Former president Donald Trump narrowly avoided conviction on his second impeachment trial. After delaying the vote till he was out of office, most Republican senators simply said they couldn’t impeach a “private citizen” — even if he was guilty.
Still, the trial was revealing. And the hunt for the wealthy financiers of the January 6 coup attempt continues.
Throughout his scorching indictment of Trump, lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin wove in quotes from eminent historic minds, including this one from his late father, Institute for Policy Studies Co-founder Marcus Raskin: “Democracy needs a ground to stand on, and that ground is the truth.”
Raskin’s trial team exposed a great deal of truth as they made the case that Trump was “singularly responsible” for inciting the riot at the Capitol. Raskin pointed out that Trump had “road tested” his tactics for inflaming mobs at his campaign rallies and through Twitter. Social media traffic leading up to January 6 also made clear that dangerous extremist groups were planning a violent attack in the nation’s capital.
And in her widely viewed Instagram video, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez recounted that the threat of violence seemed to be widely known, as she started receiving warnings from other members of Congress, including Republicans, a week before the attack.
If plans for the insurrection were no great secret, then the wealthy enablers who financed the “Stop the Steal” convergence should also bear some responsibility. But identifying them is difficult.
“Thanks to a lattice of financial secrecy vehicles,” journalist Casey Michel explained for NBCNews.com, “we may never have a complete financial picture of those who provided the money to organize a rally that descended into chaos and that shook the underpinnings of American democracy.”
We do know, thanks to OpenSecrets, that the Trump 2020 campaign and its joint fundraising committees made more than $3.5 million in direct payments to people and firms involved in the demonstration.
But as the transparency group pointed out, “the campaign used an opaque payment scheme that concealed details of hundreds of millions of dollars in spending by routing payments through shell companies where the ultimate payee is hidden.”
In December 2020, Congress passed a landmark bipartisan bill, the Corporate Transparency Act, which will take a meaningful step toward eliminating such anonymous shell corporations. But it won’t take effect for another two years.
So Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) has introduced the Insurrection Financing Transparency Act, which would give U.S. authorities immediate access to the identities of those who financed the Capitol assault.
Another proposed bill, the For the People Act, would also curb dangerous financial secrecy by requiring super PACs and other “dark money” political campaign organizations to disclose their donors.
The events of January 6 have also prompted pro-democracy advocates to step up their demands on corporations to end their political spending.
More than 50 organizations, investment firms, and religious organizations called on large U.S. corporations to take a number of steps to signal their support for democracy. These included ending all super PAC and dark money contributions and pledging to never again provide financial backing for the 147 members of Congress who refused to certify the presidential election.
The groups pointed out that these members have received more than $170 million from corporate and trade group PACs and nearly $2 million from Big Tech companies. In the wake of the insurrection, a number of corporate PACs pulled back their corporate donations to these officials.
The full impact of the January 6 insurrection and the impeachment trial on our democracy will not be known for many years, if not centuries. We can only hope that this national trauma will lead to greater accountability for future political leaders — and their wealthy financial enablers.