One day after the revelation surfaced that Donald Trump’s campaign chair Paul Manafort wrote down “RNC” and “donations” in notes he took during the campaign’s collusion meeting with Russia, the Republican Party is in a panic. Suddenly the GOP is trying to create a distraction by falsely accusing FBI Director James Comey of having conspired to exonerate Hillary Clinton. There’s a reason the party is panicking: several Republicans have already been confirmed to have taken Russian money during the 2016 election cycle.
Back on May 24th of this year, Palmer Report reported that various Republicans currently in office had taken money from a pro-Kremlin oligarch based out of Ukraine (link). This was technically legal because the oligarch had dual U.S. citizenship and the donations were to Super PACs, but it was incredibly suspicious, as the money is tied to the Kremlin. Then on August 3rd of this year the Dallas Morning News confirmed what Palmer Report had reported months earlier, right down to the same dollar amounts (link). So which Republicans top the list of having taken Russian money?
During the 2016 election cycle, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used his Super PAC to accept $2.5 million dollars from the pro-Kremlin oligarch in question, putting him front and center of the influence the oligarch was trying to buy. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker took $1 million from the same oligarch, which was highly suspicious for a Governor of a small state that ended up being shockingly won by Trump. Money also went to Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich – but these were much smaller amounts and could be interpreted as covering bases rather than trying to buy any real influence. The broader concern is McConnell’s Super PAC and what he did with that money in 2016.
Mitch McConnell wasn’t even up for reelection in 2016. Instead he used his various Super PACs to help fund the election and reelection of any number of Republicans in Congress. He’s maintained his role as the Republican leader in the Senate in part because so many of his fellow Senate Republicans are financially dependent on him. Super PAC money can be difficult to trace, so there may be no limit to the number of Republicans in office who have indirectly taken McConnell’s Russian money, whether or not they knew at the time that it was Russian money. No wonder they’re panicking over the “RNC donations” story.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report