The Naked Corruption of the Republican Party Is Destroying US Democracy

by | May 19, 2023 | Opinions & Commentary

Photo by Maria Thalassinou

The Naked Corruption of the Republican Party Is Destroying US Democracy

by | May 19, 2023 | Opinions & Commentary

Photo by Maria Thalassinou

Lacking any core beliefs or principles other than obeisance to billionaires and the fossil fuel industry, the Republican Party has become one giant grift, and the USA is its mark.

Republished with permission from

A former employee of Rudy Giuliani, who was hired to help him drum up business for his law firm, has sworn under oath and penalty of perjury that he told her one of the “business opportunities” she could exploit was to sell pardons to felons for $2 million each. Giuliani, she alleges in a lawsuit filed Monday, told her he’d be splitting the money with Trump 50/50.

It’s an echo of a mostly-forgotten story in The New York Times from over two years ago: The $2 million figure matches what John Kiriakou told reporters and the FBI (which appears not to have followed up) that Giuliani quoted him as the cost to buy a pardon from Trump. (Kiriakou turned the offer down, noting that he didn’t have $2 million even if he were inclined, which he wasn’t.)

As far as I can tell, not a single elected Republican has commented on the news: Corruption is now officially the GOP’s brand. The ideals of America are, to them, nothing more than a joke.

If America is as much an idea as it is a place, this naked political corruption is destroying our nation.

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump made $640 million while working in the Trump White House, and then apparently sold U.S. intelligence and their defense of the Khashoggi murder to the Saudis for over $2 billion the month after Trump left office.

Trump himself is now taking “a huge amount of money” from the Saudis, laundered through the LIV Golf Tournament they began when Joe Biden became president. At the same time, he continues to mimic Putin’s positions on everything from Ukraine and NATO to their shared dislike of liberal democracy.

This is what the Republican Party has come to. Lacking any core beliefs or principles other than obeisance to billionaires and the fossil fuel industry, the GOP has become one giant grift, trying at every turn to convert whatever is in front of it into money, power, or both.

All while essentially telling the rest of us Americans to go screw ourselves. They really don’t appear to care how many of our kids die from guns, how many of our queer children die from suicide, or how many women die from pregnancy.

At the same time Democrats are trying to reduce student debt, expand Medicaid coverage, strengthen Social Security and Medicare, and expand coverage for food stamps and housing support, Republicans are demanding more deregulation for dirty industries and to make Trump’s tax cuts for billionaires permanent.

For example, fully 275 of the 315 pages of the GOP’s “Limit, Save, Grow Act”—House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s legislation that would lift the debt ceiling and avert a worldwide financial crisis—are exclusively devoted to a wish list for the fossil fuel industry and the billionaires it’s produced.

They include ending all the green energy provisions of and subsidies in the Inflation Reduction Act, fast-tracking new fossil fuel infrastructure, reinstating the Keystone XL pipeline permits, blocking Biden or any future president or governor from banning fracking, and selling off federal lands to drillers for pennies on the dollar.

The part of that bill that lifts the debt ceiling is only 31 words long.

Virtually across-the-board, Republicans in Congress (and a handful of “Corporate Problem Solver” Democrats) are eagerly on the take.

Since five corrupt Republicans on the Supreme Court legalized political bribery with their Citizens United decision, lobbyists and right-wing billionaires are bestowing cash, campaign donations, dark money, and luxury trips on members of Congress and state legislatures.

Last year, federal lobbyists spent over $4 billion showering gifts and attention on Congress, while over at the Supreme Court billionaire interests are similarly indulging Republican appointees.

Leonard Leo, who parlayed his assembly line of hard-right and neofascist judges into $1.65 billion, was recently revealed to have been secretly funneling cash from a group with business before the Court straight into Ginni Thomas’s pocket.

He’s alleged to have laundered at least $100,000 from the Judicial Education Project (JEP) to Mrs. Thomas through Kellyanne Conway’s polling company way back in 2012, asking her to make sure there was “No mention of Ginni, of course.” The JEP was, at the time, arguing in an amicus brief before the Supreme Court that the justices should use the Shelby County v. Holder case to gut the Voting Rights Act.

Her husband, Clarence Thomas, not only did not recuse himself from the case: he cast the tie-breaking vote in Shelby County that allowed Republicans nationwide to go on a decades-long spree of voter suppression directed largely against Black people.

