McConnell Has Made It His Life’s Work To Corrupt Our Democracy By Handing it To Wealthy Mega-Donors
Despite ample evidence to the contrary, McConnell has claimed that our campaign finance system doesn’t need any reform and that Americans don’t care about it. Multiple polls have shown that the American people rank the corrupting influence of money in politics it as one of their most pressing concerns, and they support regulations to limit campaign spending.
In 2019, the House introduced and passed the most comprehensive package of anti-corruption legislation since Watergate — the For The People Act (H.R. 1). But even before H.R. 1 was introduced, McConnell pledged that the bill would die in the Senate. Once it actually was introduced, McConnell wasted no time excoriating the bill for its disclosure requirements and efforts to reform the FEC, among other things. McConnell continued to maintain that he would stop at nothing to prevent the bill from getting to the Senate floor.
McConnell has spent his whole career fighting for big donors instead of the American people. One of his most hated pieces of legislation was the DISCLOSE Act—a bill that would require greater transparency into the flood of big money funding mysterious TV ads. McConnell even said that blocking the DISCLOSE Act was “one of the most important things we did in the past few years.”
McConnell voted to block a constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United.
McConnell embraced his status as the figurehead of the anti-reform movement. He was described as “perhaps the leading advocate for unrestricted campaign donations” and said that his “high-visibility” role in opposing reform was a “big plus” on his resume.
McConnell Wanted MORE Big Money in Politics
Not only does McConnell not think big money in politics is a problem—he actually supports MORE big money in politics, saying that it “ought to be applauded and encouraged” while shrugging off the potential corrupting influence.
McConnell has been consistently dismissive of the problem of big money in politics, saying that “there’s nothing wrong with money” and “you’ve got to have money in politics”
To McConnell, “campaign contributions are speech.” We will never have to guess whose side he’s on when it comes to big money in politics.
McConnell Supported And Encouraged The Flood Of Dark Money Into Our Politics
McConnell sees absolutely nothing wrong with anonymous, unaccountable spending in politics.
He fought to allow anonymous mega-donors to keep their donations secret, and cheered a decision from the Treasury Department saying they would no longer collect information about donors to some political nonprofits. As his home state paper editorial board said, “more dark money in U.S. politics pleases Mitch McConnell.”
McConnell opposed the most basic of disclosure laws, saying that the rules should only cover donors to candidates and parties—leaving the American people in the dark about the million-dollar donors to super PACs and other political spenders.
McConnell even expressed concern about disclosure of any individual donors at all, saying that it was time to “roll back” public disclosure of campaign donors. Even Antonin Scalia agreed that requiring disclosure of donations fostered political courage, but McConnell said “I don’t think regular citizens should have to experience any political courage at all.”
McConnell held up efforts to require electronic filing for Senate candidates, a practice that would make Senate campaign finances more transparent and easier for ordinary citizens to access.
McConnell Celebrated Big Corporate Spending in Politics
McConnell supports corporate money in political campaigns. He called a bill that would eliminate corporate soft money—essentially, the practice of allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts to influence elections—a “travesty” and a “joke.”
McConnell defended the role of corporate money in politics—including singling out oil company executives, hedge fund managers, and millionaires and billionaires. McConnell said that campaign finance reform efforts incorrectly assumed that “the collision of private interests with politics is somehow inherently corrupting.” He also said that the goal of such efforts were to seal Congress “from anyone engaged in the private economy.”
McConnell even said that if campaign finance reform efforts were successful, “private interests would end up with minimal influence on the direction of public policy.”
McConnell also rejected the idea that unlimited corporate spending has somehow corrupted the political process.
McConnell saved his choicest praise for the billionaire Koch Brothers, telling them “I don’t know where we’d be without you.”
McConnell Celebrated Court Ruling That Handed Our Democracy Over To Corporations And Special Interests
Contrary to nearly everyone, McConnell thinks that the Citizens United Supreme Court decision was actually a good thing for America, saying that it “took an important step in the direction of restoring the First Amendment rights of political groups.”
Talking to a group of conservative millionaire and billionaire donors, McConnell said that Citizens United “allowed all of you to participate in the process in a variety of different ways.”
McConnell did not think that Citizens United had a detrimental effect on our political system, stating that there was nothing to suggest that it had enabled corruption.
McConnell even said that “all Citizens United did was to level the playing field for corporate speech.”
McConnell also fought to preserve Citizens United in the courts, including filing an amicus curiae against a Montana case that was in “direct contravention” of Citizens United and defending the destructive Buckley v. Valeo decision.
McConnell Fought Voraciously Against McCain-Feingold, One Of The Most Landmark Campaign Finance Reform Bills
McConnell gained notoriety for his vehement opposition to the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act, a.k.a. McCain-Feingold. Despite the bill’s obvious benefits — banning unlimited soft money contributions to parties, attempting to curtail phony “issue ads,” requiring enhanced disclosure of contributions — McConnell repeatedly voted against the bill.
