US Politics

Bankrolling the ‘Big Lie’ of a ‘Stolen Election’ (II)



Congressional hearings on the January 6, 2021, right-wing mob attack on the U.S. Capitol are ongoing. The public debate around these hearings has made one fact clear: The number of Republican office holders and nominees for the upcoming midterm elections who embrace the outlandish lie of a “stolen election” in 2020 has grown in the last 18 months.

As recently as last month, the Republican Party of Texas — the second largest state — declared at its convention that President Joe Biden “was not legitimately elected.” Republican office holders across the country echo this falsehood.

While president, Donald Trump wove these conspiratorial claims out of whole cloth leading up to the 2020 presidential election. He then turned them into a full-fledged campaign to reverse the results after he lost the vote.

Trump’s campaign to hold on to power by subverting the long-established capitalist rule of law failed. In fact, its chances of success were always slim. That effort never came close to winning majority support within the ruling class or gaining any serious foothold in the military. But the extent of the “Stop the Steal” campaign then, and its ongoing support by millions today, including by politicians at every level of the U.S. government, reveal serious dangers to civil liberties and the interests of the working class.

The financiers of the ‘stolen election’ bandwagon

A week after the 2021 attack on the Capitol, World-Outlook noted in its inaugural article that “a not insignificant minority of the privileged classes” backed Trump’s big lie aimed at subverting the popular vote and installing an anti-democratic regime. A few weeks later, we documented the extent of financial support among a number of wealthy ruling families for that fateful assault in an article we are republishing below.

That analysis still holds water today. In fact, recent news reports show that owners and executives of some of the wealthiest U.S. corporations continue to bankroll politicians riding the “stolen election” bandwagon.

By mid-January 2021, reports in the big-business media indicated companies from J.P. Morgan Chase to AT&T and Walmart were distancing themselves from the Republican Party and pledging to cut off financial support from politicians who publicly backed Trump’s campaign to overturn the November 2020 election.

Now, just one-and-a-half years later, the New York Times revealed how short-lived such decisions turned out to be. “Of the 249 companies that promised not to fund the 147 senators and representatives who voted against any of the [2020 election] results, fewer than half have stuck to their promise,” the Times noted on June 15, 2022.

Logos of top 10 companies financing candidates who promote the lie of a “stolen election.” (Graphic: World-Outlook)

In fact, the Times reported, corporations and industry groups have given almost $32 million to House and Senate members who voted to overturn the election and to GOP congressional campaign committees. According to the Times, the top 10 corporate donors are “Koch Industries, Boeing, Home Depot, Valero Energy, Lockheed Martin, UPS, Raytheon, Marathon Petroleum, General Motors and FedEx. All of those companies, with the exception of Koch Industries and FedEx, previously said they’d refrain from donating to politicians who voted to reject the election results.”

Another example is tech billionaire Peter Thiel, the first outside investor in Facebook, who stepped down from the social media company’s board in May. A June 19 Washington Post article, subtitled “Inside the billionaire investor’s journey from Facebook board member to architect of the new American right,” summed up Thiel’s political journey. “Reports at the time said that Thiel left the Facebook board to focus on politics, including a slate of 2022 congressional candidates aligned with former President Donald Trump,” the Post said.

A shift to the right and strain on the two-party system

The two-party system is a lynchpin of capitalist political rule in the United States. Individual capitalists and political action committees associated with the corporations they own often contribute to both parties and their candidates. These moneyed men and women reward both Republicans and Democrats in order to continue enriching themselves at the expense of the vast majority. They use the system to exercise a monopoly on electoral politics and block any break by the working class and its allies in the direction of political action independent from the parties of the wealthy.

The willingness of sections of big capital today to lend financial backing to politicians promoting an overt assault on democratic norms as a legitimate solution to the current social and economic turmoil signals both a shift to the right in bourgeois politics and growing strains on the two-party system.

In the Republican Party, far-right politicians advocating extralegal violence or espousing white supremacist views have gained a foothold.

One stark example is a recent campaign ad in Missouri. According to the June 20 Kansas City Star, former Governor Eric Greitens, released a video of himself carrying a shotgun and identifying himself as a Navy SEAL. Greitens is leading a group of men in tactical gear with guns going “RINO hunting,” a reference to so-called Republicans in Name Only — those who do not show adequate fealty to Trump. His entourage — outfitted in camouflage, helmets, and the U.S. flag — storms a house, throwing a smoke bomb. Greitens then walks in and asks people to “join the MAGA crew” — referring to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan — and get their “RINO hunting permits.”