Since that decision, Republican governors shut over 2,000 voting locations in mostly minority districts, gerrymandered numerous Black elected officials out of both state and federal office, and purged over 16 million mostly Black and Hispanic voters from the rolls, resulting in states like Texas, Georgia, Ohio, and Florida moving suddenly from purple to bright red.

Billionaire Harlan Crow was allegedly an early innovator in the effort to corrupt the Supreme Court, hooking up with the Thomas family back in the 1990s after Clarence was put on the Court by President George H.W. Bush. He’s since bestowed upon the couple millions of dollars’ worth of gifts, including luxury vacations, Frederick Douglass’s bible, Clarence’s mother’s home, and tuition to a high-end school for the child the couple was raising as their own.

Sam Alito takes luxury “speaking trips” to Europe, Brett “Beer Bong” Kavanaugh gets his debts and credit cards paid off, Amy Coney Barrett won’t recuse herself from cases before the Court involving her father’s employer, and John Roberts’s wife earns over $10 million helping get friendly lawyers into top-drawer law firms that sometimes argue before the Court. All can claim huge speaking fees from right-wing groups, often totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

As David Sirota and Andrew Perez note, much of this largess directed toward the Court is not as clear a bribe around a specific decision as the money given to Ginni Thomas appears but, instead, is designed to prevent Republican appointees from drifting to the left as has happened so often in the past. It’s essentially a form of “golden handcuffs”:

“From Earl Warren to William Brennan to John Paul Stevens to David Souter, the Republican Supreme Court appointees who ended up becoming liberals haunt the psyche of the right’s judicial activists. It is this dynamic that conservative puppet masters most want to prevent, because it has not been an anomaly.”

Meanwhile, the morbidly rich spent over a billion dollars in the 2022 election buying seats in Congress and state legislatures, according to Americans for Tax Fairness, and just in Ohio, North Carolina, and Wisconsin (Vance, Budd, Johnson):

“Republican billionaires outspent the much smaller pool of Democratic billionaires by at least nine-to-one in each race.”

If America is as much an idea as it is a place, this naked political corruption is destroying our nation. Speaking with me after five Republicans on the Supreme Court handed down their corrupt 2010 Citizens United decision, President Jimmy Cartersaid:

“[Citizens United] violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president… So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over.”

So, when do we officially declare that the GOP has killed America?

Black people are afraid to vote, the Supreme Court is corrupted, three presidential elections were stolen through treason, one Republican president tried to overthrow our democracy and is now running for reelection, another lied us into two needless and criminal wars, and President Ronald Reagan begin the process of gutting the middle class and establishing an overlord oligarchy.

As a result, even the basic infrastructure of a modern republic—our schools and healthcare system—no longer works for average people.

One after another Republican-controlled state is ghettoizing their public-school systems with statewide voucher subsidies for upper-middle-class and wealthy children, while Republicans filibustered a continuation of the pandemic-era Medicaid expansion this year, losing health insurance for tens of millions of low-income working families.

Biden’s effort to reduce student debt is being fought by Republican attorneys general all the way to the Supreme Court, red states are awash in guns and concomitant gun deaths, and queer children and adults are under both legal and physical attack.

Openly Nazi Republican-aligned militias stalk the streets of our cities, while GOP-donor Wall Street hedge funds could own as many as 40% of all single-family rental homes in America by the end of the decade.

Climate change is killing thousands of Americans every year, and the numbers are climbing. Working people struggle to pay their bills because the GOP refuses to raise the minimum wage, the rights of women are under attack in states controlled by Republicans, and our kids are dying in an epidemic of suicide at the hands of massive, unregulated GOP-leaning social media companies.

This is the tragic consequence of a once-great political party that saved America from a fascist Confederacy having been seized by billionaires, adopting a money-hoarding mentality, and sacrificing their principles to the almighty dollar. It is killing America, and threatens democracy across the world.

Next year we’ll have what may well be our last chance to reclaim the values of democracy, pluralism, and egalitarianism that have animated this country since her founding.

And nobody can say they weren’t warned about the stakes.

Thom Hartmann

Thom Hartmann

Thom Hartmann, one of America’s leading public intellectuals and the country’s #1 progressive talk show host, writes fresh content six days a week. The Monday-Friday “Daily Take” articles are free to all, while paid subscribers receive a Saturday summary of the week’s news and, on Sunday, a chapter excerpt from one of his books.

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