Former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits Biden: Those who defy Jan. 6 subpoenas should be prosecuted Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Hackers are making big money MORE and his disciples in the GOP are really putting the “con” in modern conservatism these days.
According to filings made public last week, Trump raised a whopping $82 million in the first six months of 2021.
The total money raised — even if it did include some transfers from old Trump accounts — is “extraordinary for an ex-president who has been booted off social media,” The Washington Post noted.
“Trump has continued to vigorously solicit donations from supporters, based mostly on false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election,” the Post added.
In Congress, Trump’s success in raising money with lies has led to shameless imitators following his road to the gold.
In the first six months of 2021, Rep. Marjorie Taylor GreeneMarjorie Taylor GreeneGOP efforts to downplay danger of Capitol riot increase The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene says she's meeting with Trump 'soon' in Florida MORE (R-Ga.), a former QAnon supporter, raised more than $4 million.
Greene is raising money despite being stripped of her committee assignments earlier this year because of her penchant for extremism. Greene in the past has endorsed the idea of assassinating Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSanders, Manchin escalate fight over .5T spending bill Sanders blames media for Americans not knowing details of Biden spending plan Photos of the Week: Climate protests, Blue Origin and a koala MORE (D-Calif.) and engaged in antisemitic nonsense about space lasers causing wildfires to the benefit of the Rothschild banking family.
In the same period, Rep. Lauren BoebertLauren BoebertDemocrats fret as longshot candidates pull money, attention Colorado remap plan creates new competitive district Juan Williams: GOP's assault on voting rights is the real fraud MORE (R-Colo.) raised about $1.8 million. Her appeal for GOP dollars centers on her bragging that she carries a gun.
And then there is Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.). He also raised $1.8 million so far this year.
His pitch is to distort Biden administration efforts to get people vaccinated with a door-to-door outreach effort. To Cawthorn, this is the precursor to a plot to take Bibles and guns away from Americans.
Trump’s grifting game is also being mimicked by powerful, well-funded conservative donor networks.
As The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reported last week, those groups are also relying on Trump’s “Big Lie.” They tell donors they need money to uncover voter fraud.
And when they fail to find any fraud, these dark-money organizations then tell donors they need more cash for more probes in search of fraud. They never find any and so they ask again.
It is a never-ending pitch.
These conservative groups also attract money for voter suppression.
“Leaked records of their internal deliberations,” Mayer disclosed, show these groups “have drafted, supported, and in some cases taken credit for state laws that make it harder to vote.”
Meanwhile, small donors keep opening their wallets because they are being primed to do so by constant harangues on right-wing talk shows about "socialism," "cancel culture," and the "stolen" election.
The hosts get their cut of the riches from the Trump grift game by creating an angry, paranoid audience sending dollars to fight a purported invasion of younger, more educated, racially diverse people likely to vote for Democrats.
These right-wing media rants lack facts. But there is no disputing their business model.
Entertaining people with scary conspiracies about a stolen election and mocking Democrats jacks up advertising revenue and puts more money in their bank accounts.
Now big corporations, apparently fearing they are being left behind, are joining the game.
After the Jan. 6 riots, many companies pledged to stand up for democracy and halt campaign donations to the 147 Republican lawmakers who voted not to certify President BidenJoe BidenJill Biden campaigns for McAuliffe in Virginia Fill the Eastern District of Virginia Biden: Those who defy Jan. 6 subpoenas should be prosecuted MORE’s election.
But as The Associated Press (AP) reported last month, most of those companies have now basically reversed themselves. They are circumventing their pledge by giving money to PACs that support those lawmakers instead of giving directly to the lawmakers.
“When it comes to seeking political influence through corporate giving, business as usual is back, if it ever left,” the AP reported, citing Walmart, Pfizer, Intel, General Electric and AT&T as companies that have resumed donations.
“The companies contend that donating directly to a candidate is not the same as giving to a PAC that supports them … a distinction without a difference, according to campaign finance experts,” the AP wrote.
The corporations are worried about loss of clout with Republicans in Congress because the politicians increasingly rely on money coming from small donors excited by Trump’s lies.
“Donald Trump is a one-man scam PAC,” Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation with Common Cause — not to be confused with the former Speaker of the same name — told The Guardian.
“Bait-and-switch is among his favorite fundraising tactics,” Ryan added, pointing to Trump’s Save America PAC which told “supporters he needed money to challenge the result of an election he clearly lost, and then wound up not spending [anything] on litigation last year.”
Trump is largely unrestricted in how he can use the PAC money. He can use it to travel on campaign trips to raise more money. He can use it to raise his political profile by backing candidates of his choice in the upcoming midterm elections.
Trump’s fundraising haul exceeded the sums raised by his party’s House and Senate campaign groups. As an individual, he was basically on pace with the Republican National Committee.
The old saying in Washington about campaign finance used to be “he who pays the piper calls the tune.”
Trump is calling the tune for a frightening game of grifting that has robbed the GOP of its principles.
Where is the Republican willing to call out this scam?
Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.