Steve Wynn Donates $400K to GOP in April, No Plans for Party to Return Money

Posted on: May 20, 2019, 08:35h. 

Last updated on: May 20, 2019, 08:51h.

Steve Wynn — the controversial former chairman of Wynn Resorts and one-time Republican National Commitee (RNC) Finance Chair — reportedly donated nearly $400,000 to two national GOP committees in April, and the party appears unlikely to refund those contributions despite the multiple sexual assault allegations swirling around the billionaire.

YOUR MONEY IS GOOD HERE: RNC chair Ronna McDaniel has said that as long as no wrongdoing has been proven against former Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn, the party will accept his campaign donations. Some individual recipients have taken a different tack, however. (Image: Mike Blake/Reuters)

Wynn has always denied the allegations.

Deep GOP Ties

Citing two unidentified sources familiar with the matter, Politico reports that Wynn donated $248,500 to the RNC and $150,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) last month. Those contributions are expected to be officially noted in filings that will be widely available later in May.

While Wynn did not overtly support President Trump during the 2016 campaign, the president appointed him to lead the RNC’s fundraising efforts in early 2017, a post he would depart in January 2018. Wynn was one of several Nevada gaming scions in the so-called RNC “billionaires club” that included Phil Ruffin and Sheldon Adelson.

Tainted Money?

The controversies surrounding Wynn — who stepped down as Wynn Resorts CEO shortly after a scathing Wall Street Journal broke in January 2018 on numerous allegations of sexual misconduct over decades by the casino developer — led some in the Republican party to want to create distance from the formerly revered tycoon.

Several GOP candidates in various 2018 races returned contributions they had received from Wynn prior to the scandal breaking, or donated those funds to charity.

Senate candidate Danny Tarkanian, (R-NV), got $5,400 from Wynn and $7,000 from the Wynn Resorts Political Action Committee (PAC) for a failed 2016 US House bid. Tarkanian came under some scrutiny for not returning those funds, but said the money was already spent prior to the mogul’s fall from grace.

Last year, Tarkanian lost a primary bid to unseat former Nevada Senator Dean Heller. Heller, who ultimately lost his own reelection effort, donated the $5,400 he received from Wynn to charity.

No Return Policy, for Now

The RNC has previously said it’s waiting for investigations into the alleged wrongdoings by Wynn being conducted by several states to play out before considering returning his campaign contributions.

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel reiterated that view following the news of Wynn’s April donations. She said that while the allegations against Wynn must be taken “seriously,” the former casino executive “has not been charged with or found guilty of any crimes” and that at the current time, “there is no reason for refusing his support.”

Last year, America First Action — a PAC formed to assist with Trump’s 2020 reelection efforts — also said it would not return half a million in donations from Wynn.

The RNC raised $15.9 million last month, a figure McDaniel called “a record-breaking April fundraising haul” in a statement released on May 16.

Donors contributing to national political parties usually do not call the shots over how the funds are dispersed. The RNC can allocate funds to Republican presidential, House, and Senate candidates, while the NRSC is the fundraising arm for GOP Senate races.

Taking Stock

In March 2018, Wynn liquidated his $2.2 billion financial stake in the company bearing his name, in a move that proved fortuitous as shares of Wynn Resorts would tumble 30 percent over the next few months.

While shares are now back up 22.76 percent year-to-date, the stock is down almost 37 percent over the past 12 months and resides 38.58 percent below its 52-week high, indicating Wynn’s financial divorce from the company came at prices more favorable than where the stock currently trades.

Today, the ex-CEO is barred from the company’s casinos, but aftershocks of the sexual misconduct allegations against him reverberate to this day.

Recently, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) levied a $35.5 million fine against Wynn Resorts related to the company’s role in covering up Wynn’s alleged misdeeds. That financial pinch was seen as a requirement for the company maintaining its gaming license so it could move forward with plans to open the Encore Boston Harbor casino.

Initially, it appeared Wynn Resorts would pay the fine and proceed with a June opening of the hotel, but news broke on Friday that the company is in talks with MGM Resorts regarding a possible sale of the $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor.

The Story Behind the Story: Wynn’s Fall from Grace

Regarded by many in industry circles as one of the godfathers of modern Las Vegas, Wynn is also seen as one of the highest-profile executives to be toppled by the #MeToo movement.

In January 2018, the, The Wall Street Journal published a lengthy expose detailing dozens of accounts by former employees, alleging that Wynn had engaged in various forms of assault and harassment.

Among the unsavory acts the departed casino boss was said to have initiated — which he vehemently denies — were accusations allegeding he used his power as a casino boss to coerce a former female massage therapist into performing sexual favors, according to a February 2018 suit filed in Clark County District Court. That suit claims Wynn forced the therapist to perform a dozen sexual acts on him over the course of a year and that Wynn made numerous, unwanted advances toward the woman, including forcing her hands onto his genitals.

He departed the helm of the company bearing his name in February 2018, and has consistently denied any wrongdoing, while accusing his ex-wife, Elaine Wynn, of launching a public smear campaign against him.