Casino mogul Steve Wynn resigns as RNC finance chair amid sexual assault allegations
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WASHINGTON — Steve Wynn has resigned as the Republican National Committee finance chair following sexual assault allegations against the billionaire CEO of Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts.
"Today I accepted Steve Wynn’s resignation as Republican National Committee Finance Chair," RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said Saturday in a statement to USA TODAY.
Wynn weighed in shortly afterward, saying "the work we are doing to make America a better place is too important to be impaired by this distraction," according to a tweet from Politico.
Wynn, who turned 76 Saturday, was reported to have engaged in sexual misconduct with company employees over decades, according to a Friday report by The Wall Street Journal.
Wynn has vigorously disputed the accusations.
Wynn has had a complicated relationship with Donald Trump: first as a casino-owning rival in Atlantic City during the 1990s, then as a Republican mega-donor whose first choice for the White House in 2016 was Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio, and lately as one of the president's closest confidantes.
Like Trump, Wynn has given to Democrats in the past though his contributions have gone exclusively to Republicans during the last decade, including Rubio, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
In addition to the tens of thousands he's given to GOP candidates and causes, Wynn co-chaired the president’s inaugural committee in 2016, which raised a record $107 million. The billionaire also contributed $729,217 to the inauguration fund through Wynn Resorts Ltd, according to Bloomberg.
Last week, Wynn was the co-chair (with McDaniel) of a $100,000-per-ticket fundraiser at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the president's inauguration.
Wynn's abrupt departure threatens to complicate the party's fundraising efforts heading into an already challenging mid-term election cycle for the GOP — which is trying to hold on to the House and the Senate.
And the accounts of Wynn's alleged tawdry behavior — the latest in a series of high-profile men who have been accused of improperly using their power to pressure female employees and other women into sex — will focus more attention on similar accusations that have been made against Trump.
Further complicating matters is that Democrats are now pressuring Republicans to return the money Wynn gave them in the same fashion that the GOP demanded Democrats give back donations from disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
“This is the Republican Party,” DNC deputy communications director Sabrina Singh said in a statement Friday before Wynn stepped down. “This is the party of Donald Trump, Roy Moore, Joe Arpaio and Trent Franks. Democrats will refuse to stand by while the Republican Party denigrates women. We will continue to march side by side with women all across this country because we believe that women must be empowered and respected.”
It's not just Democrats who are trying to tie the accusations against Wynn to similar ones leveled against Trump.
"He is a predator of the worst kind who used his position of power to sexually coerce his female employees," Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet, a leading women’s advocacy organization, said in a statement. "It is sadly no surprise that he keeps company with people like Donald Trump — a man who follows the same playbook of sexual abuse."
According to the Wall Street Journal report, the alleged incident was referenced, in broad terms, in a lawsuit filed by Elaine Wynn, Wynn's ex-wife, against the casino mogul and the gaming company. It was one of a number of incidents the newspaper story detailed.
"It is clear that Mr. Wynn's ex-wife has sought to use a negative public relations campaign to achieve what she has been unable to do in the courtroom: tarnish the reputation of Mr. Wynn in an attempt to pressure a revised divorce settlement from him," Wynn Resorts said in a statement issued Friday.
"It is noteworthy that although Ms. Wynn says she knew about the 2005 allegations involving Mr. Wynn in 2009, she never made them known to the board of directors, of which she was then a member, and she did not raise them until after Mr. Wynn remarried and the shareholders of Wynn Resorts voted not to elect her to the board," the statement said.
Elaine Wynn declined to comment to USA TODAY for this article.
Her spokeswoman, Devon Spurgeon, said Elaine Wynn refuted the company's claim that she was trying to relitigate the divorce settlement. Spurgeon also said that Elaine Wynn did notify a representative of the board in 2009 when she learned of the allegation.
"Beyond this incident, dozens of people the Wall Street Journal interviewed who have worked at Mr. Wynn’s casinos told of behavior that cumulatively would amount to a decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Wynn," the newspaper report said. "Some described him pressuring employees to perform sex acts."
Among other things, the report cited accounts from former employees who said they entered fake appointments in casino salon calendars to help female employees to avoid Wynn's requests for services in his office suite.
Others recounted incidents in which female employees hid in the bathroom or back rooms when they learned Wynn was on the way to the salon, the Journal reported.