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Steve Wynn steps down as RNC finance chair — but Republicans still have a problem

After the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct allegations, Republicans called for Democrats to return his money. But what are they doing about Steve Wynn?

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Emily Stewart covers business and economics for Vox and writes the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

If Democrats had a Harvey Weinstein problem last fall, Republicans almost certainly have a Steve Wynn problem right now. On Friday, the Las Vegas casino mogul and Republican National Committee finance chair was accused of decades of sexual misconduct with his employees after the Wall Street Journal interviewed 150 current and former employees. He’s also given millions of dollars to the GOP.

On Saturday, after the Journal story was published, Wynn stepped down as RNC finance chair. “Today I accepted Steve Wynn’s resignation as Republican National Committee finance chair,” RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel told Politico, which was first to report the decision. The party still isn’t saying what it plans to do with all the money Wynn donated and raised.

The Journal’s story said that Wynn, who turned 76 on Saturday, allegedly harassed or abused multiple women who worked for him over the years; the paper’s reporters uncovered a $7.5 million settlement Wynn paid to a manicurist he coerced into having intercourse with him in 2005. Wynn has denied the allegations and said they were the work of his ex-wife, Elaine Wynn. The Las Vegas billionaire is embroiled in a lawsuit over her efforts to lift restrictions on the sale of her stock in Wynn Resorts, of which Wynn is chair and CEO. Wynn Resorts’ board of directors, a 10-member group — with just one woman — said they have launched an investigation into the allegations.

Thus far, Republicans have largely remained silent on what they intend to do about Wynn, the allegations against him, or the money he donated to the party, beyond his resignation. MSNBC’s Joy Reid noted the party’s conundrum on Twitter: How do they move forward from this?

Representatives for the Republican National Committee did not return a request for comment on the Wynn allegations. Neither did the White House.

Republicans were quick to jump on Democrats over Weinstein

The GOP has found itself in a tough spot: Last fall, the party slammed Democrats over Harvey Weinstein’s political donations after allegations of the producer’s sexual misconduct surfaced in a New York Times exposé. He was a prominent Democratic donor, and last year, Republicans had a field day demanding his donations be returned.

The RNC released a statement highlighting the Democrats’ ties to him and demanding they return any money from him. “During three-decades worth of sexual harassment allegations, Harvey Weinstein lined the pockets of Democrats to the tune of three-quarters of a million dollars,” McDaniel said at the time. “If Democrats and the DNC truly stand up for women like they say they do, then returning this dirty money should be a no-brainer.”

The RNC also released a list of Weinstein’s donations to Democrats, including about $250,000 to the Democratic National Committee and thousands of dollars to Democratic senators.

According to the Daily Beast, Wynn, however, has donated more than $2 million to Republican campaigns, party organs, and interest groups since 2001, including more than $1.3 million to the RNC and the GOP’s House and Senate campaign arms. (Weinstein gave $300,000 to the DNC.) Wynn also helped raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) presidential campaign and bankrolled Republican operative Karl Rove’s political nonprofit Crossroads GPS. (Wynn reportedly brokered a meeting between Rove and Trump during the 2016 campaign.)

Wynn has also donated to Democrats, though to a much lesser degree, and claims he voted for President Barack Obama in 2008. Wynn was named finance chair of the Republican National Committee in early 2017; at the time he said President Donald Trump asked him personally to take the job.

On Friday evening, President Trump raised eyebrows when he “liked” the Wall Street Journal’s tweet of its Wynn exposé. It was only the 25th tweet the president’s account had ever liked. (Trump appears to have “unliked” the tweet since.) It is unclear whether Trump will have much interest in going to bat for Wynn in the same way that he has for, say, Roy Moore in Alabama. Wynn and Trump were for years rivals in the casino business.

The GOP’s history of dealing with sexual misconduct allegations complicates its path forward as well. The RNC ultimately backed Moore, an accused child molester, in the US Senate race in Alabama. And, of course, it has stood by Trump, who faces allegations of misconduct from multiple women and has been caught bragging about sexual assault on tape.

“The RNC and Ronna McDaniel have helped fund the campaign of an alleged child molester, blindly supported the GOP’s attacks on women’s health, supported a President who has been accused of sexual misconduct by over a dozen women,” Sabrina Singh, the DNC’s deputy communications director, said in a statement, “and now they remain silent amid sexual assault allegations involving Steve Wynn, one of their party’s most senior officials.”

Update: Story updated with Wynn’s resignation as RNC finance chair.

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