The Dallas Piggy Bank

September 17, 2020
In The News

In June 2017, a group of 400 conservative donors was wrapping up a conference organized by the Koch Brothers at the five-star Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs…. The donors were upset with Republicans in Congress. The GOP controlled the House, the Senate and the Oval Office. Yet they hadn’t overturned Obamacare or cut taxes, as Republicans had promised on the campaign trail the previous year…. What unfolded in subsequent months offers an instructive example of how the wealthy and well-connected drive policy in the Trump administration…. “My donors are basically saying: ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again,’” Rep. Chris Collins, R-New York, said as Congress was debating the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which slashed the corporate tax rate and gave hundreds of millions of dollars to the wealthy.  (Collins was convicted this year of insider trading and sentenced to more than two years in prison.) Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said GOP donors would quit giving if Congress didn’t pass the bill. Critics of big money in politics pounced. “There was very much an atmosphere of payment on delivery, like, ‘You will get paid when you deliver this particular piece of legislation,’” Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., said in an interview with Public Integrity. Sarbanes and advocates for campaign- finance reform call this kind of politics “pay-to-play.” They don’t think it’s fair to Americans who lack the money to get the kind of access Deason and other wealthy donors have. Public Integrity’s investigation found that  Deason reopened his Dallas Piggy Bank after the tax-cuts bill looked like it was going to pass. Dozens of other rich Republican donors opened their wallets, too. “The tax bill and how that came to be, I think really is Exhibit A of how the influence of money can distort and warp public policy in a way that cuts against the broad interest of the public,” Sarbanes said.