June 3, 2014

Sen. Whitehouse Asks: Which McConnell Will We Hear From?

Minority Leader Scheduled to Testify on Campaign Finance

Washington, DC – Today the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing examining a Constitutional Amendment to restore the ability of Congress to regulate campaign finance laws in the wake of the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions.  The hearing will include testimony from Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – a one-time supporter of sensible campaign finance laws who has since reversed his position. 

Ahead of the hearing, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a member of the Committee and a prominent advocate for putting an end to secret spending in elections, is asking which McConnell will be heard from today:

“I agree with the Senator McConnell who once said, ‘[p]ublic disclosure of campaign contributions and spending should be expedited so voters can judge for themselves what is appropriate.’  The question today is whether we’ll hear from that Senator McConnell, or the one who more recently compared campaign finance disclosure legislation to President Nixon’s ‘enemies list.’  I’d like to work with the former, but I can’t understand the latter,” Whitehouse said.

“Despite the best advice of his home state Louisville Courier-Journal, which once agreed with a commentator that the limitless amounts of secret money that Senator McConnell wants to keep in our campaigns are a ‘tsunami of slime,’ he has continued to support misguided policies that amplify the voices of billionaires and corporations at the expense of voting Americans.  I look forward to hearing from Senator McConnell at today’s hearing, and I hope he’ll take this opportunity to re-examine his position,” Whitehouse concluded.

Previous McConnell Statements Supporting Disclosure of Campaign Contributions

  • “Money is essential in politics, and not something that we should feel squeamish about, provided the donations are limited and disclosed, everyone knows who’s supporting everyone else.” [NPR, Talk of the Nation, 2003]
  • “Virtually everybody in the Senate is in favor of enhanced disclosure, greater disclosure, that’s really hardly a controversial subject.” [Senate Floor, June 2000]
  •  “And the so-called independent expenditure, that’s where somebody has, for example, a huge amount of money decides to come into New York and run ads against a candidate, under the Constitution you can’t keep them from doing it. But at least we could disclose the content of the commercial to the candidate in advance and disclose where the money is coming from. That’s not currently disclosable. So there are some good campaign reforms that can be made, it’s just that none of them are in S. 2.” [C-SPAN, 1987]

McConnell Support for Constitutional Amendment

  • In 1987 Sen. McConnell introduced S.J.RES.166, a Constitutional Amendment which would have declared that “Congress may enact laws regulating the amounts of independent expenditures by any person, other than by a political committee of a political party, which can be made to expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate for Federal office.”
  • In supporting this amendment, McConnell said his it would “restrict the power of special interest PACS, stop the flow of all soft money, keep wealthy individuals from buying public office.”

Criticism of McConnell in the Kentucky press for his opposition to the DISCLOSE Act:

  • “Sen. McConnell’s Outrageous Drive for Secrecy,” Louisville Courier-Journal [Editorial, June 2012.  Appeared in original online version as “Sen. McConnell’s Disgraceful Drive for Secrecy.”]:
    • “[T]he latest political stunt of Sen. McConnell, Senate minority leader and one of Washington’s most powerful Republicans, is more audacious and far more sinister [than his 1984 political ad featuring a pack of bloodhounds].”
    • “To Sen. McConnell, speech means one thing: Money. Buckets of it. Tidal waves that one pundit has dubbed the “tsunami of slime” pouring into [ ] largely conservative Super Pacs.”
    • “Sen. McConnell is working to ensure the rich spend that extra ‘speech’ in secret, cloaking his campaign in a disingenuous First Amendment argument. In doing so, he is emerging as the chief defender of Super Pac donors, protecting those who might otherwise suffer ‘bullying and intimidation.’”
    • “In raising the specter of Watergate, Sen. McConnell has twisted the corrupt acts of a deeply paranoid president into a metaphor for what he warns is an assault on the nation’s First Amendment freedoms. The senator sounds Nixon-like himself in warning of the growing threat.”
    • “Yet the Senator was for full disclosure before he turned against it.”
    • “Sen. McConnell’s single-minded drive for secrecy is the true threat in this debate. Congress and the public should not be fooled by his supposed passion for the First Amendment and take steps to shine light on the dark money.”
  • “McConnell Makes a Convenient About-Face on Campaign Finance Disclosures,” Lexington Herald-Leader [Editorial, June 2012]:
    • “Now that corporations (and other organizations) are people, too, and can spend unlimited amounts of money on political causes, McConnell wants to shield the super PACs his boardroom buddies are creating from disclosure rules proposed by congressional Democrats.”
    • “A Senate vote on a disclosure bill could be called before the November election, forcing some of McConnell’s colleagues to cast an embarrassing vote against a cause they, too, have championed for years. Don’t worry about McConnell, though; a flip-flop of political convenience has never embarrassed him.”
    • “In Friday’s speech, McConnell urged conservatives to remain united on this issue and to resist any election year pressures to make concessions. We hope those pressures grow until they prove irresistible and lead to disclosure rules for the super PACs. Anyone who cherishes the democratic process and doesn’t want it corrupted by corporate cabals should. Voters need this information so they can dispense some ‘harsh justice at the ballot box,’ as McConnell so eloquently wrote 25 years ago.”
  • “McConnell’s Hypocrisy on Campaign Disclosure,” Lexington Herald-Leader[Editorial, August 2010]:
    • “Given McConnell’s 20-year devotion to the Holy Grail of disclosure, it may seem puzzling to hear him speak of it now as if it were the handiwork of Lucifer himself. But there’s no puzzle to it. McConnell’s apostasy on this issue is born of a Supreme Court decision that took his “money as free speech” argument to its ridiculous extreme.”
    • “Now that corporations are people, too, in the eyes of the court and free to spend at will on political causes, McConnell doesn’t want his buddies in the nation’s boardrooms pestered by any disclosure rules.”
    • “[T]he opposition led by McConnell is the real transparent effort to rig the fall elections for Republicans by allowing their corporate cronies to spend at will and in relative anonymity in support of the GOP and opposition to Democrats.”
    • “After all if ‘money is free speech’ in American politics, as McConnell so often has argued over the years, what’s wrong with letting voters see who’s talking?”


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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921