In 1987, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wrote a column condemning public financing of political campaigns: “Any politician who is tempted to sacrifice duties or principles to get more money doesn’t belong in office.” He also wrote that the “post-Watergate disclosure laws are designed to flush out such politicians.” McConnell repeatedly proclaimed support for campaign finance disclosure laws in the following years. In 1997, he wrote that “public disclosure of campaign contributions and spending should be expedited so voters can judge for themselves what is appropriate.” Yet this election cycle, he has adamantly condemned disclosing sources of campaign funds—in order to protect donors from “harassment.”
On July 16th, 2012, McConnell led a filibuster for Senate republicans to block the DISCLOSE Act, a bill that would require independent groups that spend more than $10,000 on campaign advertisements to disclose their donors. Senator McConnell proclaimed that the act was “un-American” and that it worked to “identify and punish political enemies” and even “intimidate others from participating in the political process.” He also argued that the DISCLOSE Act would be in direct opposition to the Citizens United ruling—a dramatic stance that Supreme Court judges, liberal and conservative alike, have rebuked. Justice Scalia, for example, said that the idea that enhanced disclosure undermines Citizens United is a “particularly high degree of chutzpah.” Disclosure does not limit speech. Corporations and individuals would still be able to donate however much money they want. As Justice Kennedy said, “disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way.”
McConnell was correct in 1987: when it comes to disclosure of federal campaign donors, voters deserve to know who is paying for the vast amount of negative ads in the media. The Citizens United ruling, which protected political donations of any amount as “free speech,” clearly greatly benefitted Republican candidates across the board. Mitt Romney is not the only Republican to be accused of secrecy in recent months. It is entirely logical that McConnell would completely reverse his previous position on campaign finance disclosure. He has made it clear that as a leader of the Republican Party, he will strive to keep the door closed on political donor names for as long as possible.
In terms of his own campaign finances, McConnell already has $6 million in the bank for his 2014 election campaign, which is more than double of what he had at this time in his last Senate campaign. Where did this money come from? The answer is unsurprising—yet not widely communicated in the media.
McConnell, of course, has always been an outspoken opponent of the Affordable Care Act. Even after its approval by the Supreme Court, he led numerous Republican repeal efforts in the Senate to rollback the healthcare bill. Three out of the top five contributors to McConnell’s campaign committee and leadership PAC from 2007 to 2012 were from the healthcare industry. Kindred Healthcare, with a $122,250 donation directly to McConnell’s campaign committee, was his career-long top donor. Kindred is a healthcare services company that operates hospitals and nursing centers, and is the largest post-acute healthcare provider in the country. Humana Inc, a health insurance company, was the third largest donor to McConnell’s campaign. Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, a federation of health insurance organizations, was the fourth largest. In total, “health professionals” have contributed a total of $713,350 to McConnell’s campaign. Whether or not McConnell is “owned” by the healthcare industry, voters might draw a connection between the source of his campaign money and his outspoken opposition to the Affordable Care Act. In addition, these numbers might cause voters to question why McConnell has focused so much on repealing the Affordable Care Act instead of concentrating on passing bills to improve unemployment and the economy.