McConnell vs McConnell on Campaign Finance Reform

Mitch McConnell has an op-ed in Politico accusing the Democrats of trying to “repeal[] the free speech protections the First Amendment guarantees to all Americans” by submitting a constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United and allow Congress to regulate independent expenditures during campaigns. The rhetoric is soaring and absurd:

That’s because the Democrats who control the Senate say they’re more interested in repealing the free speech protections the First Amendment guarantees to all Americans. Their goal is to shut down the voices of their critics at a moment when they fear the loss of their fragile Senate majority. And to achieve it, they’re willing to devote roughly half of the remaining legislative days before November to this quixotic anti-speech gambit.

The proposal they want to consider would empower incumbent politicians to write the rules on who gets to speak and who doesn’t. And while no one likes to be criticized, the way for Senate Democrats to avoid it is to make better arguments, or even better, to come up with better ideas — not shut up their constituents.

Not surprisingly, a proposal as bad as the one Senate Democrats are pushing won’t even come close to garnering the votes it would need to pass. But to many Democrats, that’s just the point. They want this proposal to fail because they think that somehow would help them on Election Day — they think it will help drive to the polls more left-wing voters who don’t like having to defend their ideas.

If all this seems like an object lesson in why most Americans are so disgusted with Washington right now, that’s because it is. With legislative priorities like this, it’s no wonder a recent Quinnipiac poll found that just 14 percent of respondents say they think the government in Washington can be counted on to do what’s right most or all of the time.

There are two really, really big problems with this argument. The first is that a huge majority of voters support exactly the kind of restrictions on big money influence in campaigns that is being proposed. In one recent poll, 73% supported the constitutional amendment now being proposed. Certainly if Congress passed such a bill, their overall approval rating would go up. And it’s McConnell, not the Democrats, who take a position so strongly opposed to the views of the voters.

More importantly, let’s step into the Wayback Machine and go to 1987, when McConnell himself actually introduced a virtually identical constitutional amendment.

Constitutional Amendment – Declares that the Congress may enact laws regulating the amounts of expenditures a candidate may make from personal funds or the personal funds of the candidate’s immediate family or may incur with personal loans. Declares that the Congress may enact laws regulating the amounts of independent expenditures by any person, other than by a political committee of a political party, which can be made to expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate for Federal office.

Declares that the States may enact such laws with respect to State and local offices.

So either McConnell wanted so much to “repeal the First Amendment” in 1987 that he personally introduced a constitutional amendment to do that, or the rhetoric he’s using now is complete bullshit. Take your pick.

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  • dmcclean

    Wow. That’s some Grade A hypocrisy right there.

    One thing I will give him credit for is that he cast one of only 3 Republican nay votes in the 66-34 defeat of the “Flag Desecration Amendment” (which had already passed the House) in the 109th Congress, and voted against it in the not-quite-as-close votes in the 106th and 104th Congresses. That was an amendment that actually deserved the label “interested in repealing the free speech protections the First Amendment guarantees to all Americans.”

  • cry4turtles

    Yay! Second post. I get to call BULLSHIT!!!

  • http://nigelthebold.com/ Avo, also nigelTheBold

    Yay! As much free speech as I can afford!

  • colnago80

    Speaking of Politico, one of the founders of that shithole has just been appointed the publisher of the Washington Post. Doesn’t look good for journalism in the DC area.

  • dingojack

    As stated above – selling democracy to whoever can afford to pay for it is a very bad idea — voters won’t get information that is remotely relevant when making important decisions on who is going to represent them (and potentially run the country), politicians will be influenced in that representation in favour of the companies (and individuals) who are paying for them, it will encourage general corruption within government, it will undermine confidence in the creditability of the political process (and democracy generally) and it will increase inequality in the value each vote has (as well as economic inequality due to how are where government largesse is distributed). Amongst other reasons.

    Dingo

    ———

    The popularity of electoral reform isn’t a good argument. The First Amendment protects all political speech, no matter how unpopular it is.

    Is McConnell’s bill popular with the public? No it is not. But WHY is it a dumb idea? That is the question.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    So either McConnell wanted so much to “repeal the First Amendment” in 1987 that he personally introduced a constitutional amendment to do that, or the rhetoric he’s using now is complete bullshit.

    To be fair, back then the People still had some money, and could therefore pervert the electoral process with it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kitwalker1990 chriswalker

    As stupid as McConnell’s current rhetoric is, digging up an initiative he supported nearly 30 years ago to accuse him of hypocrisy is a bit of a stretch. I would sincerely hope that Mitch McConnell has grown and changed as a person over 27 years of new life experience, even if he’s grown to be more of a putz.

  • felidae

    If money is speech some people get to talk a hell of a lot louder than the average citizen

  • busterggi

    I suspect McConnell has been bullshit since day 1.