“The people of the state of Colorado hereby find and declare that large campaign contributions to political candidates create the potential for corruption and the appearance of corruption; that large campaign contributions made to influence election outcomes allow wealthy individuals, corporations, and special interest groups to exercise a disproportionate level of influence over the political process”
– Article XXVIII, Section I, Colorado Constitution.
The Kentucky Republican Kingmaker and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is perhaps not a name too many of us are all that familiar with over here in the UK. We may have heard his name banded about occasionally but we really have to delve a little deeper into the murky World of US politics to come across anything of significance, and when we do, we’re presented with a self created ‘maverick’ image of a lone senator willing to be a voice for the Constitutional rights of massive Corporate campaign finance. A worthy cause, I’m sure none of us would agree.
Why, you may ask, does McConnell care so deeply about thwarting any attempts – supported by both Parties at different times – to regulate campaign finance? Well, the Senate Republican filibuster timings, along with McConnell’s own campaign finance, are all rather telling. McConnell’s work blocking legislation at times appears to reflect periods in which he is receiving massive campaign contributions from Corporate titans.
A couple of years back, McConnell attacked Democrat attempts to prevent foreign companies from financing US public figures and elections. He claimed laws already exist to stop this from happening. He of course failed to mention that existing laws do not prevent foreign corporations with US subsidiaries from channelling money to preferred candidates. This omittance shouldn’t come as too much of a shock, given that McConnell, from 2005 to 2010, received around $21,000 from BAE Systems Inc. BAE Systems Inc is a US subsidiary of the World’s 2nd largest defence contractor, BAE Systems, based in the UK. In 2010, McConnell asked for $17,000,000 of Federal funds to be earmarked for BAE defence improvements, at the exact same time as BAE was under State Department investigation for alleged widespread corruption (including the bribery of public officials). Of course, any link between McConnell’s apparent passion for outspokenly opposing campaign finance regulation from foreign companies who are under investigation for bribing public officials, at the same time as one of them is funding his own campaign – and in fact funding the Mitch McConnell Centre at the University of Louisville to the tune of $500,000 through a subsidiary – is just speculation.
So to continue to speculate; according to Oil Change International, McConnell has voted in favour of the big oil companies 100% of the time during the period 2005-2007. In 2011, McConnell decided to push for the extension of the Keystone oil pipeline, by adding it onto the end of a bill designed to extend year-end payroll tax cuts for middle class people and families. Yes. Senate Republicans would vote down tax breaks for struggling people, unless the Obama Administration succumb to Republican demands for the pressing ahead with the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The Senate Republicans insist that they support the pipeline for the sake of American jobs, and energy independence. I’m sure that must be the case. Yes. It can’t possibly be anything to do with the fact that the recipient of the most Oil and Gas contributions in between 2011 and 2012, was Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, racking up an astonishing $583,550. His main contributor, being Exxon Mobil, at $48,000 for that period. In fact, McConnell is the biggest benefactor from Exxon’s generosity in 2011-2012. In 2013, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson publicly urged the Obama Administration to press ahead with the Keystone pipeline extension. Draw whatever conclusions you so wish.
McConnell is a good friend to big oil. On the actual day of the debate on the so-called “Repeal Big Oil Subsidies Act” – an Act designed to end the tax breaks afforded to the wealthiest oil companies in the World of up to $24bn – in 2012, McConnell received $131,500 from oil donors in Midland, Texas. The Act failed by filibuster. One of many very dubious filibusters promoted by McConnell since the Republicans lost the Senate in 2006. There is no reasonable excuse to filibuster an Act designed to stop unnecessary Federal funds subsidising very wealthy oil companies. A few Republican bloggers insist that the Act is unconstitutional, because it didn’t originate in the House. How desperately naive to believe that’s the point the Senate Minority are most strongly concerned with.
