In his brief tenure atop the Republican National Committee’s formidable fundraising apparatus, Steve Wynn built a small shadow party primed for political action in his home state of Nevada. Now a top Wynn political operative is poised to wield significant influence over President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. Wynn stepped down as RNC finance chairman in January amid numerous sexual-misconduct allegations from current and former employees of his casino company, Wynn Resorts. But the political machine that he and some senior RNC officials crafted last year appears ascendant.
Two days after Wynn was named RNC finance chief, the committee’s then-political director, Chris Carr, left D.C. to helm Wynn Resorts’ political and government-relations operation. At the same time, a top Carr deputy, RNC Field Director Chris Young, left that post to form a new Nevada political group, Our Founding Principles. That group stayed mostly dormant last year. But in January, a few weeks before Wynn’s resignation, it reported its only publicly disclosed income to date: a $125,000 donation from Wynn Resorts, the only contribution the company has reported to the Federal Election Commission this cycle. A week later, Our Founding Principles spent most of that money, $95,000, on research and data consulting, the bulk of it going to the firm Causeway Solutions. Causeway is run by Bill Skelly, a former top data official at the RNC. The committee has paid Skelly’s firm nearly $1 million since he left the RNC post in 2013.
A source familiar with Wynn’s political operation provided some insight on the thinking behind it. It of course was not a coincidence that the operation was set up in Wynn’s home state, where he has significant financial interests in election and policy outcomes. But the source, who is deeply familiar with Republican political efforts in Nevada, also noted the increasing importance of the state—and the American West more generally—to Republican fundraising efforts. The region “has a high concentration of donors—so many billionaires and millionaires that play in the political process that proximity to guys who want to impact policy and impact elections is really valuable,” the source said. Chief among them are Wynn himself and fellow casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. “Those donors want access and they want to be able to sit down and talk strategy,” my source said. And they don’t want to have to fly cross-country to do it.