'Just check the numbers': Claire McCaskill calls BS on Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz for claiming to turn down corporate PAC cash
Ted Cruz. (AFP)

Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz weren't fooling many people Thursday when they announced that they would be turning up their noses at corporate PAC donations.

They especially weren't fooling Claire McCaskill. The former senator and current MSNBC host didn't mince words in comments to Raw Story.

"Republican Senate candidates largely rely on dark money raised by Mitch McConnell," McCaskill said. "Corporate money is an essential part of that. For anyone to pretend they are refusing corporate money while they are swimming in dark money raised from corporations and corporate executives is offensive and frankly, simply bullsh*t."

Hawley and Cruz conveniently overlooked McCaskill's point in pretending Thursday to have punished their corporate benefactors for somehow having become woke. But that didn't keep their claim from getting covered.

"Cruz, Hawley Swear Off Corporate PAC Money Amid Deepening GOP Rift With Business," a headline on Forbes' website proclaimed.

"Cruz and Hawley are putting their money where their mouths are by swearing off corporate PAC donations as Republicans grow increasingly alienated from their once-loyal allies in the business world," it reported.

The bridge too far in the Republicans' telling was that large companies such as Coca-Cola had supported the decision by Major League Baseball to move the 2020 All-Star Game out of Atlanta. That, of course, was in protest to the new voter-suppression laws enacted in Georgia, although it's not clear whether MLB was motivated by ideology as much as a fear of a messy boycott of the event by its players.

Still, the most important point is the one raised by McCaskill: It's a mistake even to dignify the cheap talk from the two senators about punishing corporations. There would be no way to know if a penny of financial sacrifice was ever made by the senators.

As long as dark money spring forward to the likes of Cruz and Hawley from a Fountain of Uncouth, the same corporate donors can extract the same "access" and influence by giving under the radar. Oxford Dictionary defines dark money as funding "raised for the purpose of influencing elections by nonprofit organizations that are not required to disclose the identities of their donors."

That shadiness aside, pretending to turn down corporate donations is good for business if you're in the business of raising campaign money. Open Secrets recently reported, "GOP objectors (Hawley and Cruz) rake in record Q1 cash." Open Secrets noted:

"Republican lawmakers allied with former President Donald Trump continue to report record breaking fundraising hauls ahead of the April 15 deadline to disclose their donations.

(Hawley and Cruz) reported raising $3 million and $5.3 million respectively from January through March. The two were the first senators to advocate against certifying President Joe Biden's election in January.

"Neither senator will face re-election until 2024, making their early 2021 sums all the more noteworthy. They're not missing the support of corporations that chose to pause their PAC contributions to lawmakers who questioned the results of the presidential election. Individual donors contributing relatively small sums have buoyed Republicans. More than 110,000 individuals donated to Cruz in the first three months of 2021, helping him raise over three times as much money as he did at this point in 2017."

There's also one other important detail: Even to the extent corporate PACS are cutting back on Hawley, Cruz and other insurrectionist for their support of Donald Trump's insurrection, the haughty senators ignore the fact that the decision was not theirs.

After the January 6 Capitol riot, there were plenty of instances in which companies left the miscreants, not the other way around. On January 12, for example, the Kansas City Star reported that "KC's Hallmark PAC demands Hawley, Marshall return donations after deadly Capitol riot.

The Star report spotlighted Hawley and Rep. Roger Marshall of Kansas, who had also had Trump's backside.

"Hallmark believes the peaceful transition of power is part of the bedrock of our democratic system, and we abhor violence of any kind," Hallmark spokeswoman JiaoJiao Shen said in a statement. "The recent actions of Senators Josh Hawley and Roger Marshall do not reflect our company's values. As a result, HALLPAC requested Sens. Hawley and Marshall to return all HALLPAC campaign contributions."

Even if an iconic Kansas City company like Hallmark meant business by snubbing Hawley -- and it likely did -- the decision was reached without any input from him. It's nauseating even by Hawley's standards for him to pretend now -- or even to imply -- that he's rejecting the advances of a company like Hallmark that now wants nothing to do with him.

That will not stop Hawley from seeking to use dark money as a workaround, as both political parties do every day. But what sets Hawley apart is the degree to which he has mastered the Dark Arts.

Hawley has been exceptional for his reliance upon outside national political consultants during his brief but meteoric political career. He went far beyond fund-raising sleaziness after he won his first election as Missouri attorney general in 2016. Here's what the Kansas City Star reported in October 2018:

"Within weeks of Hawley's swearing in as the state's top law enforcement official, the high-powered political team that would go on to run his U.S. Senate campaign had stepped in to help direct the office of the Missouri attorney general — and raise his national profile. Hawley's out-of-state political consultants gave direct guidance and tasks to his taxpayer-funded staff, and followed up to ensure the tasks were completed, according to emails, text messages and other records obtained by The Star."

So Hawley is a known quantity with respect to political ethics, or the lack thereof. And no one knows the subject better than McCaskill, who lost to Hawley in her 2018 U.S. Senate reelection bid in Missouri.

Which is why she finds so absurd the notion of Hawley "rejecting" corporate PAC donations.

"Just check the numbers," McCaskill told Raw Story. "Hawley's campaign didn't raise very much money compared to the amount of money spent on his behalf. The vast majority of his campaign effort was from dark money groups."