California Republicans showered with campaign cash a week before tax bill vote

Rep. Steve Knight

Reps. Knight and Walters received a Dec. 13 campaign donation from a PAC run by the billionaire Koch brothers, who spent millions seeking to pass the tax bill.

Republican megadonors Charles and David Koch stand to save more than $1 billion from the Republican tax bill. Sending $300,000 to Republican campaigns and lawmakers, including Reps. Steve Knight (Palmdale) and Mimi Walters (Irvine) just a week before the final vote is one way to help ensure a personal financial windfall.

Campaign finance forms show Knight and Walters each received $2,500 from the Koch Industries Political Action Committee, or KochPAC, on Dec. 13, 2017, only a week before the House voted on the final tax bill.

The position of the Koch brothers was no secret. Americans for Tax Fairness reports, “The Kochs made securing big tax cuts for themselves and their corporation a key goal for their political network in 2017. The Koch groups spent over $20 million promoting the tax bill that ultimately became law.”

It is highly unlikely that Knight and Walters were unaware of this position when their campaigns received their checks.

Both Knight and Walters struggled to raise campaign funds in 2017. Even with the help of the Koch brothers, both failed to raise as much as Democratic opponents. Both knew they were top targets of a nationwide effort by Democrats to flip enough seats to regain control of Congress. And both knew that the tax bill was a bad deal for California constituents, as it was set to raise taxes on millions of residents in the state.

But the lure of much-needed campaign cash, and staunch loyalty to the whims of Trump over the well-being of their constituents, won the day. Knight and Walters joined the majority of California Republicans (many of whom also received last-minute donations from KochPAC) to give the tax bill the critical votes it needed to pass.

Before the tax bill, many Republican donors made clear they would withhold campaign donations unless the Republican Congress passed a bill. One wealthy donor even created a “coalition of wealthy Republican donors last year who refused to give money to Washington Republicans until the gridlock broke in Congress.” Once the tax bill passed, the donor “called off the strike,” and funds are once again flowing to malleable Republicans.

Politico reports that within days of the tax bill passing, several influential donors, after withholding any donations for 11 months in 2017, rewarded Republicans with checks between $50,000 and $100,000, going mainly to Republican campaign committees.

Some Republicans who received donations from the KochPAC managed to vote against the bill. A campaign committee associated with retiring Californian Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) received $5,000, but Issa voted no, saying, “My constituents don’t deserve a tax increase.” Issa went further, noting, “Eliminating the state and local tax deduction would assure that almost all of the bill’s tax cuts would be distributed to other states — leaving California with the bill.”

But Knight and Walters chose to give their constituents a tax increase, despite the bill’s deep unpopularity. Since the bill passed, corporations have “lavished Wall Street” with $171 billion in share buybacks, while investing a mere 3 percent as much in worker wages and bonuses.

Yet Knight and Walters are desperately spinning the bill as a positive, hoping that voting against the interest of their constituents won’t hamper their re-election fate in November.

While the Koch brothers may be able to direct campaign checks from their homes in Kansas, only California voters will decide if they send Knight and Walters back to Congress.