Politics

GOP groups quiet as billionaire donor stands accused of running biggest tax fraud scheme ever

Share
Key Points
  • The billionaire accused of running the biggest tax fraud scheme in U.S. history was a prolific donor to Republican groups and causes.
  • The leaders of those organizations have kept quiet on the accusations against him.
  • Robert Brockman, former CEO of Ohio-based software company Reynolds & Reynolds, was charged in October with running a $2 billion tax fraud scheme.
Robert Brockman attends an intimate al fresco dinner celebrating the Rice University groundbreaking of James Turrell's Rice University Skyspace project at the home of Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, Tuesday evening, May 17, 2011, in Houston.
Dave Rossman | Houston Chronicle | AP

The billionaire accused of running the biggest tax fraud scheme in U.S. history was a prolific donor to Republican groups and causes. The leaders of those organizations have kept quiet on the federal charges against him.

Robert Brockman, former CEO of Ohio-based software company Reynolds & Reynolds, was charged in October with running a $2 billion tax fraud scheme.

Department of Justice officials said at the time that the businessman had hidden capital gains income for more than 20 years through various offshore entities in Bermuda and Nevis and secret bank accounts. Brockman has pleaded not guilty to the alleged crimes.

Brockman's most recent contributions to Republican committees came in 2017, ahead of the congressional midterm elections the following year, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Representatives of the organizations that are still active did not respond when asked whether they plan to refund or give the total amount of contributions away to charity in the wake of the allegations. The 2017 contributions had yet to be reported in the media.

In 2017, Brockman donated more than $80,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, the political campaign organization for House Republicans. The GOP went on to lose the House to the Democrats, with Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., becoming speaker.

The FEC records showing the NRCC contributions do not list Reynolds & Reynolds as Brockman's employer, but the Texas address matches the location listed on other contributions Brockman has made. The mailing address is also listed on a business registration form for Reynolds & Reynolds reviewed by CNBC. The form, signed in April before Brockman was charged, lists him as the CEO.

Brockman also gave more than $100,000 to entities linked to former Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, including a six-figure check to the Wisconsin lawmaker's now-defunct joint fundraising committee. The Brockman NRCC donations were attributed on the filings to Ryan's joint fundraising committee, which at the time was helping raise money for the Republican campaign arm.

Brockman also made a $5,000 donation to Prosperity Action, Ryan's leadership political action committee, which has remained active since he left office. That contribution was transferred from Ryan's joint fundraising committee to Prosperity Action.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that Brockman and his legal team are claiming that the 79-year-old billionaire can't be tried because he is suffering from dementia and is unable to take part in his own defense. Prosecutors reportedly responded that he could be faking it and that a hearing on Brockman's competency is set to take place in June.

An attorney for Brockman did not respond to a request for comment.

Democrats are already pouncing on the lack of public GOP pushback against Brockman after he funded some of their campaigns.

American Bridge, a Democratic super PAC that specializes in opposition research and first flagged the Brockman contributions to CNBC, used the episode to blast the GOP.

"Congressional Republicans spent the last four years gutting IRS enforcement and cutting taxes for billionaires while being bankrolled by the biggest tax cheat in American history," Max Steele, an American Bridge spokesman, told CNBC. "While they should return or donate the money, we know they won't. After all, how can a party blindly loyal to Donald Trump afford to oppose billionaires committing tax fraud?"

Brockman, through companies he controlled, also heavily financed a super PAC backing Mitt Romney for president in 2012, according to a report by Mother Jones.

All of the House seats are up for grabs in the 2022 midterms, while at least 34 Senate seats are at stake, according to the Cook Political Report. More than two dozen Democratic and Republicans House seats are marked as toss-ups.

Cook considers the two open Republican Senate seats in Pennsylvania and North Carolina toss-ups. The site does not list any Democratic Senate seats as toss-ups, although seats in swing states Arizona and Georgia are marked as "lean Democrat."

Both parties have been under scrutiny in the past for receiving, and in some cases not returning, campaign contributions from controversial figures. John Childs, who was charged with and pleaded not guilty to soliciting prostitution in Florida, has continued to fund Republican campaigns.

Records show that in 2020 alone Childs gave more than $3 million to Republican causes including committees linked to former President Donald Trump. There are no records showing those donations have been returned either.

Steve Wynn, a former finance chair of the Republican National Committee, was accused of sexual harassment, which he denied. The former CEO of Wynn Resorts has continued to contribute to Republican campaigns and there is no record showing those contributions were returned.

Harvey Weinstein was a major Democratic donor for years before he was accused and sentenced to prison for rape. The Washington Post reports that some Democrats did contribute the donations to various causes.