Nel's New Day

August 29, 2014

Campaign Fever: Kentucky U.S. Senators

mcconnellJust 67 days before the general election, the U.S. Senate Minority Leader is blaming the tight race between him and Democratic contender, Alison Grimes, comes from all the donations she’s received. The race may go over $100 million, but Mitch McConnell has three times as much as Grimes. McConnell has a much greater problems now–a Mitt Romney experience of being taped while promising wealthy donors and corporate leaders all he will do for them (and against the country) if they just give him enough money.

McConnell’s promise to shut down the president’s legislative agenda—and maybe the country—was no secret. He had openly said this in an interview. He failed to mention that he had secretly made the same promises–and many more–two months earlier at a gathering called “American Courage: Our Commitment to a Free Society” for conservative millionaire and billionaire donors hosted by the Koch brothers.

These are some of McConnell’s statements following his session entitled “Free Speech: Defending First Amendment Rights”:

“In the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board (inaudible). All across the federal government, we’re going to go after it…”

“And we’re not going to be debating all these gosh darn proposals. That’s all we do in the Senate is vote on things like raising the minimum wage (inaudible)—cost the country 500,000 new jobs; extending unemployment—that’s a great message for retirees; uh, the student loan package the other day, that’s just going to make things worse, uh. These people believe in all the wrong things.” [McConnell voted 17 times against the minimum wage for 16.5 million people and 12 times against extending unemployment benefits for 1.7 million people.]

“Not everybody needs to go to Yale.”

Students should look into for-profit colleges.

“All Citizens United did was to level the playing field for corporate speech…. We now have, I think, the most free and open system we’ve had in modern times.”

The worst day of my political life was when President George W. Bush signed McCain-Feingold [campaign finance] into law in the early part of his first Administration.” [Worse for McConnell than the deaths on 9/11 and the disastrous 2008 housing meltdown.]

“The best Supreme Court in anybody’s memory …. I’m really proud of this Supreme Court and the way they’ve been dealing with the issue of First Amendment political speech…. It’s only five to four, and I pray for the health of the five.”

“I want to start by thanking you, Charles and David, for the important work you’re doing. I don’t know where we’d be without you.”

Koch Industries executive Kevin Gentry assured those attending that their political contributions would remain secret. Gentry formerly served as an advisor to former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, now on trial on charges that he failed to disclose gifts from a well-heeled supporter.

The Affordable Care Act, that McConnell has worked to repeal, dropped the uninsured in Kentucky more than any other state—almost by half to a little over 12 percent. Unfortunately, polls in that state show that while they love their state version they have “Obamacare,” which is nothing more than their state version.

None of the news above is suprising, but the news is about to get worse for McConnell. Kent Sorenson, the former Iowa state senator who pled guilty to taking $73,000 for switching from presidential candidate Michele Bachmann’s campaign to the one for Ron Paul almost three years ago, has a McConnell connection. Dimitri Kesari, the man who literally handed Sorenson a check in a restaurant men’s room, is a political consultant for McConnell.

McConnell’s campaign chairman is Jesse Benton, Ron Paul’s Deputy National Campaign Manager. Sorenson said that “Jesse knows” about the bribe; Benton says, “I don’t know anything about that.” If there’s a paper trail for Benton, and Kesari, the FBI may find it.  An FBI raid on Sorenson’s home likely turned up more information about Benton’s and Kesari’s involvement.

Then there’s the problem with the Rand family. Benton worked for Rand Paul’s 2010 Senate campaign and lived in his basement. He’s also married to Ron Paul’s granddaughter. McConnell brought in Benton to satisfy Paulites and Tea Partiers in Kentucky.

Kentucky’s other GOP senator, Rand Paul, isn’t running for election for two years, but he’s recently raised a few eyebrows. Disagreeing with George W. Bush while he was president was “unpatriotic” and scandalous for legislators while traveling abroad, but disagreeing with President Obama is the “job” of legislators now. That’s Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) take about his meeting with Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina when Paul condemned the U.S. president’s actions for the U.S./Mexico immigration crisis and undermined U.S. foreign policy. Paul’s condemnation of the president as the “abdication of responsibility for securing our border” comes after border security has improved to levels not earlier experience in U.S. history.

Rand Paul may not be tremendously popular in his home state. He’s made no secret of his hopes to run for president in 2016, but he wants to stay senator in case he loses to the dozens of other candidates. Kentucky, however, doesn’t let a person be a candidate for two separate political offices in the same election. Paul’s idea was to just change the law; after all, Lyndon B. Johnson did just that in Texas when he was John F. Kennedy’s running mate. Other VPs did the same thing, Lloyd Bentsen and Joe Lieberman for example. Even Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) got to do it. Joe Biden got permission from Delaware to run for his senate seat in 2008.

Paul interpreted state law as two statewide offices, not national offices. The state GOP-controlled Senate passed the bill for Paul by 25-13. The Kentucky House, however, is controlled by Democrats. Speaker Greg Stumbo said, “We kind of take the position over here that a man (who) can’t decide which office he wants to run for isn’t fit to hold either office.” Instead of voting against it, House members just waited until the legislative session was done.

Like his father, Rand Paul thinks that the federal government is a tyrannical entity and firmly believes in state’s rights. Kentucky’s law is that a candidate can’t run for two different offices at the same time. Maybe it will stay that way.

As an addendum to yesterday’s blog about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the week got even worse. After bragging up the surplus, the state will most likely have a big deficit. Walker wanted people to think that they had a tax cut so he changed the amount of withholding in pay checks. He figured nobody would find out until after the fall election when they owed big bucks for taxes in the spring. The state also ran short after Walker refused to accept federal Medicaid expansion money and he had to pay state money for health care and to hospitals. Then there are the federal funds that never came to the state because Walker turned down a high speed rail line from Milwaukee to Madison. The Potawatomi tribe is also withholding $25 million because of a casino dispute. Maybe he thinks he’ll approve the casino only if the tribe members vote for him?

The state’s rainy-day fund has enough money right now to pay for lagging taxes, but the state can’t use it without passing a law. Low taxes for a state is like low starting salaries for workers: it can hurt future growth in income. Walker should provide a fuller picture of Wisconsin’s fiscal woes on October 15—and that’s still before the election. Estimates for the two-year shortfall are projected at $642 million.

And those are only a few of the Republicans in trouble!



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