If the GOP retains its Senate majority, the likely new Majority Leader will be current Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (Bill Frist is retiring). http://www.hillnews.com/...
This is very bad news, because McConnell makes Tom DeLay look saintly. This is a message you must get out in swing states such as New Jersey, Virginia, Missouri and Tennessee. Fortunately for us, a Kentucky newspaper, the Lexington Herald-Leader, exposed how he operates.
CONGRESS: THE PLAY TOY OF THE WEALTHY
McConnell has been a long opponent of campaign finance reform. U.S. News & World Report called him the Darth Vader of campaign finance reform. http://www.usnews.com/...
"He's completely dogged in his pursuit of money. That's his great love, above everything else," said Marshall Whitman, who watched McConnell as an aide to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and as a Christian Coalition lobbyist. http://www.kentucky.com/...
A leader in the field of tapping the wealthy for campaign cash, McConnell also led the opposition against efforts to rein in such donations through campaign-finance reform -- a fight that has taken him to the U.S. Supreme Court and put him toe-to-toe against another emerging Republican leader, presidential hopeful McCain.
Former GOP Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming had this to say about McConnell:
Some senators shy away from fund-raising duties because of ethical concerns. Top donors tell senators what they want from upcoming votes, and top donors get special treatment, said retired Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo. Their calls to Senate offices are returned first, Simpson said, and their wishes are a priority when action is taken.
"I didn't enjoy it at all," Simpson said. "I just felt uncomfortable."
Yet McConnell never blinks, Simpson said.
"When he asked for money, his eyes would shine like diamonds," Simpson said. "He obviously loved it."
THE FUTURE IS TOBACCO
Readers here may know that George Allen is the leader during this campaign cycle for receiving money -- $95,000 -- from the tobacco industry. http://www.opensecrets.org/... But Mitch McConnell is tobacco's main legislative strategist: http://www.kentucky.com/...
Take his longtime friendship with cigarette-maker lobbyists, revealed in hundreds of corporate documents made public during litigation. Records suggest a close working relationship behind the scenes.
They instructed him on smoking-related legislation. He offered to amend bills on the Senate floor at their direction. During the 1990s, when he attacked the Food and Drug Administration for its anti-smoking efforts, he followed talking points they fed him. Their attorneys helped draft a bill he filed to protect their companies from lawsuits, as well as his correspondence to the White House to oppose federal smoking-prevention programs.
In turn, they gave him gifts, including Washington Redskins football tickets and many thousands of dollars in speaking fees to supplement his Senate salary.* But their real support -- millions of dollars in donations -- came between important Senate votes. The lobbyists assured him: "We will provide maximum help very early."
In 1998, McConnell helped to kill a proposal to curb youth smoking. About four months later, he called lobbyists at R.J. Reynolds Co. and asked for $200,000 in corporate "soft money" that he could pass to Republican senators in elections. In an e-mail exchange, the lobbyists settled on "doing an additional 100,000 to him immediately and then seeing what we have left at end of next week." The $200,000 was more than their company could swallow at once.
"Are you feeling a choking sensation?" Tommy Payne, vice president of external relations, asked John Fish, senior director of federal government affairs, in the final e-mail.
Three months later, rival Philip Morris Cos. sent McConnell $150,000 to distribute to GOP Senate campaigns and $100,000 for his pet non-profit program, the McConnell Center for Political Leadership at the University of Louisville, according to industry and college documents.
FAVORING THE RICH
Though McConnell implied that Webb would raise taxes in a way that would hurt the average American, here is what one friendly lobbyist said about McConnell:
Lobbyist Kent Hance organized a reception for McConnell in March at the Dallas home of oilman R.H. Pickens. Hance said it raised about $50,000 for McConnell's 2008 re-election from a few dozen investors and executives. (McConnell spent $5.7 million on his 2002 campaign and already has banked half that sum for 2008.)
Millionaires and billionaires wanted to hear how McConnell plans to further cut their taxes, Hance said.
"He's gonna be the next Senate majority leader, so we didn't have to hold a gun on people to get 'em to attend," Hance said. "Everybody wants to be his friend now."
Here's an interesting tidbit about the bankruptcy bill which underscores who McConnell's friends are:
At a New York luncheon last fall, McConnell received about $60,000 from scores of workers at two financial giants, UBS and Citigroup, which had just successfully lobbied Senate Republicans for a tough bankruptcy law that makes life harder for credit card debtors. President Bush praised McConnell by name as he signed the law.
Christopher Hagstrom, a UBS Financial Services securities lender, said managers spread the word to write a check to McConnell. His suggested sum was $1,000, which he gave. Hagstrom said he is barely aware of McConnell, other than "he has the backing of the guys here."
ALLY OF THE DRUG COMPANIES
McConnell is also regarded as a big ally of the drug companies. http://www.kentucky.com/...
Notes from a 1999 meeting with a PHARMA lobbyist show:
Barry Caldwell, lobbyist at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturing Association (PhRMA), sent his boss a memo explaining that they would sit down with Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. McConnell had the ear of other GOP senators as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), their fund-raising machine, Caldwell said.
Caldwell listed four objectives for their Feb. 9, 1999, meeting with McConnell. ** [the fourth objective was] "expressing PhRMA's willingness to be a resource, substantially and politically, to assist in maintaining a Republican majority in 2000."
Caldwell denied he was paying McConnell for legislation.
In a recent interview, Caldwell said his group did not offer to buy votes. Asked about his memo that linked money to legislation, Caldwell said PhRMA just wanted McConnell to know it appreciated his friendship.
"We wanted him to know that if he had any doubts about our commitment, he shouldn't," Caldwell said. "If we were trying to buy a favor, we failed miserably. That was never our intent. We know you can't do that."
You can, and they did, countered Dave Lemmon, spokesman for Families USA, a non-profit group in Washington that advocates affordable health care.
In 2003, Lemmon said, when Republicans passed their own Medicare drug bill, it met the pharmaceutical industry's wishes. There were no price controls. Although other federal agencies are expected to negotiate for cheaper drug prices, the 2003 law forbids Medicare from doing so.
As Senate majority whip, McConnell joined other Senate Republican leaders who "fought tooth-and-nail, along with PhRMA" to block last-minute efforts to allow price controls, Lemmon said.
"PhRMA was the winner all the way around," he said. "Millions of additional people will be getting their drugs, with the United States government paying some of the highest prices in the world."
The people of Virginia, New Jersey, Missouri and Tenness should know the leadership they'll be getting if the GOP keeps its stranglehold on the Senate. Warn your local newspapers - we don't want Mitch McConnell as the Majority Leader.