Sen. Lindsey Graham in trouble: Big donor questions his ‘character’—now backs Democratic opponent

Senator Lindsey Graham holding a microphone


Richard Wilkerson, a longtime, major donor to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), stopped backing Graham in 2017. Wilkerson has now changed sides to support Graham’s Democratic challenger.

Graham is one of the many elected Republicans who has twisted himself into a pretzel to defend Donald Trump, or to defend their own silence about this president’s bad behavior. According to Wilkerson, Graham’s previous vocal “criticism of the behavior of the president morphed into blind defense.” Finally, Graham’s failure to defend his own best friend, war hero John McCain, against Trump’s repeated attacks was just too much for Wilkerson to bear.

“I asked myself, ‘What is the character of a man who will not defend his best friend?” Wilkerson wrote in an opinion piece to the Greenville (SC) News.

The straw that broke the camel’s back

Senator John McCain

Flickr / Gage Skidmore

“If he won’t defend John McCain, why would I expect him to defend any of us in South Carolina?’” Wilkerson asks.

As Trump’s attacks on McCain continued even after McCain’s death, Wilkerson found himself, “extremely disappointed,” and wrote to Lindsey Graham personally, saying he, “no longer recognized (Graham) as the man I once supported.“

Wilkerson’s support for Graham ended there.

Lindsey Graham is ‘a leader of this divisiveness’

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While Wilkerson may refuse to lay the blame for our divisive political situation on either party’s doorstep, he flatly states that “Sen. Graham was a leader of this divisiveness.”

Now he is “excited” to back Jaime Harrison, the Democrat who will challenge Lindsey Graham in this fall’s election. “We are at our best when we respect each other,” Wilkerson believes, and when we, “work together to find solutions. Jaime can help us get there, and that is why I strongly endorse him.”

Democrat Jaime Harrison can ‘work effectively with people from both parties’

South Carolina Democratic Jaime Harrison

Wilkerson has witnessed Jaime Harrison’s ability to “work effectively with people from both parties”, and believes that Harrison can help “craft the best decisions for all of us and stop the bitter win/lose that is dividing us.”

It will be a challenge to beat a three-term senator, but Harrison has already outraised Graham by over 20% this year.

Lindsey Graham broke the camel’s back. But he keeps loading on the straw.


Wilkerson’s disappointment did not end as Graham became, “more interested in currying favor than in honoring the memory of a true American hero whom he had described as his best friend.” He watched as Graham helped other Republicans push through the late 2017 tax reform that Trump signed into law. This Republican tax law was passed without a single hearing, before the newly elected House of Representatives could be sworn in.

Wilkerson points out that these eleventh-hour tax changes, “disproportionately favored those who are financially well off”. Wilkerson, as a former chairman and president of Michelin North America, could likely stand to benefit from that tax reform, but he cannot support a law that offers, “a comparatively small benefit to working people.”

Graham is still keeping money from working Americans

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Wilkerson sees Graham repeating this behavior in blocking the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Graham does not want to protect workers who lose their jobs because of the current health crisis.

Wilkerson comments that, “Apparently,” Graham, “feels that it is OK to share government dollars with those who don’t truly need the money, but deny any small windfall to working people who have lost their jobs. These two actions tell me who is important to him.”

This November, South Carolina voters may see the same thing—that the person who is important to Lindsey Graham is Lindsey Graham.

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