There’s a hubbub in social media circles about a $20 million donation supposedly directed toward Speaker Paul Ryan after his endorsement of Donald Trump. Twitter accounts (like this one) and online mags (such as this one) are making much ado about the money, the timing and the implication of a quid pro quo scenario.
It’s better to be right than righteous. Here are the facts.
- The source of the $20 million was Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, Super Patrons and Top Influencers of the Republican Party. This is a significant fact. Donald Trump did not enrich Paul Ryan. The Adelson’s have donated hundreds of millions to GOP entities – all of it designed to crush Democrats and install Republicans into office. Needless to say, the couple has their own agenda but that’s not the subject of this article.
- The recipient of the Adelson donations was not Paul Ryan but a Super PAC called the Congressional Leadership Fund, defined as nonpartisan by FEC standards. This Fund operates much like Sheldon and Miriam Adelson: to oppose Democratic candidates and benefit Republican candidates at the Congressional level. (Currently, it is waging a multimillion dollar campaign to defeat Jon Ossoff.)
- The Adelsons did not originally support or endorse Donald Trump for President. To make a quid pro quo case, there has to be an established tie between the Adelson’s, Trump and Ryan. It does not exist. There is just no evidence that Ryan was rewarded for endorsing Trump. In fact, a review of the political donations of the Adelson’s during the Primary season shows they gave to Ted Cruz, John McCain, Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio (three times) but not a penny to Donald Trump. In May, after it was “clear that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee for president,” Sheldon Adelson issued a public endorsement. However, the Adelson’s gave begrudgingly to Trump. A headline in a 22 August report says it all: “GOP Kingmaker Sheldon Adelson Continues To Snub Donald Trump.” It was not until mid-August that the couple broke down and tossed a few dollars his way. On 16 August 2016, the two donated a paltry $2700 each to Trump. On that same day, they gave $492,600 to the Trump Victory PAC.
- Mr. and Mrs. Adelson also dropped $20 million into the Senate Leadership Fund three days before their generous donation to the Congressional Leadership Fund. Yet Senate Majority Leader McConnell (like Ryan) was never a big fan of Donald Trump. In fact, when he endorsed the candidate, there was a decided lack of enthusiasm. But to make a case of “you scratch my back-I’ll scratch yours” consistency is needed. McConnell issued his tepid endorsement of Trump in May, three months before the Adelson donation in late August 2016. Therefore, no quid pro quo here either.
What can be said with certainty about the mega donations of Sheldon and Miriam Adelson is that the couple subsidizes the Republican Party and its Congressional leadership. The same cannot be said of Donald Trump. Another fact: Donald Trump has made no noteworthy donation to either the Republican party, its PACs or its candidates. There are small contributions to candidates like Chuck Grassley, an occasional $10K to a GOP entity. But Trump is no Sheldon Adelson. His influence is as limited as his political contributions to the Grand Old Party.
It feels good to throw shade at Paul Ryan and implicate him in the corrupt Trump administration. But facts are more important than a feel-good moment. Let’s embrace facts and stay away from alternate realities (no matter how good it feels).