by: The Religious Freedom Coalition of the SouthEast
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between Church and State." Who coined the Phrase? Give up? Answer:
Thomas Jefferson - one of the founding fathers of this great Nation and a creator of
the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment to that same Constitution. Thomas Jefferson, in 1802, wrote a Letter to the Dansbury Baptist
Convention, referring to the First Amendment to the US Constitution. In it he said:
"Believing that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his
God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative
powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign
reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their Legislature
should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free
exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."
(TEA PARTY) REPUBLICAN
THE ENEMY AND TRAITORS TO AMERICA? by R. Blackbird
Extremist (Tea Party) Republicans are selfish, power hungry, hateful of the poor, disloyal
to the nation and its people, dishonest, avaricious, scornful of the
nation's history, the dignity of its institutions, its standards of
political morality, and its vision of advancement for all the
people. The Republicans love war as long as they and theirs do not
have to put on helmets and carry guns into the fighting. They use lies
to start wars that kill hundreds of thousands of innocents and thousands
of our own military service people. They love massive war-time profits,
unavailable to their rich masters if war is absent.
Extremist Republicans hate the rest of us, which they must, in order to
pass away from themselves and onto us, the financial burdens and losses
their crimes, schemes and thefts cause. They are prolific, incessant,
and destructive liars. They are blasphemers for they insist that
their hateful and destructive deeds are the work of God. They are
apostates for they gleefully attack the poor, the immigrants, the
old and the sick, of whom God has commanded all of us to be mindful.
There is no reasoning with them, for all their logic is built on false
premises. There is no appealing to them for honor's sake for they have
lost all sense of shame and have no honor, there is no appealing to them
for the nation's sake for that it what they hate the most.
Extremist (Tea Party) Republicans are the enemy.
The Sins of Mitch McConnell
We will leave it up to the reader to
determine whether Mitch McConnell has made serious errors in in judgment. Mitch has
seemingly supported a Conservative Christian position especially when it comes to Church
and State issues, but it is apparent from the data collected, that Common Decency and the
first amendment to the Constitution is in danger from his past and future actions.
When we contacted Mitch McConnell's
office, they stated that his position is that Christianity is the only "Real"
religion." What is a real religion, Mr. McConnell? What you have been
practicing? If what you have been practicing is "Real Christianity", it
obviously should be made illegal. According to evidence, your actions have been
corrupt and unethical. Read the following and remember: "By their Works may
they be known." This is a summary of information collected from several
sources, including Salon Magazine, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington
Post, The New Republic, and The Hill, about Mitch McConnell.
(Remember it is best to investigate on
your own when looking at allegations about anyone. Don't believe us,
think for yourself and investigate for yourself! And remember, the First Amendment
Coalition does not represent any political party nor do we recommend any political
candidate, nor are we involving ourselves in the political process. This information
is only for students of Mitch McConnell )
Mitch McConnell is Damned. That much
is clear. But where and how ? Dante neglected to specify which circle of hell
a soul is consigned to after betraying the Nations Children
and Unemployed for the sake of politics.
Traitors are of course consigned to the innermost circles, ranging from traitors to their
kin, lords, country and benefactors. No space appears to have been left for traitors
to the Children and Unemployed.
The thought struck us that hell is long overdue for a make-over. The business of sin
has changed substantially since Dante's day. Not only are many of the sins archaic
(it seems doubtful at this point that Protestants are damned as schismatics) but as in the
McConnell case, Dante has failed to keep up with the times. What is the punishment
for TV evangelists Political Liars, Political Thieves, or for that matter for Senators who
vote to take away healthcare for children who need it and lie about attacking defenseless
children to make a point.
Whatever McConnell's concern about gathering
hard evidence to bolster his position to vote against children's healthcare, anyone who
betrays This Nations Children in that calculating manner deserves the fate that Dante
would assign him: being trapped in ice up to the neck in the deepest pit of the
Inferno, where treachery against basic human bonds is punished and where Satan himself,
once the brightest of the rebel angels, beats his bat's wings
is that Michele Bachmann?)
Good Luck Mitch, Satan is coming for you
anytime now - he remembers when you sold your soul and he's coming to collect!!!
WASHINGTON -- The Republican Party's dogmatic opposition to
raising taxes has been a consistent obstacle to patching
together a broader deal to decrease the nation's growing debt.
And for Democrats with good long-term memories, it's not only
causing some irritation -- it's also prompting a bit of
nostalgia for days past.
