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McConnell wants corporations to shut up (but keep sending money)

McConnell didn't literally say, "Just write the checks and then look the other way while we pass voter-suppression bills," but it was the underlying point.

As a growing number of business giants step up to support voting rights in the face of a Republican onslaught, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is desperately pleading with Corporate America to shut up.

"My advice to the corporate CEOs of America is to stay out of politics," the GOP leader said on Monday, adding that corporations "will invite serious consequences" if they continue down this road. It was an ironic threat given McConnell's extensive record of trying to drag corporations into politics.

Yesterday, the Kentucky Republican elaborated on his perspective in striking ways.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday that it is "stupid" for corporations to take stances on divisive political issues but noted that his criticism did not include their political donations. [...] "I'm not talking about political contributions," he said of his criticism of corporate leaders speaking out against the Republican legislation.

No, of course not. Heaven forbid.

McConnell has spent years crusading in support of the idea that "money is speech," and to deny Corporate America the right to contribute to candidates and parties would be an outrageous assault on the First Amendment. Corporations, the GOP senator believes, must be encouraged to speak, freely and repeatedly, in the form of generous donations.

McConnell added yesterday, in reference to corporations, "They have political action committees. That's fine. It's legal. It's appropriate. I support that. I'm talking about taking a position on a highly incendiary issue like this and punishing a community or state because you don't like a particular law they passed. I just think it's stupid."

Got it. Corporations giving politicians money is good; corporations standing up for voting rights is bad. McConnell didn't literally say, "Just write the checks and then look the other way while we pass voter-suppression bills," but that seemed to be the underlying point.

By any fair measure, that's a tough position to take seriously. But just as importantly, the Senate minority leader's argument that it's "stupid" for businesses to take a stand on politically provocative issues is at odds with recent history.

As Rachel noted on the show last night, when Republicans were divided on whether to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act in 2006, a sizable group of corporate giants -- including Disney, Coca-Cola, and AT&T -- lobbied in support of voting rights.

There's no record of McConnell characterizing it as "stupid" at the time.