Republicans talk tough on crime but took thousands from man who pleaded guilty to homicide


For years, Republicans have tried to brand themselves as 'tough on crime' and supporters of 'law and order.'

Former President Donald Trump and his GOP allies have spent the past several years attacking their Democratic rivals as soft on crime. But over the past two years, Trump and other Republicans combined have accepted tens of thousands of dollars from one donor who was previously convicted of negligent homicide.

In 2010, Charles Pilkinton of Bossier City, Louisiana, reportedly pleaded guilty to negligent homicide — a felony — after he admitted to shooting and killing another person two years earlier. The plea bargain reduced the charges from second-degree murder but still included a five-year prison sentence.

Since returning from prison and regaining his legal rights, Pilkinton has become a frequent donor to Republicans. In the 2021-2022 campaign cycle alone, he has given tens of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and committees.

While this is not illegal, it is noteworthy given the recipients' rhetoric and record on crime and former criminals.

For years, Republicans have tried to brand themselves as "tough on crime" and supporters of "law and order." Though he made exceptions for political cronies and insurrectionist supporters, Trump was so fond of the messaging that he would often just randomly tweet the words "LAW & ORDER" and baselessly smear any rival as "weak on crime."

Trump's Save America leadership PAC has received more than $4,800 from Pilkinton in the 2022 campaign cycle. A Trump spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

Others in the GOP, including Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, have fought to block people convicted of felonies from getting their voting rights restored after serving their time.

Still, the National Republican Senatorial Committee — which frequently accuses its opponents of being "soft on crime" — has also accepted more than $7,000 from Pilkinton during Scott's tenure.

Scott's fellow Florida Republican, Sen. Marco Rubio, has also attacked Democrats for not being sufficiently anti-criminal — and also has taken more than $3,000 from Pilkinton.

In addition, Pilkinton has given hundreds of dollars to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), and former Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's Champion American Values PAC — each of whom has also accused political opponents of being insufficiently tough on crime.

None of the recipients immediately responded to inquiries about the donations for this story.

Pilkinton's political contributions have been in the news before.

In February, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported that he had given $10,000 to South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem's reelection committee — though about $6,000 of that had been refunded for exceeding the state's $4,000 donation cap.

That story received national attention at the time. But none of these Republican recipients have reported refunding his contributions since that story broke.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.