Former Governor of Missouri Eric Greitens (right) put out a video on June 20 showing him leading a group of men in tactical gear with guns hunting Republicans they do not deem adequately conservative. Greitens is a front runner in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Missouri. (Photo: Screen capture from video)

The ad was subsequently withdrawn, but Greitens had made his point. This is a former governor with a good chance of being elected to the U.S. Congress in November. He is a front-runner in Missouri’s August 2 Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

Another example is Illinois congresswoman Mary E. Miller’s description of the Supreme Court repeal of the Roe v. Wade ruling on abortion. Addressing a large crowd in Mendon, Illinois, on June 25, with Trump on the platform behind her, Miller told the former president: “On behalf of all the MAGA patriots in America, I want to thank you for the historic victory for white life in the Supreme Court yesterday” [emphasis added].

A spokesman later claimed Miller’s comment was a “mix-up of words.”

“Whether it was a slip or not,” tweeted Independent columnist Ahmed Baba, “the audience heard ‘white life’ and didn’t flinch. They applauded.” There were other reports, according to the Washington Post, that many in the crowd seemed unfazed by Miller’s remark.

Important information on the extent of Trump’s campaign to overturn the election results continues to emerge from the January 6 inquiry.

The hearings themselves are another sign of the strains on the two-party system. They are hardly bipartisan. The GOP leadership in the House of Representatives refused to participate when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected its choices for membership on the panel conducting the hearings. Nevertheless, Liz Cheney a conservative Republican who was once the number three leader of the GOP House caucus, and whose family has served the ruling class for decades, is co-chair of the committee. But Cheney has been expelled by her party in Wyoming, her home state, and censured by the Republican House caucus over her criticism of Trump.

The Democratic Party is trying to use the hearings to shore up its poor prospects in the upcoming midterm elections in November. Its leadership is fearful that the stability of capitalism can be shaken by the “chaos” of future mass struggles to defend women’s rights or in response to police violence, growing efforts to organize trade unions at Amazon and elsewhere, and an uptick in job actions by workers. The liberal establishment is trying once again to steer young workers and others to the dead-end strategy of voting for Democrats. They do so by waving the specter of Trump’s return in 2024.

Washington’s precipitous decline

One of the main reasons for this acrimony among the politicians of the two ruling parties is Washington’s precipitous decline from its previously unchallenged position as the world’s number one imperialist power. While the U.S. remains at the top, its military might and its economic prowess are slipping relative to its international rivals.

As the unfolding war in Ukraine has revealed, Washington and its allies face serious competition from Russia and China — two former workers states where capitalism has been restored and that are on the way to becoming imperialist powers themselves.

On the domestic front, neither the Republican and Democratic administrations have provided solutions to the effects of the more than two-year-old pandemic, runaway inflation, and other economic and social ills wreaking havoc in our lives. Both parties have failed to produce mainstream figures with compelling popular appeal.

The exception is Trump, whose insistence on the falsehood of a “stolen election” has not thus far significantly diminished his popularity.

Rightist forces feel some wind in their sails. They are encouraged by the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade and are on the march to further criminalize a woman’s right to choose abortion. Right-wing politicians like Greitens and others promoting Trump — or someone like Trump — display more confidence in extreme expressions of their views. They know that many of their big-business backers are no longer hostile to the idea of using chicanery and force to change an election outcome that does not suit them.

As our February 2021 article explained, these wealthy families are open to “sidestepping the legislative and judicial branches of government and handing all important policy decisions to the executive, run by an individual with extraordinary powers.” Such a “Bonapartist regime,” a variant of dictatorial rule, would have at its head a “savior” anointed to “rescue the nation.”

In this context, readers may find that February 2021 article useful. For this reason, we are republishing it, in two parts due to its length, the second of which follows.

*

The Billionaires Who Backed Trump’s Bonapartist Course


(This is the second of a two-part series. The first can be found in Part 1.)


According to public records of the Federal Election Commission, a report by the Institute for Policy Studies, and articles in Forbes magazine and other news outlets, 63 billionaires with combined assets of nearly $244 billion bankrolled Trump’s election campaign and post-election push to stay in office.

The billionaires behind Trump’s Bonapartist course

The list includes owners of gas pipelines, investors in pharmaceutical and cosmetics enterprises, communication and entertainment company CEOs, bankers and stockbrokers, as well as proprietors of casinos, software companies, and construction firms. This group is a fraction of the estimated 788 billionaires in the United States, but their steadfast support helped enable Trump’s unprecedented moves.

