Hendricks Abandoning Trump Campaign?
She's among many big 2016 donors who haven't given this year. But the Uihleins are all in.
Wisconsin billionaire Diane Hendricks, who served as an economic policy adviser to President Donald Trump and gave $8.1 million to a super PAC supporting Trump in 2016, “has given nothing so far” to Trump’s America First super PAC in this cycle, the New York Times reports.
“Thus far, only six of the top 38 donors to Trump-related super PACs in 2016 and 2018 have contributed to America First for the president’s re-election,” the Times found. Hendricks was among the missing donors who received prominent mention, along with her photo, in the story. She runs a building supply business in Beloit, was a big contributor to Republican Scott Walker and since 1995 has been the fattest cat donor the party has in Wisconsin.
Why are so many wealthy donors holding back so far in supporting Trump? His “sagging popularity, driven by his erratic and divisive behavior during the coronavirus crisis, has prompted some of the wealthiest Republicans — the heavy artillery of modern politics — to delay, divert or diminish their giving, just as Joseph R. Biden Jr. has begun to tap a rich vein of Wall Street and Silicon Valley support, party operatives and donors said in interviews.”
One bright spot for Trump has been the emergence of wealthy donors who gave little or no support to him in 2016, notably Richard and Liz Uihlein, owners of the Uline Co., a shipping supply company located in Pleasant Prairie, WI, and among “the top tier of right-wing financiers” of Republicans candidates nationally. The couple has donated “nearly $3 million to America First in the 2020 cycle, after giving roughly a tenth of that in 2016 and 2018 to Trump-related super PACs.”
Liz Uihlein conceded the problems with Trump’s controversial utterances. “Obviously, Trump, you wish sometimes he would just shut up — don’t go there, it’s not necessary,” she told the Times. She added that she faced blowback for supporting Trump, including from customers who threatened to take their business elsewhere. “But I’ve got a thick skin,” she said. “I just try to do the best for our company and our family.”
Another factor that might be hurting donations to the America First super PAC is that many Republican politicos have “long viewed the PAC as a dumping ground for exiled White House staff members and Mr. Trump’s family members, officials and donors said.” Perhaps to counter this view, its leadership “has offloaded high-paid surrogates on the payroll” including former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, the story noted. This made it sound like a recent firing, but Clarke was actually let go back in March 2019.
It’s possible that Hendricks and other fat cat donors who haven’t supported Trump could still decide to do so. But one worrisome sign is that wealthy donors are not delaying their donations to the Republican Party’s Senate fund-raising groups, which has attracted a “historic crop of big contributors,” the story noted.
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