His colleagues call him Senator McConnell, or Mr. Minority Leader. He's campaigning across Kentucky trying to convince his longtime constituents that his "clout" helps them.
But instead of using his "clout" for pork and earmarks, he's really flexing his muscles for the big donors who fill his campaign coffers. That's why we call him Big Money Mitch.
And today, we launched a new ad in Kentucky to hold him accountable by asking who benefits from Big Money Mitch's clout?
The voters in Kentucky are beginning to sour on their Senator. Three polls in a week show him in a battle for re-election -- all show his lead within the margin of error. "Kentucky has an enormous investment in the seniority and clout that I have accumulated over the years," he told the voters at a recent debate. He's right that he's one of the most powerful members of the Senate. The problem is, clout itself isn't enough when the American people are struggling to pay their health care bills and stay in their homes. You've got to put that clout to good use. And too often, McConnell has used his considerable power in the Senate to help the lobbyists and big business donors who have funded his campaigns - leaving hardworking Kentuckians wondering who is going to fight for them.
McConnell has been one of the most persistent advocates in favor of privatizing Social Security, calling it "an extraordinarily good investment" for workers. Of course, private accounts would have to be managed by investment professionals, and securities and investment interests have given McConnell $1,494,712 throughout his political career, including $644,786 in the 2008 cycle alone, according to a Campaign Money Watch analysis of data obtained from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
And on health care, McConnell has consistently taken the side of the health and insurance industries and against working American families. He has voted against requiring Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices, voted against the patient's bill of rights, and voted against expanding children's health insurance coverage under the SCHIP program. It should come as no surprise then to learn that a review of data (again) from the Center shows that McConnell has received $3,948,762 from the health care industry, including $286,002 from executives and PACs of HMOs and health services, $1,120,532 from the insurance industry and $574,211 from the pharmaceutical industry.
It's no surprise. Even before running for the U.S. Senate, he knew who his master was. At a college lecture, he told students, "I am going to teach you the three things you need to build a political party. Money, money, money."
Since 1989 (and through June this year), he has raised at least $30,516,911, with $10,743,065 coming from PACs and $738,000 coming from lobbyists. Two-thirds of the total has come from out-of-state donors. "He's completely dogged in his pursuit of money. That's his great love, above everything else," said Marshall Whitman, former lobbyist for Christian Coalition.
Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY) added, "When he asked for money, his eyes would shine like diamonds. He obviously loved it."
McConnell has not only opposed campaign finance reform, he's actively worked against it. For years he's led the congressional opposition to reform legislation, threatened business leaders who supported it, and after one law passed he unsuccessfully sued the federal government to have it overturned. In June 2007, he testified against the bipartisan Fair Elections Now Act before the Senate Rules Committee, of which he is a member. It's fair to say that he has voted against every reform possible - except that he once supported legislation to ban donations by political action committees (PACs), which at the time gave more money to Democrats. He has been called the "Darth Vader" of campaign finance reform - a nickname he relishes.
But we just call him Big Money Mitch. We think it gets straight to the point.