Discover more from The Corsair
Republican Contenders,PACs and their Billionaire Masters
Nothing but the PACs
“How is it that the top 1% evade $163,000,000,000 in taxes every year, but immigrants are called the freeloaders?” Congressman Adriano Espaillat Tweeted a few years ago. It is an interesting question, of course, and one that deserves an answer. According to Americans for Tax Fairness, Congressional campaign contributions by the billionaire class topped $1 billion in 2022, for the first time in history. Elections — and billionaire contributions — have consequences. Immigrants, without monied interests to defend them, are the most vulnerable. They are the perfect victims, minorities without powerful defenders, in our political blame game of a system. If anyone brings up the disproportionate influence of the billionaire class, immigrants are the perfect villains. “Look at the barbarian hordes at the border!”
And while both parties play this terrible, cynical game of relieving the tax burden on the donor class (thus increasing the burden on the middle), one party clearly does it so far more than the other. It is, to be sure, fashionable to say, “the system is rigged,” adding, sotto voce, “the Democrats do it as much as the Republicans.” Which is not true! Trump has had first-mover advantage in this, unfortunately, saying it aloud with the strongman proviso, “I alone can fix it.” But instead of fixing it, Trump continued to cut taxes on billionaires, all the while pointing his short, vulgarian index finger at the border.
But we are not so easily distracted. The damning ProPublica report on the tax avoidance strategies of the wealthy, that dropped during the height of COVID lockdowns, remains in the foreground of our thoughts. From the report:
In 2007, Jeff Bezos, then a multibillionaire and now the world’s richest man, did not pay a penny in federal income taxes. He achieved the feat again in 2011. In 2018, Tesla founder Elon Musk, the second-richest person in the world, also paid no federal income taxes.
Michael Bloomberg managed to do the same in recent years. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn did it twice. George Soros paid no federal income tax three years in a row.
No one is louder going on about the both-sidesism of our “broken system” than Arizona’s Junior Senator. Newly-minted Independent Kysten Sinema had to leave the Democrat Party because she was so utterly and obviously Wall Street’s bagman. She could have not won re-election as a Democrat; she could not have won a Republican primary. So that is why — not for our “broken system” — she is now an Independent. And if she can’t win re-election as that, she might join Joe Manchin on the “No Labels” third party ticket, probabably funded by a lot of wealthy people, though we do not know for sure because they don’t disclose their donors. If that is the case, it would be America’s first dark money ballot line. Charmed, I’m sure.
By contrast, Biden’s plan on taxing the billionaire class is incommensurable with Trump’s — or, for that matter, any of the Republican Presidential contenders. Described as “a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America in a fiscally responsible way,” Biden’s 2024 budget has a laser-like focus on billionaires as well as increased military spending. However one feels about a military spend increase during the Ukraine War, Biden’s economic calculations apear sound. From Rachel M. Cohen of Vox:
The White House is also staking out a strong defense of protecting Medicare and Social Security, entitlement programs that budget experts say are straining federal purse strings, and Republicans have openly discussed cutting. One new tax proposal on top earners would go toward funding Medicare, as would new proposals on negotiating drug costs.
… On social spending, the White House is sticking with key Democratic priorities, including a restoration of the expanded child tax credit, an expansion of free school meals, paid family leave, new spending on high-poverty schools, child care, and universal preschool for 4-year olds. (In earlier budgets, the White House called for funding of universal preschool for 3-year-olds too, but said it wanted a more targeted approach this year.)
Without the Trump -- and Bush -- tax cuts, debt as a percentage of the economy would be declining permanently. The billionaire donor class certainly got their moneys worth with those two Einsteins. “President Donald Trump’s signature tax bill, enacted when Republicans gained control of the White House and both houses of Congress in 2017, will have cost roughly $1.7 trillion by the end of fiscal year 2023,” writes Bobby Kogan of the Center for American Progress. “These tax cuts reduced personal income tax rates and permanently lowered the corporate tax rate, among other changes." If Trump wins again, it will be more of the same tax cuts, focused on the corporate tax rate, but on steroids. Why else do you think the John Malone’s of the world are stalwart Trump donors? Certainly not because of Trump’s education policy.
