After months of protestations over the presidential candidacy of the crass, openly misogynist, and race-baiting Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, members of the Republican cabal once known by the hashtag #NeverTrump are throwing some impressive assets his way—in secret, of course.
Todd Ricketts, whose family owns the Chicago Cubs, is the latest to join the trend, according to reporters Kenneth P. Vogel and Alex Isenstadt at Politico, with the creation of a nonprofit group that is not required to reveal its donors, but is permitted by law to make so-called issues ads—the kinds of ads that are usually deployed against a candidate who is opposed by the group’s donors. (It all goes back to the United States Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC.)
Ricketts, who was a big donor to the #NeverTrump cause, is now leading the 45Committee, which falls under the tax code as a 501(c)(4) organization. The reporters’ sources tell them that “Ricketts is making a particular effort to win over donors who want to help Trump but are leery of having their names publicly associated with the polarizing Republican nominee. Ricketts’ pitch to these donors focuses on the fact that one of the pro-Trump groups he’s fronting can accept unlimited checks while keeping its donors' names secret.”
So far, according to the Politico report, Ricketts has raised $30 million for the Trump cause—spread between the nonprofit and a PAC that shares its name and discloses donors—with a goal of piling up $70 million by Election Day.
News of the 45Committee’s dedication to the man its anonymous donors once pledged to oppose should lay to rest any notion that the #NeverTrumpers ever stood on principle. While money confers power, it also follows power. And as I’ve written before, the conservative movement that overtook the machinery of the Republican Party in recent decades was never more than a hustle on the hoi polloi in the service of the wealthy, driven by the politics of resentment. Trump is the natural result of years of resentment-stoking, and if his opponent wins the White House, the deep-pocketed neo-libertarians who have gained so much from the deregulation and government-disinvestment schemes advanced by right-wing politicians will likely have a tougher go of things. As the great political philosopher Ann Coulter notes in her latest tome, the country-club types are too concerned about their reputations to have their names associated with the likes of Trump. But the greedy now have their fix: Organizations such as the 45Committee provide protection of reputation while advancing the cause of personal fortunes at the expense of the nation.
This latest development provides a certain proof in the pudding, but it’s really not a new thing. Major right-wing donors Charles and David Koch, for instance, made a big show of their contempt for Trump. (David Koch, a GOP delegate, even skipped attending the Republican National Convention in July.) Yet Mike Pence, who owes much of his political success to the Koch brothers, accepted the number-two spot on the Republican ticket, and it’s not likely he would have done so if his patrons had threatened to withhold future support for him in the event that Trump loses. And the efforts of such Koch-funded outfits as Americans For Prosperity to turn out voters in Senate and congressional races can’t help but aid the Trump campaign.
Then there’s Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate who has bankrolled Republican candidates, of whom headlines abound about his snubbing of Trump. On Friday, The Guardian reported that Adelson contributed $25 million to the 45 Committee super PAC. That’s far short of the $100 million he put into the 2012 presidential race, but who knows how much, if anything, he’s pledged to the related 45Committee nonprofit group?
It adds up to this: Country-club conservatives may find Trump to be an embarrassment, but they’re happy to let him tear up the country if it suits their bottom line. After all, that was always the game of the conservative movement. The game has simply gotten louder and uglier.