not be compensated given his prior emphasis that his fight against the CCP is not about money. His entire goal has been to take down the CCP and free his fellow countrymen in China.”
  • As to China's allegations, "the reality is that Mr. Guo is the most wanted person in China because of his outspoken criticism of the Chinese Communist Party; desire to eliminate the CCP’s stranglehold on the Chinese people and bring the rule of law to China," Podhaskie said.

The backstory: Guo and Bannon first met in October 2017, and the two have had numerous meetings since then, the New York Times’ David Barboza reports. Last year, they announced the joint launch of a $100 million “Rule of Law Fund” to investigate the deaths and disappearances of Chinese public figures.

  • Guo told Barboza, “We both naturally despise the Chinese Communist Party. That’s why we’ve become partners.”
  • Bannon also told the Hill he has recorded a radio show out of Guo’s New York apartment.

Although Guo’s spokesperson says the billionaire has no financial stake in Guo Media, Guo has a pervasive presence that dominates the platform.

Read the contracts:

Go deeper

Afghanistan's president coming to Washington on Friday

Ashraf Ghani, left, president of Afghanistan, and Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

As the U.S. troop withdrawal accelerates, President Biden will welcome Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, at the White House on Friday.

Our thought bubble: Axios politics editor Glen Johnson, who traveled to Afghanistan while working for Secretary of State John Kerry, said inviting both Ghani and Abdullah to Washington shows the administration’s respect for the delicate balance of power in the country.

Educators face fines, harassment over critical race theory

People talk before the start of a rally against critical race theory being taught in schools at the Loudoun County Government center in Leesburg, Va. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Elementary school teachers, administrators and college professors are facing fines, physical threats, and fear of firing because of an organized push from the right to remove classroom discussions of systemic racism.

Why it matters: Moves to ban critical race theory are raising free speech concerns amid an absence of consistent parameters about what teachings are in or out of bounds.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

1 dead after pickup truck hits Pride spectators in Florida

Police investigate the scene where a pickup truck drove into a crowd of people at a Pride parade in Wilton Manors, Florida, on Saturday. Photo: Jason Koerner/Getty Images

A driver in a pickup truck hit spectators at a Pride festival in Wilton Manors, Florida, killing a man and leaving another person hospitalized Saturday, authorities said.

Details: Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis told reporters police had "apprehended the driver" and that the vehicle missed a parade car carrying Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) "by inches."