5 times Republicans admitted they work for rich donors

Sometimes, they say it out loud

Published November 20, 2017 4:00AM (EST)

Paul Ryan (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Paul Ryan (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.


As we all know, there are two goals at the top of Republicans’ to-do list right now:

1. Kicking pedophiles out of their party.

2. Eschewing support from neo-Nazis.

Just kidding! They’re not doing either of those things. In fact, Republicans are contorting themselves into all kinds of word and moral pretzels to defend pedophiles and racists. The GOP big tent is pretty much closed to Muslims and Mexicans, but come one, come all, fascists and sexual predators of every stripe!

In addition to throwing off any delusions of decency, Republicans have dedicated themselves to two other priorities. The first is taking away health care from millions of Americans, mostly to destroy the legislative legacy of America’s first black president. Their second priority is to pass a tax bill that decreases spending for big businesses, phases out the estate tax for rich people and gets rid of middle-class deductions for medical expenses and student loans. (In case you’re worried, golf course owners will still get the same huge tax break they always have. Weird they didn’t cut that policy, huh?) Both efforts will ultimately help make America’s richest residents even richer, which is precisely what the GOP’s big-money backers want. The only problem is, congressional Republicans haven’t managed to pass their health care or tax plans, and their billionaire donors are getting testy.

"Get Obamacare repealed and replaced, get tax reform passed," Doug Deason, a high-profile Texas donor, warned Republican lawmakers, per the AP. "You control the Senate. You control the House. You have the presidency. There's no reason you can't get this done. Get it done and we'll open [our wallets] back up."

“The GOP leaders should know, no movement on remaining agenda: tax reform, infrastructure, deregulation, etc. means no funding from supporters like me,” one donor wrote in a letter to a GOP fundraiser, Politico reports. “No meetings, calls, contributions until we see progress.”

USA Today reports that there’s been a significant drop-off in donor dollars following the GOP’s big legislative fails: “Senate Republican fundraising plummeted as efforts to repeal Obamacare stumbled, falling from the $7 million that NRSC raised in March—its biggest monthly haul for a non-election year—to $2.1 million in August, Federal Election Commission records show."

The threat of losing wealthy donors has some GOP lawmakers so off their game, they’ve started publicly admitting they work for the rich. Here are five times Republicans admitted they’re just trying to keep their rich donors happy.

1. New York Republican senator totally transparent about fear of losing rich backers.

While speaking with the press outside a House GOP conference last Tuesday, Chris Collins let slip why getting the Republican tax plan passed is so important to him.

“My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again,’” Collins told reporters, according to the Hill.

“An analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics shows that in the 2017-'18 election cycle, slightly more than half of the $627,203 Collins raised came from political action committees representing business interests,” the Buffalo News notes. “Some $108,899 came from health care industry PACs, while $50,500 came from the energy industry and $50,000 came from political committees representing the communications or electronics industries.”

Collins has also been in the news because a recent report from the House Ethics Committee determined there is “substantial reason to believe” the congressman has been involved in insider trading. Louise Slaughter, a Democrat representative of a nearby district, said that the congressman “put his obsession to enrich himself before the people he swore to represent. It is a disgrace to Congress and to his constituents, who deserve better."

2. Colorado senator all for having 32 million uninsured Americans, as long as the money keeps flowing.

Back in September, Colorado Senator Cory Gardner told colleagues the failure to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, could mean big losses in contributions.

Donors are furious,” Gardner said, according to a New York Times report. “We haven’t kept our promise.”

The Times article went on to describe Senate GOPers as “panicked,” and suggested fear over donation losses was “behind the sudden zeal to take one last crack at repealing the health care law” back in September.

3. Lindsey Graham says the party’s coffers are dependent on tax plan passing.

In addition to cautioning last month that Republicans will lose seats in the House and Senate if the GOP tax reform bill doesn’t pass, Senator Graham issued a more dire warning on Thursday.

"The party fractures, most incumbents in 2018 will get a severe primary challenge, a lot of them will probably lose, the base will fracture, the financial contributions will stop,” Graham said, “other than that it'll be fine."

Graham has also suggested that Trump is a goner if this tax thing doesn’t happen, because the Dems will—politically speaking—take him out by attempting “to impeach him pretty quick.”

