By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
F. Scott Fitzgerald, in his 1926 short story The Rich Boy, famously wrote, “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.”
Today’s very rich Republicans and Democrats exploit their difference to spend as much as they want to control the nation’s politicians.
A striking example of one legal way they do this showed itself this month in electioneering paperwork required to be filed publicly with the Federal Election Commission.
Six years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court’s McCutcheon decision created a loophole that allows megadonors to evade the dollar limits on contributions to the national parties by laundering funds through the state parties.
“As is often the case with campaign finance law, the scandal is what is legal,” said Brett Kappel, a campaign finance expert at the Washington D.C. law firm Harmon Curran.
On Sept. 4, the president’s joint fundraising committee, Trump Victory, transferred almost $1 million it raised from megadonors to the Republican Party of Florida. The same day, the Republican Party of Florida transferred the exact same amount – $920,090.63 – to the Republican National Committee (RNC).
Why the brief detour through Florida?
By law, individual donors are limited to giving $5,600 to a candidate’s committee per election, $35,500 per year to national party committees and $10,000 per year to each state party committee.
Since these big donors had already maxed out to the RNC, joint fundraising committees like Trump Victory, which raises funds for not only the president’s campaign, but for the RNC and 46 state Republican committees, can’t give any of their funds directly to the RNC. The same restrictions apply to Trump Victory’s Democratic counterpart, the Biden Victory Fund.
So the money was washed through the state parties then immediately transferred back to the RNC because there are no limits on how much the state parties can transfer to the RNC, as an affiliated committee. The Biden Victory Fund has done this, too, though to a lesser degree.
A very rich couple
For example, Republican megadonors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, bosses of the Las Vegas Sands casino empire, each gave $580,600 to Trump Victory on Feb. 28, 2020. That included $35,500 apiece to the RNC campaign account, $106,500 to two other RNC accounts (earmarked to pay for the party’s convention and legal proceedings) and $220,000 to give $10,000 to 22 state Republican parties.
The Adelsons’ contributions to Trump Victory are a fraction of their political giving. The Center for Responsive Politics and its opensecrets.org website reported last week that the couple has given a record $172.7 million so far this election cycle – all to Republican and conservative groups. That includes $75 million to Preserve America PAC, a pro-Trump Political Action Committee.
As with the Adelsons, Trump Victory shipped $10,000 from numerous other maxed-out megadonors to the Republican Party of Florida for the quick flip back to the RNC. The same accounting maneuver was used in dozens of other states to channel millions of dollars to the national party, which coordinates fundraising and election strategy.
Here’s a list of other well-known, maxed-out Trump Victory contributors who got around the $35,500 contribution limit to the RNC when their money was cycled through Florida:
- Louis DeJoy – U.S. postmaster general. DeJoy is under investigation by House Democrats over allegations he urged employees at his former Greensboro, NC company, New Breed Logistics, to donate to Republican candidates and then illegally reimbursed them when they did.
- Stephen Wynn – The Las Vegas casino mogul who stepped down in 2018 amid accusations of sexual misconduct and assault.
- Phil Ruffin – Co-owner and developer with President Trump of the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas.
- Robert Wood “Woody” Johnson – U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, co-owner of the N.Y. Jets football team and billionaire heir to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical fortune. The New York Times reported in July that Johnson told “multiple” colleagues that President Trump asked him to attempt to get the British government to steer the lucrative British Open golf tournament to Trump Turnberry resort in Scotland.
- Kelly Loeffler – Republican U.S. senator from Georgia and co-owner of the WNBA team Atlanta Dream.
- August Busch – retired chairman of Anheuser-Busch.
South Florida contributors, and their spouses, are well-represented on Trump Victory’s list of those who got around the $35,500 contribution limit to the RNC. They include:
- Anthony Lomangino – Palm Beach. Owner of Southern Waste Systems.
- Isaac Perlmutter – Lake Worth. Chairman of Marvel Entertainment LLC
- John “Jack” Owoc – Southwest Ranches. Owner of JHO Investments and Weston-based Vital Pharmaceuticals, parent of the energy drink Bang.
- David MacNeil – Fort Lauderdale. Owner of Weathertech.
- David Centner – Miami Beach. Entrepreneur and founder of Highway Toll Administration, which processes electronic toll collection transactions and co-founder of Miami’s Centner Academy for pre-K through high school students.
- Robert Book – Fort Lauderdale. Chairman Book Capital Enterprises.
- John Ferolito – Hillsboro Beach. Co-founder of Arizona Beverage Company.
- Jeffrey Spragens – Fisher Island. Retired from Mint Management Co.
- Lewis E. Topper – Jupiter. Chairman of Fast Food Systems Inc.
- Nirmal Mulye – Miami. Chairman of Nostrum Pharmaceuticals.
- Dr. Steven Scott – Boca Raton. Entrepreneurial physician and CEO of the medical investment firm Scott Holdings LLC.
- Marjorie Buckley – North Palm Beach. Original investor in Home Depot.