Diane Hendricks deepens ties to Trump, GOP elites
Diane Hendricks, the billionaire chairperson of ABC Supply and a member of the board of trustees at Beloit College, was recently named to Donald Trump’s Presidential Inaugural Committee after donating nearly $2 million to support Trump and serving as a member of Trump’s economic advisory team during the campaign.
The inaugural committee is responsible for planning and funding the events surrounding Trump’s swearing in. The group released a memorandum detailing the benefit packages available to those who make significant donations for the inauguration, which will likely be used to entice big donors to contribute.
The committee is hoping to raise between $65 million and $75 million to finance all the activities that will run from Jan. 17 to Jan. 21 as millions flock to Washington for the inauguration.
The benefit packages come from donations as low as $25,000 or as high as $1 million. For the latter donations, donors will receive four tickets to a “leadership luncheon” with cabinet appointees and members of the congressional leadership; four tickets to an “intimate” dinner with Vice President-elect Mike Pence and his wife, Karen; eight tickets to a “ladies luncheon” with the women of the first family; eight tickets to a “candlelight” dinner with appearances by Trump, First Lady-elect Melania Trump and Pence; eight “V.I.P.” tickets to the inaugural parade, concert and fireworks, inaugural ball and “an entertainment-filled” welcome reception; and eight tickets to Trump’s swearing-in ceremony.
This is the latest step into the inner-ring of GOP politics that Hendricks has taken this year.
In May 2016, Hendricks was selected to chair the Trump Victory Committee by Reince Preibus, the then-chairman of the Republican National Committee and soon-to-be Trump’s chief of staff in the White House. Trump Victory was responsible for raising funds for Trump’s presidential campaign, the RNC and 11 state GOP committees.
During July’s Republican National Convention, Hendricks was a guest of honor in Suite 125 of the Quicken Loans Arena. She shared the box with a number of other high-profile guests including Sheldon Adelson — the Las Vegas billionaire who also is a member of the inaugural committee — and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Hendricks also acted as the primary benefactor for both the Reform America Fund and Reform Wisconsin Fund, two GOP-slanted Super PACs that share one Wisconsin address for their headquarters. Through these PACs, which she contributed millions of dollars to, Hendricks financed a series of ads criticizing Hillary Clinton and U.S. Senate candidate Russ Feingold.
In an ad released on Oct. 25, children are seen counting down from ten to zero in various languages before a bomb explodes. Text then is superimposed upon the screen, reading, “A nuclear Iran is a threat to the world. Russ Feingold supports the Iran nuclear deal.”
Another ad, entitled “Feingold Supports Funding Terrorists,” erroneously ties Feingold to the shootings in San Bernadino, Calif., in Dec. 2015, as well as the Orlando Pulse nightclub shootings from this past summer. “Russ Feingold,” the ad concludes, “30 years of being radical, 30 years of being wrong.”
Hendricks also contributed $4 million to the Freedom Partners Action Fund, a Super PAC run by the Koch brothers. Advertising funded by the PAC targeted the presidential election, the North Carolina gubernatorial election, as well as Senate races in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin. Other ads also went after policy concerns such as Obamacare.
This was not the first time Hendricks has collaborated with the controversial Koch Brothers. She attended a seminar held by the brothers in Aspen, Colo., in 2010 along with a wealth of other industry titans, including representatives for health insurance companies, oil executives, Wall Street powerhouses and real estate tycoons. She was was personally thanked by Charles Koch during a June 2011 retreat in Vail, Colo., for donating more than $1 million to Koch-supported political causes.
Furthermore, the deepening ties between Hendricks and Trump, as well as the other GOP elites, could spell bad things for labor unions across the country. Nationwide union membership, for both the private and public sector, hovers around 11 percent after decades of punishment from liberal and conservative administrations. But Trump is widely believed to be in favor de-fanging the country’s labor unions, a policy Hendricks would likely support as she was once caught on tape asking Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker if she could help make Wisconsin a “right-to-work state” and nodded when Walker suggested they “divide and conquer” the state’s unions.
From a role as economic advisor to an integral role in shaping the lavish inaugural festivities, Diane Hendricks is shaping up to play a significant role in Donald Trump’s administration.