Despite condemnations, GOP leadership provided financial backing to Steve King

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

On Jan. 14, 
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) was removed from his committee assignments on the Judiciary Committee and the Agricultural Committee by Republican House leadership after he said in an interview about his longtime anti-immigrant stances, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

King has contested the New York Times’ reporting saying in a statement that the contentious quote “has been completely mischaracterized” and that in using “the word ‘THAT’ it was in reference ONLY to Western Civilization and NOT to any previously stated evil ideology ALL of which I have denounced [emphasis his].” Still, King’s lengthy history of offensive and racist remarks stretches back over his nine-term congressional career. House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) acknowledged that King used racist language before.

In his campaigns, King has seen lackluster fundraising, raising less than an average House member in all but two of his races. In the 2018 race, in which King won by a narrow 3 percent, outside groups spent next to nothing supporting him. Just over $9,000 of outside spending was spent in support, while nearly $492,000 was spent against him.

Yet despite near-constant controversy, King has still received thousands from establishment and leadership Republicans, alongside some controversial groups.

In the 2018 cycle, King raised almost $873,000, most of which came from large individual contributions (49.86 percent) and PACs (26.85 percent). His top two contributors were individuals from ICM Inc, an ethanol equipment engineering firm, and individuals from the U.S. Navy, which gave $10,800 each. King received $10,000 in PAC contributions from the American Bankers Association, the National Pro-Life Alliance and Koch Industries.

King’s campaign also got two contributions totaling $10,000 from the John Bolton PAC, which was affiliated with current National Security Advisor John Bolton and shut down on shortly before Bolton took the high-ranking position.

King’s campaign was transferred $5,000 from his own leadership PAC, making his campaign the only recipient for his leadership PAC. His leadership PAC’s funding has dropped substantially since its peak of more than $160,000 in 2010, only bringing in $5,000 in the 2018 cycle.

Of the more than $234,000 in PAC money King’s campaign received in 2018, close to 12 percent, $27,500, came from GOP leadership PACs. In fact, McCarthy’s leadership PAC, Majority Committee PAC, gave King’s campaign $5,000. On Jan. 14, 2019, McCarthy said King’s comments were “not the party of Lincoln and it’s definitely not American.”

King also received $5,000 from the Hawkeye PAC, the leadership PAC of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Grassley condemned King’s most recent remarks, despite recording a video endorsing King the day before election day.

In fact, Grassley leads all politicians in donating to King, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Grassley’s leadership PAC has given $43,000 over the course of King’s House career.

Other congressional Republican leadership also contributed to King’s 2018 campaign, despite several of them disapproving of his behavior. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), ranking member  of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, ranks third in all-time politician donations to King, giving $14,000 combined from Brady’s campaign committee and leadership PAC throughout King’s career, $5,000 of which came in the 2018 cycle.

In fifth place is Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), House minority whip, whose campaign committee and leadership PAC gave $11,000 during King’s career. In 2018, Eye of the Tiger PAC, his leadership PAC, donated $2,500. In a recent interview referring to the King controversy, Scalise said “There is no place for hate, for bigotry, or anybody who supports that ideology. It’s evil ideology.”

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) also denounced King’s recent comments and called on him to resign. However, Romney-affiliated leadership PACs have given $7,500, most recently $2,000 in 2012, to King which is good for eighth all-time in politicians’ donations to King.

Additionally, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called King’s comments “stupid” and told NBC News that “When it comes to speaking out against bigotry, whether it is the Klan or Nazis or anything else, I have a lifetime of standing up to that bigotry.” Cruz had given $4,868 from his leadership PAC to King, who was also the national co-chair of Cruz’s 2016 presidential bid.

Several officials with links to the White House also supported King financially. Chris Christie, former governor of New Jersey and head of Donald Trump’s transition team in 2016, had his leadership PAC, Leadership Matters for America, give $10,000 to King over the course of King’s career. White House Council and former Mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, donated $5,000 to King thorough Giuliani’s leadership PAC.

Alongside these prominent donors, King has received money from some controversial groups, including the Family Research Council, which is considered a designated hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group gave $2,000 to his campaign in 2018 and has given to King in each cycle since 2010.

The U.S. Immigration Reform PAC is connected to John Tanton, creator of prominent anti-immigration groups such as Federation for American Immigration Reform and Center for Immigration Studies. Mary Tanton, John’s wife, is listed as the PAC’s co-founder and president. King, who has a long history of anti-immigrant stances, received $2,000 from the PAC in 2018.

Several businesses who supported King’s campaigns announced in October 2018 that they would no longer donate to him. Land O’ Lakes, Purina PetCare, among others said the organizations’ PACs won’t give in the future after the Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooting focused attention on King’s support of a neo-Nazi supported candidate in Toronto’s mayoral race. Both Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Grassley supported King through that pre-election controversy.

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