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The Quid and the Quo

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What a happy coincidence:

Just weeks later, the GOP effort to repeal Obamacare collapsed. Tax reform, which one Republican senator said would make repealing Obamacare look like a piece of cake, ominously loomed as the next item on the GOP agenda, and time was running out. Panic set in. By November, as Congress struggled to push a massive tax cut bill forward, Rep. Chris Collins from New York summed up the stakes: “My donors are basically saying: ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.’”

Lawmakers got it done. Just days before the holiday break, relieved Republicans delivered those wealthy donors what they wanted: one of the biggest tax cuts in history, one that would almost exclusively benefit the wealthy.

From the looks of it, GOP politicians got what they wanted, too. From the time the tax bill was first introduced on Nov. 2, 2017, until the end of the year, a 60-day period, dozens of billionaires and millionaires dramatically boosted their political contributions unlike they had in past years, giving a total of $31.1 million in that two months, a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics found.

The Center’s analysis found that 144 wealthy donors, some household names and some behind-the-scenes, contributed at least $50,000 to Republicans and conservative groups in that time frame. For 87 of those, three out of five, the surge of giving at year’s end reflected a marked change in their giving behavior. These well-heeled donors increased the share of their annual giving in the last two months of 2017 compared with previous off-year elections going back to 2009.

Most telling, say campaign finance experts, is that 25 wealthy donors gave all their 2017 money in the final two months of the year, the first time they did so during the previous four off-election years—2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, according to the Center’s analysis of data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics. The contributions the Center analyzed do not include the hundreds of millions of dollars given to dark money groups, which are not required to identify donors.

The evidence shows that big donors, collectively, acted to leverage their clout to help push through the tax cut law that would enrich the kinds of corporations, limited partnerships, real estate holdings and huge investments that many of them own, campaign finance experts say.

In related news, in his characteristically grandiose and overreaching Citizens United opinion Kennedy also asserted that allowing corporate interests the ability to swamp the political process with money is no big deal because transparency will counteract corporate power:

The First Amendment protects political speech; and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.

This high-school MARKETPLACE OF IDEAS logic is even on its face almost painfully naive — knowing that Sheldon Adelson has self-interested reasons for giving huge amounts of money to politicians means shit if he can directly influence the political process and you can’t. But it’s even worse than that. Republicans are of course now arguing that transparency is in fact an attack on political speech, and plutocrats should be able to swamp the political process without public scrutiny. It’s all part of an endless series of bait-and-switches. I’m sure Mitch McConnell will get right on passing the DISCLOSE Act, though!

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