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Why the House GOP taking Steve Wynn's money is so tough to defend

If there's a defense for Kevin McCarthy taking -- and celebrating -- Steve Wynn's money, I can't think of it.
Image: Steve Wynn speaks at a conference in Beverly Hills
Steve Wynn, chairman and chief executive officer of Wynn Resorts Ltd., speaks at a conference in Beverly Hills, California, on May 3, 2017.Patrick T. Fallon / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

The Associated Press reported the other day on a massive Republican campaign contribution that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is proud of. He shouldn't be.

A major House Republican fundraising committee overseen by GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy received over $770,000 from Steve Wynn, a Las Vegas casino mogul who stepped down from his company in 2018 after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct. The donation, which Wynn made in late March, was one of the largest given so far this election cycle to Take Back the House 2022, according to campaign finance disclosures made public Thursday. The committee splits massive fundraising hauls between 59 Republican House members, as well as about 20 other GOP political operations.

Pressed for an explanation, the House GOP leader said in a written statement, "Steve Wynn is one of the great innovators in the history of modern capitalism. I thank him for his continued support, and I look forward to working with him to retake the House Majority."

You've got to be kidding me.

For those who may not recall how we arrived at this point, let's take a stroll down memory lane.

Four years ago this month, the Republican National Committee issued a press release introducing the members of its finance team, which was responsible for helping raise money for Donald Trump and his party. Three men -- Elliott Broidy, Michael Cohen, and Louis DeJoy -- would serve as the National Deputy Finance Chairmen, and each of three proved to be highly controversial in their own respective ways.

But they were led by then-RNC Finance Chairman Steve Wynn -- right up until he was forced to resign a year later in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations. That story grew more serious in the months that followed: an investigatory report later painted an ugly portrait of an executive accused of "sexually assaulting or harassing" many women who worked for him.

In April 2019, state regulators concluded that Wynn's company "ran a longstanding, sophisticated cover-up to protect founder Steve Wynn from allegations by employees that he had engaged in sexual misconduct against them."

It wasn't long before many Republicans scrambled to distance themselves from Wynn and his money. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), for example, not only returned Wynn's contribution, she said ahead of her 2020 re-election bid, "I don't even think it's a close call to return the money."

And yet, there's Kevin McCarthy, who not only disagrees, he's also decided to make the opposite call and celebrate Wynn's money. The House Republican leader knows exactly what Wynn has been accused of, but he's decided not to care.

I seem to recall the Republican Party adopting an entirely different standard in the recent past. Circling back to our earlier coverage, when Harvey Weinstein faced related allegations in 2017, the RNC invested considerable energy, not only in trying to tie Weinstein to Democrats, but also in demanding that the DNC return any contributions it received from the disgraced Hollywood producer.

When the DNC was slow to respond, the Republican National Committee intensified its focus. It didn't matter that Weinstein had no formal connection to Democratic politics; he was a Democratic donor and for the RNC, that was enough. "If the DNC truly stands up for women like they say they do, then returning Weinstein's dirty money should be a no-brainer," the Republican National Committee said in October 2017.

And yet, here we are, watching Kevin McCarthy praise and thank Steve Wynn -- even vowing to work with him again in the near future -- as if the sexual misconduct allegations are simply less important than Republicans' quest for power.