Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) recently described the relationship between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his own party’s fringe like this: “He tried to make love to the Tea Party and they didn’t like it.”
Since the Tea Party wave of 2010, McConnell has been trying to position himself as a fierce ally of the movement. He’s hired Ron Paul’s son-in-law to run his campaign and done little to stop Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Ted Cruz (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT) from trying to obstruct every nomination and bill Democrats have supported.
McConnell’s plan — after he failed to make President Obama a “one-term president” — was to avoid a primary challenge. It didn’t work.
Entrepreneur and Tea Partier Matt Bevin will square off against the minority leader for the Republican nomination to serve Kentucky in the U.S. Senate.
And the campaign is already ugly.
“[He] voted for all the bailouts,” Bevin advisor Nachama Soloveichik told National Review Online, “voted for amnesty, voted to raise the debt ceiling at least nine times. He orchestrated the boondoggle debt ceiling deal of 2011. He voted for higher taxes. He’s been one of the biggest culprits of bigger spending. He’s been a pork king. He voted for the bridge to nowhere. The list goes on and on.”
Here are five things not on that list of grievances that the senator definitely should hope primary voters don’t know and won’t find out about him.
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He’s Voted For Gun Control
Though he gloated when Senate Republicans killed expanded background checks earlier this year, McConnell voted for a 1991 crime bill that established a waiting period for gun purchases and a ban on semi-automatic weapons. He also voted for mandatory trigger locks with the sale of each handgun. These are very moderate and sane votes — but they’re exactly the kind of votes McConnell has made in his four decades in Washington, D.C. that a Tea Party candidate can use to tear him apart.
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He Made A Bundle Off The Financial Crisis
McConnell’s net worth is up 784 percent since 2004. How much of that comes from inside knowledge he gains from his position in the Senate? We don’t know, but we do know that he adjusted his securities portfolio right around the time the 2008 stimulus — Bush’s stimulus — was about to pass:
“The stimulus train is grinding to a halt,” McConnell told reporters on Jan. 31, following several calls with Paulson in the previous week. That same day, he made trades worth between $60,000 and $200,000, rearranging four mutual funds and selling shares in an international fund, buying shares in another and reconfiguring investments in two domestic funds.
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Corporations Love Him
Who loves Mitch McConnell? Corporations, of course.
Around the same time Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) was facing ethics charges for, among other things, rewarding donors to an academic “center” named after him, our Joe Conason pointed out that McConnell was doing just about the same thing:
For years, the long list of corporate donors to the [University of Louisville] McConnell Center for Political Leadership was kept secret, presumably out of deference to the senator and his well-heeled friends, including Toyota, AIG, RJ Reynolds and Philip Morris, among others. Perhaps the most questionable gift came from United Defense, a subsidiary of BAE Systems, the Pentagon contractor that finally settled a huge, transatlantic bribery case with the Justice Department last spring. United Defense gave $500,000 to the McConnell Center, and the senator has continued to perform for the company ever since, even while BAE was subject to a federal investigation that led to a record $450 million fine and three years of monitoring by a court-appointed “compliance officer.” Ironically, the chief accusations against BAE involved bribery of public officials (in Saudi Arabia, not Kentucky).
He Fought For And Won A Health Care Entitlement
The Huffington Post‘s Jason Cherkis and Zach Carter put together an impressive deep dive into McConnell’s 30 years in D.C., uncovering a lot of juicy details, including the senator’s one-time status as an honorary union member.
But even more shocking is that in 2000 McConnell fought for and won a health care entitlement for workers:
He worked to pass what amounted to a new entitlement that allowed plant workers over age 50 access to free body scans and free health care. The program also provided $150,000 lump sum payments to workers who developed cancers or other illnesses from radiation exposures, and up to $250,000 in compensation for medical problems caused by other toxins. Spouses and children were also eligible for the program, which cost the federal government more than $9.5 billion.
But the legislation was not a high priority on Capitol Hill. When the bill stalled, Bill Richardson, then President Clinton’s energy secretary, credits McConnell with pushing it through. “I remember the bill was in trouble,” Richardson told HuffPost. “There was some last-minute shenanigans, and McConnell got it done.”
He’s Lost Control Of His Caucus
The worst news for McConnell is that his big selling point to Kentucky’s Republicans has been the incredible power he wields in the Senate. But that power has greatly diminished in the last few weeks due to the emergence of what Talking Points Memo‘s Brian Beutler calls a “governing coalition“:
The group of Senate Republicans working constructively on appropriations overlaps broadly with the Republicans who’ve backed immigration reform, helped confirm several presidential nominees, and have been working behind the scenes on a budget deal that, if enacted, would replace sequestration and end debt limit brinksmanship, perhaps permanently. They represent the significant minority of Senate Republicans who are opposed to sequestration and fed up to the teeth with their party’s dysfunction. They have been courted by key Democrats and the White House who want to put the last Congress’ way of doing things behind them.
And they’re done abetting the constant obstructionism pushed by the Tea Party wing — the wing that holds Mitch McConnell’s future in its hand.
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