Topping the list of these billionaires, in terms of size of their financial contributions, are: Kelcy Lee Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, engaged in natural gas and propane pipeline transport; Isaac Perlmutter, retired CEO of Marvel Entertainment; Kenny Trout, founder of Excel Communications; Robert Duggan, former CEO of Pharmacyclics and investor in biotechnology firms; Sheldon Adelson, a casino mogul and founder of Las Vegas Sands Corp.; Diane Hendricks, co-founder of ABC Supply, a roofing materials company; Daniel Andrew Beal, founder of Beal Bank; David Duffield, co-founder of PeopleSoft and Workday; John Paulson, who made his fortune in hedge funds; Robert Wood Johnson IV, a heir of Johnson & Johnson, a U.S. monopoly in pharmaceuticals and medical equipment; and Ronald Steven Lauder, an heir of Estée Lauder Inc., a top U.S. manufacturer and marketer of cosmetics.

A small number of these capitalists, not only contributed to Trump’s re-election effort and directly or indirectly backed his post-election “Stop the Steal” campaign, but publicly supported Trump’s conspiracy theories and bogus claims of “election fraud.”

Julie Jenkins Fancelli, for example, heiress of the Publix Super Markets chain and daughter of its founder, paid the lion’s share of the $500,000 cost of Trump’s Jan. 6 rally at the Ellipse, according to the Wall Street Journal.

A number of wealthy donors to Trump and his most prominent congressional backers cried “betrayal” and vowed to cut off financial support to these Republican politicians only after Jan. 6, inadvertently revealing the extent of their backing for the crusade to overturn the popular vote up to that point.

On Jan. 13, for example, Ken Langone, a billionaire GOP donor and co-founder of Home Depot, told CNBC he felt betrayed by Trump in the aftermath of the attack on U.S. Congress. He pledged to switch his support to the Democrats.

Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone, a major GOP donor, shown here on right during 2018 interview. Langone was among the billionaires who bankrolled Trump’s re-election campaign and his “Stop the Steal” crusade. Langone said he was “betrayed” by Trump only after the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. (Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images)

Jeffrey Yass, a billionaire who had secretly backed Josh Hawley, a U.S. Senator from Missouri, leaked to the media in mid-January through stockbroker friends that he felt “deceived” by his Republican protégé. Hawley led the effort in Congress to overturn the November election results — which in the end was backed by 139 House and 8 Senate Republicans, who voted to challenge the election outcomes in Arizona or Pennsylvania even after the Jan. 6 riot. Hawley is also considered a potential replacement for Trump in the 2024 presidential race.

Republican Party majority reaffirms support for Trump

As noted earlier, Republican Senate leader McConnell and others may have thought the party was done with Trump, but they quickly learned otherwise. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican, voted to impeach Trump. Nine of her Republican colleagues in the House joined her. Within days, Wyoming GOP state senator Anthony Bouchard announced his primary campaign for Cheney’s seat in 2022.

Bouchard is only the first to act on Trump’s directive to his supporters at the Jan. 6 rally in D.C. “I’m going to use the term, the weak Republicans,” Trump told the crowd. “If they don’t fight, we have to primary the hell out of the ones that don’t fight. You primary them. We’re going to let you know who they are. I can already tell you, frankly.”

Bouchard has already won support from outside Wyoming. Florida congressman Matt Gaetz traveled to that state Jan. 28 to call for Cheney’s ouster, “underscoring the divisions in the GOP as it grapples with its identity in the wake of Trump’s presidency,” as Fox News noted.

Matt Gaetz (center), Republican U.S. representative from Florida’s 1st District, at Cheyenne, Wyoming, Jan. 28 rally to call for ouster of Liz Cheney. Wyoming’s sole representative in the U.S. House, Cheney is now attacked by many in her party because she voted for Trump’s impeachment after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Cheney is the House Republican Conference Chair. (Photo: Cayla Nimmo/Caspar Star-Tribune)

Others needed no further encouragement. On Jan. 23, the Arizona Republican Party censured prominent members of the GOP — Governor Doug Ducey, former Senator Jeff Flake, and Cindy McCain, the widow of former Senator John McCain — for standing up to Trump. “The America First agenda is alive and well,” the state’s GOP chair Kelli Ward said in a video. “Are we going to continue to be an America First Arizona or are we going back to the dark days before Donald Trump?” she asked.

The Arizona state party organization is by no means alone. The Republican Party in Pennsylvania is among Trump’s most tenacious supporters in the country and continues to bolster his false claims of a “stolen” election. “Far from engaging in self-examination,” said an article in the Jan. 28 New York Times, “Pennsylvania Republicans are already jockeying ahead of the 2022 primaries to prove that they fought the hardest for Mr. Trump, who, in spite of the losses by his party in the White House, the Senate and the House, still exerts a strong grip over elected Republicans and grass-roots voters.”

