Tax Scam Alert: Paul Ryan Collected $500,000.00 in Koch Brothers Cash After Tax Bill
When Republicans finalized passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, no doubt, the Koch brothers were smiling.
The law slashed corporate income tax rates from 35% to 21%. At the end of 2016, Koch Industries was the second largest private company in the United States. Revenue in 2016 exceeded $100 billion according to Forbes.
Charles Koch is 82. David Koch is 77. The brothers were tied for 8th place on the 2017 Forbes list of the richest people in the world. Each holds a fortune estimated at $48.3 billion. Both will save significantly under the changes to the estate tax. Having failed to repeal the tax entirely though. Republicans could make another attempt in a bill that is not subject to the Byrd Rule. The Byrd Rule limits the impact to the deficit for bills passed through reconciliation instead of normal rules.
The tax bill also repealed the individual mandate to purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The complete repeal of the law nicknamed “Obamacare” has long been a Koch brothers priority. While full repeal failed spectacularly in 2017, the Koch brothers have a Libertarian lean to their political pressure. David Koch was the Libertarian Party nominee for President of the United States in 1980. Repealing the individual mandate still serves to further that goal.
How better to show appreciation for all benefits to the tax bill gave to the members of the Koch family than by sharing some of that largess with the politician who shepherded the law through the House of Representatives? Less than two weeks after the tax bill passed the House, Charles Koch and his wife Elizabeth each donated $247,700 to Team Ryan. Team Ryan is a joint fundraising committee comprised of Ryan for Congress, Inc., Prosperity Action, Inc., and the National Republican Congressional Committee. A full list of Team Ryan donors for the most recent reporting period can be found here. Team Ryan has already received and spent more than $44 million this election cycle, and the next election is still nine months away.
Republicans never hid the fact that this tax bill was about pleasing their big donors. And it looks like House Speaker [Paul] Ryan is quickly being rewarded for passing this legislation that overwhelmingly benefits the Kochs and billionaires like them.
Prior to passage of the tax bill, House Republicans were under significant pressure from donors to get the tax bill passed. Republican Congressman Chris Collins of New York described it this way:
My donors are basically saying, ‘”Get it done or don’t ever call me again.”
Even South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham directly linked future donations and possible failure to pass the legislation when he said:
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, other than that it’ll be fine.
Mother Jones reported that Republican donors were mad as hell before passage, and as a result, were closing their checkbooks. Republican lobbyist and bundler Bill Miller described it this way:
I’m not saying they’ve cut them off for good, but they have cut them off temporarily. This conversation has been repeated more than a few times, “Not going to give right now, Bill, I’m just mad. Nah, not going to give right now.”
While these contributions sure sound like bribes to a casual observer, the Supreme Court has dramatically narrowed the ability to fight corruption while expanding political speech, especially for corporations. No longer is the giving of political contributions to achieve a legislative goal anything unacceptable, let alone illegal. Writing in his opinion on the 2007 case Wisconsin Right to Live v. FEC, Chief Justice John Roberts said:
…corruption only means quid pro quo deals, and there was no evidence of massive quid pro quos between corporations and candidates.
This was further supported by the majority opinion in Citizens United v. FEC three years later. Again, the issue was a lack of provable quid pro quo.
The Supreme Court’s overturning of a bribery conviction against former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell further limited what can be considered a bribe. These limitations were also a key factor in New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Menendez’ 2017 trial which ended with a hung jury.
Paul Ryan has nearly $10 million on hand for his 2018 re-election campaign. He proposes a packed legislative agenda for 2018, aided and abetted by Republican majorities in the House and Senate. Given his recent success at fundraising after recent legislative accomplishments, that war chest is likely to grow significantly.
Politico reported last month that the consensus in Washington is that Ryan will step down from his Speakership and his seat in Congress at the end of his current term in January 2019 even if he wins re-election in November. Ryan already achieved tax reform, and was rewarded handsomely. He has his sights set on entitlement reform in 2018. Come 2019, he could retire from Congress having achieved all he came to Washington to accomplish. He would do so with a fortune in contributions still unspent he can redirect to charities or to other political campaigns. It is good to be king, certainly. But in Washington, it is better to be kingmaker. Especially when you play kingmaker with someone else’s money.
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Dave Weaver is a freelance political journalist and author. Born in Pennsylvania, which was home most of his life, Dave has called Maryland, New York, Kentucky, Arkansas, Ohio, and Maine home over the last decade. All the wandering has allowed Dave to experience America (and Americans) from a variety of perspectives. For a political junkie, the insights gained from this exposure are invaluable.