McConnell’s clumsy opportunism

McConnell's clumsy opportunism
McConnell's clumsy opportunism
Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), like a few too many pundits, is eager to find a common thread connecting the various political controversies of the day. And in a new Washington Post op-ed, the Republican leader thinks he’s found it: that rascally President Obama has created a “culture of intimidation.”

Remarkably, Mitch McConnell overcame his fears of Obama’s heavy-handed thugs just long enough to write the op-ed. What a trooper.

But what can be done to combat this president’s crushing culture of intimidation? Don’t worry, the Senate Minority Leader knows just what to do.

[R]ecent efforts to revive the so-called Disclose Act suggest that these tactics are alive and well in Washington. This bill, which would force grass-roots groups to make their member and donor lists public, may seem benign to some. But as a longtime defender of the First Amendment, I have always seen it for what it is: a backdoor effort to discourage those who disagree with the Obama administration from participating in the political process. […]

Oddly, some on the left are now arguing that the IRS scandal is reason to revive the Disclose Act. But if this scandal has taught us anything, it is that Washington’s ability to target individuals and groups is already too expansive.

Wait, what? It’s scandal-mania, Republicans are openly speculating about impeachment, and McConnell’s worried about campaign-finance laws? Actually, yes. As Ed Kilgore explained:

You have to hand it to Mitch McConnell. While other scandal-mad Republicans are off on a wild goose chase that could well end in 1998, McConnell’s focused on exploiting scandals to promote his very favorite cause, and his special gift to the corruption of American politics: hiding the identity of big campaign donors. His op-ed in today’s Washington Post aims at convincing us that conservative donors obviously need anonymity because they will otherwise be persecuted by Obama-inspired bureaucrats and union thugs.

In other words, McConnell’s op-ed is just shameless opportunism – he’s killed campaign-finance disclosures in the past, desperately wants to prevent them in the future, and figures now is as good a time as any to leverage controversies that have nothing to do with campaign finance to push his favorite argument.

In case anyone’s forgotten, the Disclose Act (Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections), was a pretty modest proposal. Proponents have argued it’s corrosive to our democracy to have secret donors quietly funneling millions into the elections process.

And since Democrats and Republicans have traditionally agreed that disclosure and transparency is the key to preventing corruption, the Disclose Act’s authors saw it as a rather mainstream idea – those who donate $10,000 or more to organizations that spend money on political campaigns could not do so in secret.

Republicans killed the proposal last summer, with McConnell leading the way. Secret donations, he said, are critical and must be protected.

As of today, McConnell is still saying the same thing, but now he has a new talking point: we must shield major donors from disclosure or the big bad Obama meanies will somehow punish them with something.

Disclose Act, Campaign Finance and Mitch McConnell

McConnell's clumsy opportunism