McConnell positioned himself at the forefront against McCain-Feingold, including fighting all the way to the Supreme Court. McConnell v. FEC challenged the constitutionality of McCain-Feingold — but the bill survived.
McConnell even called the passage of McCain-Feingold “the worst day of my political life.”
McConnell Made It Impossible For The FEC To Effectively Enforce Campaign Finance Laws
The Federal Election Commission exists to enforce campaign finance laws and ensure candidates are operating on the same playing field. But McConnell has made it impossible for the FEC to do its job effectively.
McConnell handpicked an FEC Commissioner — Don McGahn — that made the FEC much more partisan. McGahn whipped Republicans “into a solid voting bloc that nearly always opposed additional regulation, oversight or even investigation.” This led to the FEC becoming a “completely broken agency, incapable of enforcing any election laws.”
McConnell has consistently placed members on the commission with “little appetite for enforcement” — his way of demonstrating his longtime opposition to the agency. McConnell also demanded that FEC commissioners be voted on as a package, grinding the agency to a standstill.
In recent years, the FEC has barely been able to function. They had millions of pages of backlog waiting to be analyzed for campaign finance violations. As of December 2013, they had nearly 270 unresolved enforcement cases. And for years, the FEC had numerous vacancies for vital positions, including general counsel and chief financial officer. The number of deadlocked votes has reached a new high, and enforcement actions have reached a new low. But that’s just the way McConnell likes it.
McConnell also personally lobbied for pro-Citizens United, anti-campaign finance reform activist Bradley Smith to be an FEC commissioner.
McConnell Is Beholden To The Billionaires And Corporations That Have Funded His Rise To Power
McConnell is the embodiment of the way big money in politics has corrupted our democracy. A former NRSC chair, McConnell is famous for being a relentless fundraiser. One former Republican aide said McConnell was “completely dogged in his pursuit of money. That’s his great love, above everything else.”
McConnell rewarded big donors with private dinners and briefings with powerful lawmakers. In one case, McConnell treated the CEO of Delta Airlines to breakfast in the Senate dining room, and a week later received $10,000 from the CEO and his wife.
McConnell maintained a close insider network that helped him remain on top as Senate Majority Leader. One of McConnell’s biggest allies were lobbyists, many of whom were former staffers that maintained their loyalty and access to McConnell.
McConnell also relied on a network of shadowy groups to prop up his political operation. His former chief of staff was head of American Crossroads and its dark money affiliate, Crossroads GPS — both of which poured millions of dollars into helping Republicans in Senate races. Another pro-McConnell dark money group, Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, was staffed by several McConnell alumni and funded by millions of dollars from just a handful of anonymous benefactors.
But the jewel in the crown of McConnell’s fundraising behemoth was Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC funded by millions of dollars with of dark money and by the country’s biggest billionaires. In 2018 alone, SLF raised a whopping $130 million. They’ve taken money from Koch Industries, private prison company GEO Group, and a company controlled by a shady billionaire with ties to Russian oligarchs. In 2018 alone, SLF accepted over $1.5 million from mysterious shell companies with connections to multi-level marketing firms and oil and gas interests.
McConnell Did Big Legislative Favors For His Big Donors
Our system of democracy is failing because Mitch McConnell is serving his donors and special interests. He has wholly embraced the destructive system that has corrupted our politics and browbeat industries into giving him and his allies money in exchange for representation in the Senate.
McConnell has used taxpayer-funded earmarks as rewards for big donors and lobbyists, receiving $120,000 from the lobbying clients of his former campaign manager while recommending millions in earmarks for those clients.
Over the years, McConnell took nearly $6 million from the financial industry, and has been their number one ally in Congress. He supported a bankruptcy law backed by big banks and the bailout for major financial firms, calling its passage “one of the finest moments in the history of the Senate.” When Congress was considering legislation to hold big banks accountable, McConnell didn’t turn to the American people for their thoughts — he flew up to New York for fundraisers with hedge fund investors and private equity executives, assuring them that he and his party would have their back.
McConnell is famous for his relationship to the tobacco industry, having received more money from the industry than almost any other member of Congress — as well as gifts like fancy food and concert and football tickets. Tobacco companies guided McConnell behind the scenes, providing him with talking points and writing legislation for him to introduce. McConnell even questioned the science of efforts to curb indoor smoking. In 1998, McConnell helped kill a proposal to curb youth smoking and within months, he had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from tobacco companies.
McConnell helped block a bill to ban gambling on youth sports, ensuring that only Nevada would be able to continue allowing it, and told other Republicans to oppose it too — lest they lose out on money from the Nevada gambling industry. He went on to further “please his Las Vegas donors” by helping preserve the federal tax deduction for gambling losses. Coincidentally, McConnell has received over $250,000 from the gambling industry and in 2018, SLF received a whopping $50 million from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife.
Over his career, McConnell has received $712,127 in campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry, and has helped block multiple plans to allow Medicare to negotiate for cheaper drug prices.