Every Voice


Days After Passing Tax Law to Benefit Big Donors, Paul Ryan Collects $500,000 In Koch Money

January 25, 2018 | Laura Friedenbach

Many Republicans admitted that their efforts to pass a sweeping tax bill were aimed at pleasing their big donors, and it didn’t take long for Speaker of the House Speaker Paul Ryan and his Republican colleagues to reap the reward.

Just 13 days after the House of Representatives passed a tax bill to largely benefit the wealthy, the billionaires Charles and Elizabeth Koch gave nearly $500,000 to Speaker Ryan’s joint fundraising committee, as Every Voice first identified in our Daily Clips email, a money-in-politics news roundup.

Every Voice Communications Director Adam Smith told the International Business Times, the first news outlet to report on the contributions, “Republicans never hid the fact that this tax bill was about pleasing their big donors. And it looks like House Speaker Ryan is quickly being rewarded for passing this legislation that overwhelmingly benefits the Kochs and billionaires like them.”

Soon the news spread to HuffPost, Washington Examiner, SFGate, Esquire, The Hill, and The Young Turks. The fact-checking site Snopes rated the story “True” and cited Richard Painter, the former chief White House ethics lawyer for George W. Bush as saying this seems “pretty close to an illegal gratuity.”

Speaker Ryan’s Democratic challenger Randy Bryce, released a statement accusing Paul Ryan of putting his donors ahead of his constituents:

“I’m not sure what’s worse: that Speaker Ryan sold his vote, that he pretended this tax bill was for the middle class, or that he proposed paying for the Kochs’ billion-dollar tax break by cutting Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. Paul Ryan is putting billionaires and special-interest groups ahead of the people of the First District, and this quid pro quo with the Kochs is just the latest example.”

While Washington was embroiled in a battle over a government shutdown, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi went to Twitter to ensure people did not miss the story:

Stories like this are just par for the course in Washington, yet there’s a reason why we keep hearing about them: It seems like a blatant contradiction to the fundamental American belief in government of, by, and for the people. In our broken political system, donors brazenly back ideas that are deeply unpopular with the public, pour money into our political system, and are rewarded handsomely for it. In this case, many Republicans admitted their focus on the tax bill, which independent analysts said would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy, was a result of donor pressure.

This latest Koch money is just a small portion of the tens of millions that the mega-donor Koch family has spent supporting the passage of the bill. It’s a worthwhile expense for a bill that “is expected to save the Koch brothers and their businesses billions of dollars in taxes,” HuffPost reports.

As long as big donors are allowed to drown out the voices of everyday Americans with their large checks, our government will continue to work well for the wealthiest among us at the expense of everyone else. The good news is that states and cities across the country are already working to limit big money and empower small donors. A solution, already proven around the country, is ready and waiting for Congress to pass.

The Government By the People Act introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes in the House and its companion bill in the Senate, the Fair Elections Now Act introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin, would give everyday people a bigger voice in politics by amplifying the power of small donors.

If you’d like to get a daily dose of money-in-politics news, you can sign up for our Daily Clips email so you never miss the most important stories like this one.

Laura Friedenbach

Laura is Every Voice's Deputy Communications Director