Recent polls suggest Kentucky Democratic Senatorial Candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, a 35-year-old Southern woman with the shoot from the hip style of former Texas Governor Ann Richards, is beating Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The key to Grimes' victory over a 30-year incumbent might be her hard and consistent attacks on McConnell's record on women's issues. He has repeatedly voted against both the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act despite the fact that women in Kentucky earn 76 cents per dollar a man makes.
According to an LEO Weekly transcription of McConnell's speech at a campaign stop, he claimed that gender pay disparity no longer exists. He argued that "we've come a long way... in pay equity and uh... there are a ton of women CEO's now running major companies." Research from Catalyst shows there are actually only 48 women (5.3 percent) that head a Fortune 1000 company.
McConnell, later in the speech, promulgates the notion that equal pay for equal work is preferential treatment instead of justly deserved equality.
"I could be wrong, but I think most of the barriers have been lowered," said McConnell. "And I'm a little skeptical about arguments that -- particularly people like my party who are hostile to women -- what kind of nonsense is that. The last time I ran I got 50 percent of the women votes in the state. So I don't grant the assumption that we need to sort of give preferential treatment to the majority of our population, which is in my view, leading and performing all across the... you know, maybe I'm missing something here."
McConnell's assertions could all be dismissed as campaign rhetoric except that he knows he is not telling the truth. There are significant gender pay inequities in McConnell's own Senate offices. Research culled from Sunlight Foundation data shows that in 2013 women staffers in McConnell's office earned $55,496 or 60 percent of the average male staffer pay of $93, 250. In 2012, his female staffers fared a little better averaging $60,607 or 69 percent of the average male wages of $87,643.
Some of the wage inequality is attributable to mostly men filling the senior staff positions, which have higher salaries, in McConnell's office. The White House, with a gender pay gap of 13%, used this defense themselves. The difference is that the White House has made ending the pay gap a core issue of his presidency while McConnell is pretending it does not exist and derides legislative efforts to ameliorate the inequities as preferential treatment.