In the first national elections since the Supreme Court allowed even more money to flood our democracy through its April McCutcheon v. FEC decision, the tidal wave of spending was worse than the most dire predictions.
The “Money Midterms,” as some dubbed them, were predicted to be the most expensive in history. Local news stations struggled to keep up as spending on political ads skyrocketed. As of October 15, just 140 donors had made more than 60 percent of this cycle’s super PAC contributions. In a post-Citizens United political landscape where corporations and billionaires can literally spend as much as they want to influence elections.
The Daily Show is right: The most enduring “winners” in the midterms may be the wealthy interests that bankrolled their candidates of choice and can now expect to have the ears of their chosen representatives.”
The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur discusses Wolf PAC, Mayday PAC, and represent.us.
The Nation and other sources have obtained an audio recording of Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell’s remarks at a Koch Brothers’ sponsored meeting between politicians and donors at the St. Regis Monarch Bay Resort in Dana Point, CA.
The Nation claims that the resort was rented by the Koch brothers for $870,000 for the meeting on June 15th.
In the question-and-answer period following his session titled “Free Speech: Defending First Amendment Rights,” McConnell says:
“So in the House and Senate, we own the budget. So what does that mean? That means that we can pass the spending bill. And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board [inaudible]. All across the federal government, we’re going to go after it.”
McConnell’s pledge to “go after” Democrats on financial services was apparently a reference to changing or getting rid of Dodd-Frank regulation. Dodd-Frank, of course, was legislation passed in 2010 in response to the under-regulation of the financial industry that led to the Great Recession.
McConnell has also been a vocal opponent of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in particular, and presumably under his Senate leadership funding for the CFPB would be high on the list for appropriations cuts.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Wall Street was the number-one contributor to McConnell’s campaign committee from 2009 to 2014.
McConnell is running against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in a close contest that could determine which party controls the Senate. Total spending in the race is expected to exceed $100 million, which would make it the most expensive Senate election in history.
As of July 21, PACs and individuals affiliated with Koch Industries have given at least $41,800 to McConnell’s campaign committee in this election cycle—a figure that does not include any funding to outside groups that could spend heavily in the race’s closing weeks.
Recently, Grimes has been airing ads that criticize McConnell for “voting seventeen times against raising the minimum wage” and “twelve times against extending unemployment benefits for laid-off workers.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, McConnell himself seems quite proud of this legislative record, at least in front of an audience of wealthy donors. After he lays out his agenda to shrink the federal government “across the board.”
“And we’re not going to be debating all these gosh darn proposals,” said Mitch. “That’s all we do in the Senate is vote on things like raising the minimum wage [inaudible]—cost the country 500,000 new jobs; extending unemployment—that’s a great message for retirees; uh, the student loan package the other day, that’s just going to make things worse, uh. These people believe in all the wrong things.”
In late April, Senate Republicans, led by McConnell, successfully filibustered a bill to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
Earlier in the year, McConnell also led a filibuster of a three-month extension of unemployment insurance to some 1.7 million Americans. At one point in the negotiations, he offered a deal to extend unemployment only if Democrats agreed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, even though the ACA does not add to the federal deficit.
Just days before he addressed the Koch brothers’ billionaire donor summit, McConnell was instrumental in blocking Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to help Americans refinance their growing student loan debt.
Warren’s plan would have been funded by a new minimum tax on America’s wealthiest. In response, McConnell has said that “not everybody needs to go to Yale” and that cash-strapped students should look into for-profit colleges. That seemed to be an odd response, considering that for-profit colleges are more expensive than state colleges.
The main thrust of McConnell’s remarks to the Koch conference were about his favorite issue, campaign finance, which he regards as a matter of free speech.