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Missouri's Hawley rewarded by donors after anti-election efforts

As Hawley's anti-election efforts are rewarded by donors, the system of incentives in Republican politics has become even more twisted.
Image: Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. raises his fist toward a crowd of supporters of President Donald Trump gathered outside the Capitol
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. raises his fist toward a crowd of supporters of President Donald Trump gathered outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.Francis Chung / E&E News and Politico via AP Images

January was quite a month for Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), starting with the senator's anti-election efforts that turned him into a political "pariah" on Capitol Hill.

But as regular readers know, that's really just the start. Hawley has been denounced by former allies; businesses don't want anything to do with him; several independent outlets have called on the Missouri Republican to resign in disgrace; and seven of his Senate colleagues recently filed an ethics complaint against him.

Hawley, however, acts like a politician who doesn't have any regrets -- and this new Axios report helps explain why.

January was Sen. Josh Hawley's best fundraising month—by far—since his 2018 election, with a flood of small-dollar donations more than eclipsing the corporate cash he lost after leading an effort to block certification of President Biden's Electoral College win.... Corporate PACs cut ties with the Missouri Republican after the Capitol insurrection that followed the Hawley-led gambit. But his grassroots fundraising bonanza in the weeks after shows the GOP base still firmly in Hawley's camp.

So, on the one hand, there are companies like Hallmark, which recently requested that Hawley give back the money Hallmark's political action committee gave him, saying the senator's recent actions "do not reflect our company's values."

But on the other hand, the Missouri Republican almost certainly finds it easy to brush this off, thanks to "roughly 12,000 new donors" who were only too pleased to reward Hawley for his role in trying to undermine our democracy.

This matters, of course, because of the system of incentives it creates, not just for Hawley, but for others in his party. On the surface, the Missourian appears to have suffered a brutal setback: Hawley has lost his colleagues' respect and his professional reputation lies in tatters.

Just below the surface, meanwhile, the GOP senator is right where he wants to be: raking in money from far-right donors, positioning himself as an heir to Trump's most rabid followers, and appearing regularly in conservative media as a far-right darling. Hawley won't be able to get anything done on Capitol Hill, but since he doesn't have much of an agenda, and his post-policy party doesn't much care about substantive accomplishments anyway, it's a price he's willing to pay.

The related message to every other Republican is obvious: you, too, can get a fundraising and media boost, while shredding your credibility and reputation. All you have to do is follow Josh Hawley's lead.