But what about the other contenders?
Ron DeSantis is rolling in seven-figure checks from donors, like a pig in mud. Though some billionaires — like Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman — have become skeptical of his floundering campaign, he is still holding onto the ones that brung him, like Ken Griffin. Florida’s Governor, lacking a proper border with Mexico, has been employing “Wokism” as his favorite voter distraction. “Don’t look at the billionaires behind the curtain,” he seems to be saying. Ron DeSantis has had of late a lot of negative press for the use of private jets he uses from mega donors. According to Vanity Fair:
In a review of campaign finance reports, flight tracking databases and corporate records, the Times counted roughly 55 “wealthy, mostly Florida-based contributors and companies'' who have financed DeSantis’s private air travel. The group includes “the heads of oil and gas companies, developers and homebuilders, and health care and insurance executives.”
Further, Hal Lambert, who founded Point Bridge Capital and was a Trump donor, now supports DeSantis, even as the Florida Governor is engaged in a sanguinary war against Mickey Mouse. Thomas Peterffy, a true libertarian (if that is even a compliment), has decided to bounce. DeSantis has about $100 million on hand, obviously not raised by small donors. That having been said, DeSantis is not to be looked at to stand up to billionaires to pay their fair share of the tax burden.
Who won the week, though? Senator Tim Scott, the Republican “inspirational” candidate announced the start of his Presidential campaign this week, got a bit of a bounce. Scott, though polling at under 3 percent right now, has some powerful backers and money behind him. Billionaire Oracle founder Larry Ellison has already given a pro-Scott PAC, Opportunity Matters Fund, $30 million (Thanks, Citizens United!). Scott has $22 million on hand that he’s flipped from his Senate war chest, which puts him in the lower-upper tier. Further, Scott is the favorite candidate of Senate Republicans. John Thune — No. 2 Republican in the Senate — endorsed and shared the stage with him this week. And from the shadows, Mitch McConnell’s fingerprints can be seen all over the announcement. He’s already made a $6 million ad buy in several states.
Nikki Haley, who has made at least 22 campaign stops in Iowa, is still low polling nationally, but even more alarmingly, in her home state. She is also down to about $2 million in her war chest, which means, conceivably, that she might not even make it to Iowa, despite her omnipresence in the Buckeye state. Haley’s donations come from New York hedge fund manager Paul Singer, investor Stanley Druckenmiller, Oil and gas magnate Harold Hamm, Wall Street titan Aryeh Bourkoff as well as Miriam Adelson and her late husband, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.
Governor Youngkin, who may or may not be running, is getting some donor love as well. But it has been speculated that Youngkin is just making the motions because he is a term-limited Governor. Moch-running gives him some status, even as he increasingly becomes a lame duck, politically. “The team that helped him flip Virginia red has moved over to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ PAC, Never Back Down,” notes Lydia Moynihan of The Post. “Youngkin’s top adviser in the gubernatorial race, Jeff Roe, as well as political strategists Kristin Davison and Ken Cuccinelli have joined the PAC helping DeSantis.”
The former Vice President has a super PAC. So does Chris Christie, who counts Home Depot founder Ken Langone, Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, Las Vegas casino mogul Stephen Wynn as well as Hedge fund manager Steve Cohen and his wife Alexandra as donors.
Neither of those candidates, however, appear to be going anywhere in the polls.
How are the West Coast states trending? (Sabatos Crystal Ball)
On the death of MTV News (American Independents)
“Rupert Murdoch must have been all smiles on Wednesday evening.” (Reliable Sources)
“Throughout the continent, Wagner has provided a range of services, including military (offensive combat operations, training and equipment, personal and/or regime security), political (advising government leadership), economic (extracting natural resources), logistical (providing facilitation hubs), and information operations. Wagner maintains ongoing operations in Algeria, Libya, Burkina Faso, Mali, Sudan, Eritrea, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic.” (Colin P. Clarke)
“Certain Hollywood types fretted about whether toasting Warner — and by extension its recently crowned king, CEO David Zaslav (or Zas, as he’s already been mono-named) — was entirely, you know, the right thing to do quite so openly.” (Intelligencer)