In 2011, the “Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act” also failed in the Senate – an Act which would have closed loopholes for the main oil companies, including Exxon – due to Republican derailing tactics, despite the revenue raised from the closure of loopholes being earmarked for debt reduction, something the GOP seems to be obsessed with, when it suits their electoral chances. McConnell, like every great Republican, managed to appear as if he cared about actual American people and their concerns (the same people, he thinks don’t deserve a tax break extension unless an oil pipeline is built) by saying:
“Clearly, this is not a serious effort to address the price of gas at the pump.”
– As if addressing the price at the pump, is impossible if you close tax loopholes for your corporate donors. Those Senators who voted against closing tax loopholes, allegedly received on average $370,664 from big oil, compared to $72,145 for those Senators who voted against. Again, draw whatever conclusions you so wish.
Harking back a couple of paragraphs, I wish to reiterate that McConnell and Senate Republicans in general argued that the Keystone XL pipeline, would create real jobs for Americans. This is one of their main arguments. It’s all about jobs. Job creation… for Americans…. in America. And yet, oddly, if we look back to 2010, we note that Republicans including McConnell voted against the “Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act“, offering payroll tax relief to companies hiring domestic workers, for a three year period. According to a Senate Democrat Aide, there was also a provision that:
“basically eliminates deferral of taxes for companies that move overseas but continue to sell products back in the United States.”
– A practical incentive to keep jobs in the US. The GOP opposed it. The Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell opposed it. According to reports, of the companies that lobbied on this Bill, McConnell received over $1,000,000 from executives and the PACs connected to the lobbying companies.
According to Campaignmoney.org, McConnell’s share of small donations has fallen to just 5%. He is reliant on huge companies, most outside of Kentucky – the State he represents – and companies for whom he coincidentally, votes in favour of, practically any time they will benefit from such a vote.
According to the same report, in 2004 McConnell was the 41st wealthiest Senator. By 2010, and despite a massive global economic crises, McConnell became the 10th wealthiest Senator. It is McConnell who is responsible for the super-majority tactic that brings the Country to a standstill. He does this, whilst the companies that fund his sordid Political life, continue to gain from unnecessary tax privileges that benefit no one but the companies… and McConnell.
“Any politician who is tempted to sacrifice duties or principles to get more money doesn’t belong in office.”
– Mitch McConnell, 1987
Dark money, is money spent by political groups who do not have to disclose their funding. McConnell, predictably, isn’t a big fan of the disclosure of dark money, though he hasn’t always had that attitude. In 1997, McConnell said this:
“Public disclosure of campaign contributions and spending should be expedited so voters can judge for themselves what is appropriate,”
– And yet, when the Disclose Act was introduced into the Senate in 2010; at a time when campaign contributions are far higher and far more suspect than back in 1997, Mitchell voted against. His 1997 love for transparency, appears to have died by 2010, at a time when he was racing up the richest Senators list, and attracting huge campaign contributions. According to reports, enormous pressure was placed on Republican Senators to vote against the Disclose Act.
Campaign finance reform seems to have bipartisan support much of the time. Those who oppose it most outspokenly, and most vehemently, appear to be the Senators and Representatives – like McConnell – that have a stake in big monied, campaign finance. And the one reason campaign finance reform, through a deadlocked and Partisan FEC, is so notably difficult to push forward, is because those who lobby against it, pay very good money, to very powerful Senators, who then vote in turn to kill off reform.
It is so incredibly transparent that certain Senators, who have a terrific amount of power, exist for the benefit of multinationals regardless of the consequences felt by the public at large. The dismissive nature of the GOP in the Senate, and the vicious experiment in Corporate-sponsored political obstruction, occurs for one specific reason; the corruption of campaign finance. GOP obstruction since 2009, has been off the scale. It should be treated for the hellishly radical and dangerous policy that it is. But much of the obstruction exists purely because it benefits the very wealthy lobbyists. Something Mitch McConnell has fought for years to protect.
Senators like Mitch McConnell, are poisonous to Democracy.