"[I]t would be just one constant investigation after another,” Graham groused, without a trace of irony. “So it's important that we pass tax reform in a meaningful way. If we don't, that's probably the end of the Republican Party as we know it."

4. Corporate behemoths love our tax plan, gushes Trump adviser.

Gary Cohn was the COO of Goldman Sachs for more than a decade before the administration brought him in to lead the National Economic Council. As a result, he has spent a lot of time in the rarefied world of the super-rich, and significantly less time in the real world. That might explain why he thinks a family can buy a new car for about $1,000. It might also be why he thinks it’s a good idea to try to sell a wildly unpopular tax plan by telling people Fortune 500 C-suiters are just gaga for it.

“The most excited group out there are big CEOs, about our tax plan,” Cohn said during an interview with CNBC’s John Harwood.

Here’s another amazing moment from that interview:

Cohn: It's not our intention to give the wealthy a tax cut.

Harwood: But they're getting one.

Cohn: I don't believe that we've set out to create a tax cut for the wealthy. If someone's getting a tax cut, I'm not upset that they're getting a tax cut. I'm really not upset.

When Harwood asked about the bill’s repeal of the estate tax, Cohn, the Leona Helmsley of 2017, did an astoundingly poor job of trying to spin it into a farm-aid policy. Also, he not only referred to himself in the third person but insisted on using both his first and last names, which makes the whole exchange even more irritating.

Cohn: On the estate tax, if you look at the couple of groups who are the biggest advocates for repealing the estate tax, it really is the pass-through business and it's the farmers.

Harwood: It’s Donald Trump, Gary Cohn, people like you guys.

Cohn: Gary Cohn doesn’t care about the estate tax, I can guarantee you. I can guarantee you.

Harwood: You’re the one who said only a moron pays the estate tax.

Cohn: I can guarantee you Gary Cohn doesn’t care about the estate tax.

Harwood: When you look at the actual number of real farms that pay the estate tax, it is tiny—in the dozens.

Cohn: Well, I think people have managed to keep themselves below the estate tax. This is the whole issue. Many people are smart enough to know how to manage themselves out of the estate tax. So, if you have a family farm that’s big enough that it’s going to hit the estate tax, you start paying lawyers, consultants, and accountants to break up your land, and break up your farm, and giving it to the kids when the families would prefer to keep the farm intact, keep it whole, and manage it as one big farm. We’re forcing people into irrational behavior, when we’d like to keep them in rational behavior, and run the farm as one big farm.

Harwood: Are you seriously saying with a straight face that getting rid of the estate tax is about farmers and not about very wealthy families?

Cohn: What I'm saying is that it benefits farms, it benefits small businesses, it benefits a lot of different people.

Yes, it benefits a lot of different people who’ve inherited more than $5.5 million. And roughly 80 small businesses and farms nationwide.

5. Another source confirms the health care bill was a show for big-money contributors.

Politico spoke with multiple Senate Republicans as they prepared for another attempt to wipe out Obamacare two months ago. The Graham-Cassidy bill ultimately died before being brought to a vote, and some GOP lawmakers implied the whole thing was political theater anyway.

“One Republican senator suggested that McConnell may ultimately decide to bring the bill up for another failed vote, in part to show GOP donors and President Donald Trump that the Senate GOP tried again,” Politico noted.

As long as they get an "A" for effort from donors, they’ll keep getting money for their campaigns. And once the bill died, Republicans signaled to their big-name supporters that they plan to ping-pong between taxes and health care—the only two bills they really care about passing—until one of them happens.

“Where we go from here is tax reform,” McConnell told Vox pretty much as soon as the bill was killed.

Graham parroted the idea. “We’re coming back to this after taxes,” he told the outlet.

By Kali Holloway

Kali Holloway is the senior director of Make It Right, a project of the Independent Media Institute. She co-curated the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s MetLiveArts 2017 summer performance and film series, “Theater of the Resist.” She previously worked on the HBO documentary Southern Rites, PBS documentary The New Public and Emmy-nominated film Brooklyn Castle, and Outreach Consultant on the award-winning documentary The New Black. Her writing has appeared in AlterNet, Salon, the Guardian, TIME, the Huffington Post, the National Memo, and numerous other outlets.

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