In early-November 2017, there was still some question as to whether the Republican tax plan would pass. Polls showed strong public opposition to the GOP blueprint, and some vulnerable Republicans admitted they were nervous about supporting hefty tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations.
But much of the party also faced pressure from rich donors who warned the party not to fail. Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), who was later indicted by the FBI over alleged insider trading, admitted at the time, “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.’”
And while it was jarring to hear a member of Congress speak so candidly about meeting the demands of campaign contributors, it was also a precursor of things to come. Republicans, of course, did pass those tax breaks, and because they “got it done,” wealthy beneficiaries are returning the favor by opening their wallets. The New York Times reported:
Republicans are struggling to make the $1.5 trillion Trump tax cuts a winning issue with voters in the midterm congressional elections, but the cuts are helping the party in another crucial way: unlocking tens of millions of dollars in campaign donations from the wealthy conservatives and corporate interests that benefited handsomely from it.
Billionaires and corporations that reaped millions of dollars in tax cuts are pumping some of that windfall into the Congressional Leadership Fund, a “super PAC” closely aligned with Speaker Paul D. Ryan that is flooding the airwaves and front porches of swing congressional districts with increasingly sharp attacks on the Democratic candidates vying to wrest control of the House.
It’s quite a cycle, isn’t it? Republican candidates run, assuring voters they’ll look out for the interests of working people. Those candidates become Republican officeholders, who use their offices to help the rich and powerful. The rich and powerful then show their appreciation for their GOP benefactors by rewarding them with generous campaign contributions.
And Republicans then use that money to run commercials that assure voters they’ll look out for the interests of working people.
For the donors, the amount they’re giving back to Republicans is a small fraction of what Republicans gave them in the form of tax cuts. From the Times’ report:
The fund’s donors include the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who has given $30 million, and whose company, Las Vegas Sands, reported a nearly $700 million windfall from the tax law earlier this year; Timothy Mellon, chairman and majority owner of Pan Am Systems, a privately held collection of companies that includes rail, aviation and marketing services, who has contributed $24 million; Valero Services, a Texas oil refining company that reported a $1.9 billion benefit from tax cuts in the first quarter, and which has given $1.5 million; and a collection of other corporations, executives and financial fund managers.
Around Thanksgiving last year, Donald Trump spoke at an event in Missouri and declared, in reference to him and his party, “Our focus is on helping the folks who work in the mail rooms and machine shops of America – the plumbers, the carpenters, the cops, the teachers, the truck drivers, the pipe fitters – the people that like me best. Actually, the rich people actually don’t like me, which is sort of interesting. And that’s fine. You know what? I like that trade.”
Nine months later, it looks like plenty of rich people are quite pleased after all.