Billionaire casino magnate Stephen Wynn stepped down as finance chair of the Republican National Committee last week after a Wall Street Journal report detailed decades of sexual misconduct allegations against him. Dozens of people described how Wynn, the chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts, would routinely demand naked massages from female employees, often pressuring them to perform sex acts. In one case, Wynn allegedly paid $7.5 million to settle claims that in 2005 he forced a manicurist at his Wynn Las Vegas casino to have sex with him. Wynn, a high-profile Republican donor, has adamantly denied the allegations, but nevertheless he resigned his post as RNC finance chair. The RNC, which has called on Democrats to return donations from disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein, says it will not return Wynn’s donations until Wynn Resorts completes its own investigation. “Steve has denied these allegations,” said RNC chair Ronna Romney McDaniel. “He should be allowed due process.”
Charles and David Koch
Koch spending blitz
Indian Wells, Calif.
Fearing a Democratic wave in this year’s midterm elections, the conservative political network led by billionaires Charles and David Koch pledged this week at its biannual donor conference to spend upward of $400 million to protect Republican majorities in Congress. That’s 60 percent more than what the Koch network spent in 2016 and the most the network has ever spent on a midterm. Much of the money will go toward an online and TV advertising blitz promoting the tax reform bill, which is expected to save Koch Industries more than $1 billion a year. Speakers at the conference exhorted donors to open their wallets, warning that energized Democrats are poised for sweeping gains that could undo a year’s worth of conservative victories. “We’ve made more progress in the past five years than I had in the last 50,” the 82-year-old Charles Koch told the assembled donors.
Supervised drug use
Hoping to reduce mounting deaths from opioid overdoses, officials in Philadelphia last week approved the creation of safe havens where drug users can inject themselves under the supervision of medical professionals. The so-called supervised injection sites would provide drug users with clean needles and access to immediate overdose treatment. The centers, which would be run by private companies, would also provide referrals for social services. More than 1,200 people fatally overdosed last year in Philadelphia, a more than 30 percent increase over 2016. The plan would make Philadelphia the first U.S. city with officially sanctioned injection sites; Seattle and San Francisco are considering similar proposals. A review of supervised sites overseas found that a single location could prevent as many as 76 overdose deaths a year in the city and save millions of dollars in hospital costs.
The Trump administration declined this week to impose new sanctions on Russia, even though the penalties were required under a law passed by Congress last year. The law, designed to punish the Kremlin for meddling in the 2016 election, passed the House 419-3 and the Senate 98-2 and set deadlines on imposing penalties. The White House faced one such deadline this week to sanction purchasers of Russian military equipment. But the Trump administration claimed that the penalties were unnecessary, saying that the law was already deterring companies from doing business with Russia. Congress also required the White House to create a list of Russian oligarchs linked to the Kremlin. But BuzzFeed.com found that the Treasury Department’s report was largely drawn from a Forbes list of Russian billionaires. CIA Director Mike Pompeo told the BBC this week that he has “every expectation” Russia will try to influence the midterms.
A White House proposal to give 1.8 million undocumented “Dreamers” a path to citizenship in exchange for dramatic cuts to legal immigration and $25 billion for a border wall appeared dead on arrival when it was released last week, with serious opposition from both parties. Liberals lambasted the Trump administration’s plan as a cruel and economically damaging ploy to close America to newcomers. They also criticized the plan to end family-sponsored migration outside of spouses and children and to abolish the diversity visa lottery—efforts that would cut legal immigration by more than 40 percent. Conservatives lashed out at the idea of extending citizenship to undocumented immigrants, with Breitbart News labeling the plan “Don’s Amnesty Bonanza.” A deadlocked Congress may ultimately punt the issue to next year by temporarily extending DACA protections alongside increased border security funding.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
The Federal Emergency Management Agency this week reversed a plan to stop distributing food and water in Puerto Rico, after furious Puerto Rican officials said they’d been blindsided by the announcement. Federal officials had announced on Jan. 29 that FEMA would halt food and water distribution on the hurricane-ravaged island on Jan. 31, saying enough businesses had reopened to support residents’ needs. But Puerto Rican officials angrily protested the move, saying they had not been notified in advance of the decision and that more than one-third of the island’s residents remain without power and have difficulty accessing clean water and food. FEMA, which has provided more than 30 million gallons of water and nearly 60 million emergency meals in the four months since Hurricane Maria pummeled the island, said distribution efforts would continue, and that the cut-off date had been “mistakenly provided.” ■