The Donor

In the wake of this week’s Republican spanking of the Democrats in the mid-term elections, which allowed them to retake control of the Senate, exhaustive investigation has revealed the identity of one of the Republican Party’s most generous donors. After tracing money through Bank of America, two separate institutions in the Cayman Islands, and FOUR Swiss bank accounts, the identity of this individual—and his political leanings—will surely shock the American electorate to its very core.

Unbelievably, the donor had offered to give me an interview this morning. I had thought that he would have wanted to remain unknown and behind the scenes, but it turns out that anonymity is the farthest thing from his mind.

I found myself sitting at a small table by the window of a cafe in Washington DC, enjoying a warm cup of coffee, when I felt a hand on my shoulder. Looking up, I saw the man I came to see. His jet black hair was not, as one might have expected, slicked back like some shady lawyer, but was rather styled in a manner reminiscent of the 1950s: a clean part, but without an abundance of product. I was put in mind of a young Mitt Romney, though the eyes that looked back at me carried a youthful sparkle that belied his age, despite his otherwise youthful appearance. A blood-red golf shirt peeked out from beneath a white linen jacket.

As he sat down across from me, a waiter appeared as is from nowhere, depositing an espresso in front of him and scuttling off in a rush.

“I love this place,” he said. “Great espresso.” He took a sip from the tiny cup. “One of my many vices, I suppose.” He smiled, and I saw the charisma I had heard about.

“Thank you for talking with me,” I said.

“Not at all,” he said, with a dismissive gesture. “I wasn’t trying to hide. Not myself, anyway;  just the money.” He smiled again. I smiled back, reflexively.

Clearing my throat, I said “Well, I won’t take too much of your time. Do you mind if we begin?”

“Not at all,” he said, casting his gaze out the windows to the people walking past. “I understand. Deadlines and such. Fire away.”

“According to my research, you somehow managed to bypass Federal election law and distribute over half a billion—with a B— to various Republican Senate, House, and Gubernatorial candidates.”

“Is that a question?”

“I guess the question is: how did you do that, and how can the American people have any faith in the electoral system when one person can do what you have apparently done and violated the law?”

He smiled again. This time it wasn’t so much charismatic as it was mischievous.

“May I call you ‘Shadow’? I like that persona you’ve chosen to disguise yourself with online.”

“If you’d like. Answer the question, please.”

“Well, Shadow,” he said with that mischievous grin, “you may be surprised to learn that I haven’t actually broken any laws—”

“What—? “

“—and as for people having faith in the system, the only answer I can give is that man has continuously made the mistake of placing trust in other men, and then failing to ensure that those men have acted as they are expected. What’s worse is when they feign surprise about it.”

“Wait!” I said, raising my voice. “What do you mean you haven’t broken any laws?”

Unnaturally perfect eyebrows arched in surprise.

“Have you ever read the campaign regulations? All of them?”

I paused.

“Of course you haven’t. No one has.”

“Except you.” The truth began to dawn on me.

“Federal election regulations are even more convoluted than the tax code. And I’ve read those, too. I assure you, every penny I gave to every candidate was completely, one-hundred-percent legal.”

“How is that possible?”

“Well, if you’ve done the research on me, then you know that I’ve been involved in writing most of those regulations over the years. Tax code, too. You don’t think that I haven’t analyzed them all from top to bottom? That I haven’t memorized every word?”

“But you’ve always been known as a liberal, a radical, even. Why would you be donating all of that money and helping Republicans?”

“That’s the question, isn’t it? Why do you think?”

“I don’t know. That’s why we’re here.”

“I suppose that I’ll have to spell it out for you, then.”

He shifted in his seat, leaning forward and putting his elbows on the table and resting his chin on the steeple formed by his long, delicate fingers.

“Yes, I was—and still am, really—a liberal. Not a bleeding-heart, victim-centric liberal like you see today. None of this harping on income inequality, unfair taxes, wealth re-distribution garbage. No, I’m more of a power-centric liberal. Control the way people live, how they act, how they think—that’s power. Not ‘how do I win an election?’.” His eyes sparkled wildly. “You see, all I’ve ever wanted was to be acknowledged, to be recognized, for who I am and what I do. From day one, all I’ve wanted was to run things. Not necessarily from the front, either. The guy out front, he’s just a figure-head. No, it’s the guy who can put that guy there, or take him out of there, that’s the guy who’s in charge. It took me a while to figure that out, but it’s definitely the way to go.”

I took a moment to consider his words. “But why Republicans? You still haven’t answered that question.”

He smiled that impish smile again and lifted his chin off his hands, though the steepled hands remained, giving him the look of someone in prayer.

“Because, everyone was starting to treat the guy in the White House like he was some kind of Christ figure, which I can’t stand, or worse, like he was some kind of anti-Christ.”

His hands slowly moved until they lay flat on the table, and he leaned in over the table, his torso seeming to stretch until his face was inches from mine.

“And that,” he hissed, “I will NOT stand for.”

He leaned back into his chair, folding those immaculately clean and manicured hands in his lap, and cast his eyes once more out the window. The morning rush was building, and the sidewalk was rapidly filling with people hurrying about their day.

“Especially after everything I’ve done for him.”

I blinked.

“You mean—”

“I remember introducing myself to him in Bill’s living room. He was no one then, of course, just an ambitious boy without direction. I gave him that direction. But now….” he tailed off.  I waited. “Now, he needed to be reminded how he got where he is. It certainly wasn’t because of anything he did. Why, if I hadn’t written that speech for him in ’04, he’d still be collecting signatures to save homeless shelters or build parks in the inner city.”

“So he…” I couldn’t finish

“’Made a deal?’” He finished for me. “He did. And like so many others before him, he thought he could simply ignore our agreement when it was convenient. I always get my way.” He stopped again and looked back at me. “Well, except for that one time. But I was young—well, younger than I am now—and foolish. I’ve grown since then.”

He flicked his left hand, exposing a pale wrist and looked at a very expensive looking watch.

“Oh, my. I really do have to run. I have a meeting with a certain senator from Massachusetts. She’s got aspirations of her own and is looking for a backer.” He smiled that mischievous smile, so wide it might crack his face, but not a single wrinkle appeared on his face. He stood up and extended his hand.

I took it.

“I don’t know what to print. What to write about this. About you.”

“It doesn’t matter. You’ll figure it out. I’m just happy that I could help.”

He started walking out the door and the import of his final words hit me. He’d offered.

And I’d accepted.

 

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