Senator Bob Corker Looks Very, Very Bad

In his announcement explaining why he is shifting from a ‘no’ to a ‘yes’ on President Trump’s tax bill, Sen. Bob Corker explained that he was making a bet on the “enterprising spirit” of America. In other words, despite the fact that he promised not to vote for a bill that will add to the deficit, and despite the fact that this bill will certainly do so, Corker is hoping that all the projections are wrong and that other factors, like deregulatory actions and changes in trade and immigration policy will help make up the difference. This doesn’t undo the fact that Corker is breaking a promise, nor does it convincingly explain why he’s abandoned his former position which was based on principle.

Nothing in the tax bill the conference committee produced would directly overcome the objections that led Corker to oppose the original Senate bill, but one thing that was added at the last second would benefit Corker directly. Like Trump, Corker made his career in real estate, and a new provision of the tax bill would vastly reduce Trump and Corker’s tax liabilities:

In the 503-page text was a new provision that was not in the House or Senate legislation. It would specifically benefit real estate investors who operate “pass-through” businesses. This group includes President Trump — and also Bob Corker, who “has millions of dollars of ownership stakes in real-estate related LLCs that could also benefit” from the new provision.

The savings to Corker could be substantial, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

When allegations arose that he’d changed his vote in exchange for a tax break in excess of a million dollars, Sen. Corker at first feigned a special kind of ignorance.

Corker then contacted the International Business Times and said the new provision did not influence his position on the bill because he hadn’t actually read it before announcing his vote. “I had like a two-page summary I went through with leadership. I never saw the actual text,” Corker said.

Upon further reflection, however, the senator must have realized that claiming not to have read the bill wasn’t a particularly good look, and it wasn’t very believable either, considering the personal windfall he’s getting from the provision he didn’t read. His credibility took a further hit when Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, who is responsible for getting the votes needed to pass the bill, spoke to ABC News and freely admitted that the provision was added specifically to help him convince an unspecified wavering senator (or senators).

So, Corker, acting much like O.J. Simpson in search for the real killer, wrote a letter last night to Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch. Corker demanded that Hatch “provide an explanation of the evolution of this provision and how it made it into the final conference report.” The clear quid pro quo nature of the tax windfall, Corker described as a “sensitivity” necessitating an expedited response from the Utah lawmaker.

In other words, Corker would have us believe that this provision was added without his knowledge and played no part in his about-face on the merits of the overall bill. He even described the provision, which we’ve already noted would add more than a million dollars to his wallet, as “totally unnecessary and borderline ridiculous.” Presumably that means that he won’t accept the million dollars, and some amendment striking the offending language (now known as the #CorkerKickback) from the bill will be necessary.

Now, Corker has already announced that he isn’t running for reelection, so he can be as big of a self-serving hypocrite as he wants. He could probably use the money to help pay his past tax bills, since the Wall Street Journal reported last week that the Tennessee senator has been making a lot of “filing errors.” In other words, the following all came to light in between his vote against the tax bill and his announcement that he would support the tax bill.

Sen. Bob Corker failed to properly disclose millions of dollars in income from real estate, hedge funds and other investments since entering the Senate in 2007, according to new financial reports filed by the Tennessee Republican.

Mr. Corker late Friday filed a series of amendments showing that his personal financial reports as originally filed included dozens of errors and omissions. The new filings came after The Wall Street Journal asked the senator’s office about some irregularities in his prior financial reports…

…The new forms show that Mr. Corker had failed to properly disclose at least $2 million in income from investments in three small hedge funds based in his home state. He also didn’t properly report millions of dollars in income from commercial real-estate investments due to an accounting error. And he didn’t disclose millions of dollars in other assets and income from other financial transactions.

A letter sent to the secretary of the Senate along with the new financial reports acknowledged that the senator’s previous reports didn’t comply with Senate rules.

“I am extremely disappointed in the filing errors that were made in earlier financial disclosure reports,” Mr. Corker said in a statement to the Journal. After the Journal raised questions about the prior reports, Mr. Corker hired an accounting firm to review all of his transactions.

Needless to say, we can see a lot of reasons that Corker has changed his position, but none of them have anything to do with the national debt or any kind of principle whatsoever.

But Corker probably does care at least a little bit about his reputation and how he’ll be viewed by posterity, so will he still go ahead and vote to make himself a millionaire one more time over even as we’re all watching him with our very own eyeballs?

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.