In South Carolina, U.S. congressman Tom Rice has also come under fire for voting to impeach Trump. In an interview aired on National Public Radio, Rice acknowledged his long-time support for Trump. He added he was not in favor of impeachment charges being considered again by the House, because Trump was on his way out of office. But compelled to cast a vote when the charges were brought to the House floor on Jan. 13, he was one of the 10 GOP members who voted for impeachment.

“The president stepped over a line,” Rice told WMBF News. “He violated the Constitution, that’s why I did what I did.” Condemnation from within the state GOP was swift. On Jan. 30, South Carolina Republicans formally censured Rice.[1]

Signs that Trump is winning the battle inside the GOP go well beyond his strong support in state party organizations. It extends to the very top of the party as well, beginning with the setbacks dealt to McConnell and others. McConnell made clear to associates after the Jan. 6 attack “that he viewed Mr. Trump’s actions around the riot as impeachable and saw a Senate trial as an opportunity to purge him from the party,” according to the New York Times.

His decision on Jan. 26 to join all but five Republican Senators in voting to toss out the House impeachment case against Trump as unconstitutional, seemed to be “a recognition that the critical mass of his party was not ready to join him in cutting loose the former president,” the Times said. “Far from repudiating Mr. Trump, as it appeared they might in the days after the Jan. 6 rampage at the Capitol, Republicans have reverted to the posture they adopted when he was in office —unwilling to cross a figure who continues to hold outsize sway in their party.”

GOP House minority leader Kevin McCarthy traveled to Mar-a-Lago to pay fealty to Trump and “mend fences,” as Fox News reported, “after the former president reportedly took offense to the fact McCarthy said he bore some of the responsibility for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol — a stance McCarthy later reversed.”

New ‘normal’ in U.S. bourgeois politics

Trump’s campaign to overturn the 2020 election may have had the backing of many in his party but did not have a serious chance for success. Statements in December by most big-business leaders, the U.S. Secretary of the Army, and the 10 living defense secretaries — all reported in our Jan. 13 article — made that clear, well before Jan. 6. Had it been successful, the drive to overturn the November election would have led to the de-facto imposition of a Bonapartist regime. That was its logic.

What is noteworthy is that, despite its minimal chance of success, Trump went ahead anyway, and his support from a not insignificant section of the U.S. ruling class did not begin to crumble until after the ultra-rightist mob stormed the Capitol.

In the end, Trump did accomplish this much: He firmed up his popularity among millions in the GOP base, maintained his standing as the most viable leader of the Republican Party, and kept alive the myth of a “stolen” election.

The political danger of Bonapartism was clearly posed, though not realized, by the events between Nov. 3 and Jan. 6. This is not unusual. The danger of new anti-democratic measures, be it Bonapartism, military dictatorship or fascism, is often posed well before the rulers are prepared to pay the political price of successfully imposing them. But new precedents have now been set for what is “normal” in U.S. bourgeois politics today.

While most leading political figures have now distanced themselves from Trump’s “Stop the Steal” campaign, that will not prevent such charges from being raised again in future elections. Moreover, it can be expected that such charges will now go hand-in-hand with long-term efforts to restrict voting rights.

The Democratic Party and its heralds in the union officialdom will point to the growing danger of a more extreme right-wing in capitalist politics to persuade working people to stick to the lesser-evilism the two-party system rests on. That remains a political dead-end. The support Trump has won from working people is largely a result of the failure of bourgeois liberalism to remedy deteriorating economic and social conditions for the majority. The only way out of this bind is working-class resistance to the employers’ attacks that points the way toward working-class political action independent of the Democrats and Republicans.

Immigrants’ rights attorney Angela Fernández, left, stands with Teamsters Local 202 members Jason Mills, Darren Brenner, and Jamie Bermudez during strike at Hunts Point in Bronx, New York, on Jan. 21, 2021. More than 1,000 Teamsters union members work at Hunts Point, the country’s largest wholesale produce market. On Jan. 23, after a week-long walkout, workers “beat the owners,” as one of the union members put it. They approved a new contract with 10% increase in wages and benefits. (Photo: Natasha Lennard/The Intercept)

(This was the second of a two-part series. The first can be found in Part 1.)


ENDNOTES

[1] On June 14, 2022, Tom Rice lost the Republican primary to his Trump-backed challenger Russell Fry. This means that half of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump will not return to Congress next year. That number is likely to grow as the 2022 primary cycle unfolds [W-O — July 7, 2022].

Leave a Reply