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Billionaires are going all out to reelect the GOP senators who slashed their taxes

They’ve spent $5.5 million in support of Sens. Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, and David Perdue.

By Josh Israel - October 20, 2020
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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

Republican Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Lindsey Graham (SC), and David Perdue (GA) backed Donald Trump’s 2017 tax bill, which massively slashed tax rates for billionaires. Now several billionaire beneficiaries of those tax cuts are spending some of their windfall on trying to reelect the three to their Senate seats.

According to an analysis by the Americans for Tax Fairness Action Fund, a progressive group that advocates for a less regressive tax system, Americans listed by Forbes magazine as billionaires have spent a combined total of $5.5 million in direct donations and contributions to super PACs to help reelect Collins, Graham, and Perdue, even though they do not live in the states those senators represent.

The Democratic opponents of the three have received far less in donations from those identified as billionaires.

Collins benefited from donations of at least $3.8 million from billionaires outside of Maine, including more than $500,000 in direct donations and $3.3 million in donations to the 1820 PAC, which the Center for Responsive Politics calls “a single-candidate super PAC in support of Susan Collins.” Her Democratic opponent, state House Speaker Sara Gideon, received less than $250,000 in support from such donors.

Graham benefited from at least $1.4 million from billionaires outside of South Carolina, including more than $300,000 in direct donations and $1.1 million in donations to Security is Strength, designated by the Center for Responsive Politics “a single-candidate super PAC in support of Lindsey Graham.” His Democratic opponent, Jaime Harrison, received less than $160,000 in support from billionaires.

More than $1 million of the donations to Graham came from billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam, both Nevada residents and Republican activists.

Perdue benefited from more than $300,000 from billionaires, $260,000 of which came from outside of Georgia. His Democratic opponent, Jon Ossoff, received only about $40,000 in donations from billionaires.

Trump’s Tax Cut and Jobs Act bill passed in December 2017 by a 51 to 49 vote in the Senate — almost entirely along party lines. Collins, Graham, and Perdue all voted to pass it. Trump called it “an incredible Christmas gift for hard-working Americans.”

Some 10 million American families actually saw their taxes go up after the law was enacted. About a quarter of the law’s savings went to the wealthiest 1%.

The bill dropped the top federal income tax rate from 39.6% to 37%, for those making $500,000 or more annually. After it was enacted, the average effective tax rate for the richest 400 families dropped to about 23% — lower than the 24.2% rate paid by the bottom half of American households, according to a 2019 analysis by economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman of the University of California, Berkeley.

“These three Republican incumbents provided a key vote to ensure the Trump-GOP tax cuts became law back in 2017. That law largely benefited the wealthy and major corporations over working families,” Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness Action Fund, told the American Independent Foundation in an email. “Now out-of-state billionaires are financing these senators’ reelection campaigns, which voters are likely to see as political payback. The wealthy should not be allowed to rig our tax code to their benefit by funding candidates who will fight for them instead of working families.”

The group’s analysis also found that billionaires, mostly of them from outside the state, have invested at least $1.2 million in support of Michigan Republican Senate candidate John James through direct donations and contributions to the pro-James Better Future Michigan Fund super PAC. The Democratic incumbent, Sen. Gary Peters, who voted against Trump’s tax bill, received less than $360,000 in direct contributions from billionaires. A James spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry.

Polls show all four incumbents in competitive races heading into the election on Nov. 3.

The American Independent Foundation requested comments from the senators’ campaigns and from Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, but did not immediately receive any responses.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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