The Republican Governors Association announced Monday it was basically cutting all ties with Steve Wynn, the ousted finance chairman of the Republican National Committee who was accused of sexual misconduct by employees at his flagship Las Vegas casino.
The RGA becomes the first major Republican campaign committee to return Wynn money. It announced it would return $100,000 that the organization received this election cycle from Wynn Resorts. In addition, the RGA said it would cancel a planned 2020 conference at Wynn’s Las Vegas casino and would not accept any future contributions from Wynn Resorts or Wynn himself.
“These are serious allegations,” RGA spokesman Jon Thompson said in a statement.
The RGA’s decision to sever all ties with Wynn and his casino empire underscores just how widespread the fallout will be for him — and how potentially toxic his far-reaching donations could soon become for Republicans.
Wynn resigned Saturday from his position as a powerful fundraiser for the Republican Party a day after the Wall Street Journal reported that dozens of people who worked at his casinos claimed he frequently engaged in sexual misconduct, including pressuring employees to perform sexual acts.
Wynn has vehemently denied the allegations.
He has been a reliable donor and prolific fundraiser for Republicans at nearly every level of governance for more than a decade. Wynn Resorts gave the RGA $2.5 million over the past 18 years — money that the RGA took pains to stress it has already spent in previous election cycles and thus cannot return. The RGA will also kick Wynn Resorts out of its corporate membership program.
Republicans are entering a potentially difficult election year. Of the top 10 competitive governor’s races in 2018, eight are currently held by Republicans.
But other Republican campaign groups have not been nearly as decisive about money from Wynn. The RNC and the Republicans’ House and Senate campaign committees have not said whether they will return money Wynn gave them, a dodge that Democrats have been quick to highlight.
The House Democrats’ campaign arm is attacking a handful of Republican lawmakers who received and have not returned money from Wynn. Those attacks follow efforts to pressure more than a dozen vulnerable Republicans to give back money from Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-N.J.), who is retiring after acknowledging he used taxpayer dollars to settle a sexual harassment claim with a younger aide.
A number of House Republicans are unloading money they have received from Wynn.
On Sunday, The Hill reported that House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) would give $1,000 he received in 2016 from a Wynn-linked public policy group to a local charity.
Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) is perhaps the Republican most affected by Wynn’s downfall and potential toxicity. Heller is one of the most vulnerable senators running for reelection in November, and Wynn money appeared likely to factor into his fundraising plans.
After not responding to reporters for nearly three days after the story broke, Heller’s campaign said Monday it would donate to charity the $5,400 Wynn had contributed to his reelection drive, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
Democratic campaign operatives counter that when Democratic mega-donor Harvey Weinstein was felled by sexual misconduct allegations, they returned the money.
The Weinstein scandal put Hollywood’s hypocrisy in broad daylight. RT if you agree the DNC should return his donations.
— GOP (@GOP) October 9, 2017
Wynn is one of the most powerful people in Nevada. For decades, he has had a seat at the table of Las Vegas political and business power brokers. In the business community, Wynn is known as a one of the driving forces behind a revamped Las Vegas Strip. His company, which employs an estimated 7,000 people, has embedded itself in the community with generous charitable donations to local nonprofits.
Wynn was also a behind-the-scenes adviser to top politicians; both sides regularly talked to him about gaming issues and state politics. He has said he did not fully embrace Donald Trump’s election until Trump won, but he quickly became a Trump ally.
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