That's because some of the
same GOP lawmakers holding the line on taxes today once
presented themselves as willing compromisers on the issue in the
past. The most recently unearthed example,
pointed out Wednesday by ThinkProgress,
comes courtesy of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.),
who ended his 1990 reelection campaign with an ad titled "Fair
Share." In it, the Kentucky Republican -- in the midst of a
increasingly tight contest -- positioned himself as open-minded
on the subject of tax rates.
"Unlike some folks around here, I think everyone should
pay their fair share, including the rich," McConnell declares in
The Huffington Post reached out to the
University of Oklahoma Political Communication Center,
which houses "the largest and most comprehensive collection of
political broadcast advertising in the world," for a video copy
of the ad. The Center did not immediately have access to the
video. McConnell's Senate office, however, did provide a full
transcript of the piece, pasted below (emphasis ours):
I'm sure you've been watching this mess in Washington.
I'd like you to know how I feel about it.
I haven't voted for one of these lousy budget packages
for years and I won't vote for this one.
It would raise taxes on the wrong people.
Unlike some folks around here I think everyone
should pay their fair share. Including the rich.
We need to protect our seniors from Medicare cuts
I don't care if the President or Congressional leaders
twist my arm. I won't support any deal that isn't a fair
deal for the working families of Kentucky.
A November 5, 1990 Roll Call article, found via
Lexis-Nexis, reveals that the producers of the ad were Greg
Stevens, a longtime GOP operative, and Roger Ailes, currently
the president of Fox News Channel, an outlet that has provided a
fairly large megaphone for the anti-tax-increase, pro-Medicare
reform crowd. For good measure, the man who managed McConnell's
'90 campaign, Steven Law, is currently President and CEO of
American Crossroads, a conservative group that has routinely
chastised Democrats for trying to soak the rich with tax hikes.
Asked for comment, McConnell spokesman Don Stewart argued
that there were no inconsistencies between the senator's
position in 1990 and his stance today. The "lousy" budget
package he railed against in the ad was George H.W. Bush's
infamous 1990 'read my lips' budget deal that increased the top
marginal tax rates from roughly 28 percent to 31 percent.
McConnell "vehemently" opposed that deal, Stewart said. And in
the ad, he was simply stressing that "he supports tax reform, he
does not support increasing taxes."
"If that sounds familiar, it should," Stewart added,
noting that current top income rates stands even higher: 35
And yet, the 1990 campaign ad still stands out for what it
says about the political mood of the country -- specifically the
mood in economically depressed areas that usually vote
Republican. McConnell is known for being one of Congress' more
astute political minds. The fact that he once espoused tax code
fairness in the heat of a tight election shows that even people
from Kentucky, at one point, applauded lawmakers for asking the
wealthy to further subsidize the social safety net for the
middle class and poor.
"What has been amazing, watching his career, is it doesn't
bother him a bit to say whatever he needs to say to get
re-elected. Mitch would just say whatever he needed to say,"
said Jim Cunningham, a long time Democratic operative who
managed the campaign of McConnell's 1990 challenger, Harvey
In Kentucky, "there was a time when ... you could poll
people on taxes and they believed that if you needed to raise
their taxes, especially to take care of education, you should do
it," Cunningham said. "Over the years it seems like folks pay
less and less attention. At the same time that the Republican
Party in our state has helped them buy into this notion that we
don't need to tax the rich because they are the ones who create
You know the time-tested-and-proven adage -- a gaffe is when a
politician opens his mouth and what he or she really
believes comes out. Sometimes it's the revelation that the
politician is barking mad and doesn't have the foggiest notion what
they are talking about.
We only have to look back a week
for a perfect example of this phenomenon, when Mitch McConnell said
this in an interview with Congressional Quarterly:
the Social Security trustees issued a report saying Social
Security and Medicare are not sustainable under their current
Back in the day, when we had a
functioning press corps instead of a cocktail-weenie-wagging press
corpse; back when we had real reporters doing actual journalism
instead of the steno-pool full of faithful scribes who can be
counted on to regurgitate right-wing talking points unchallenged;
back then, that sort of nonsense would have been a bit in the teeth
of the reporter, who would have done his or her homework ahead of
time, and McConnell would have been hammered mercilessly with the
fact that the trustees
said no such thing.
program costs for both Medicare and Social Security are not
sustainable under currently scheduled financing."
There is a world of difference
between what McConnell said the trustees reported and what the
McConnell said they reported.
implication is that there is a hair-on-fire emergency and Social
Security has to be fundamentally changed because it's doomed to
bankruptcy otherwise; when in fact what the trustees presented was
an either/or -- either revenues will have to be raised, or benefits
will have to be cut decades down the road.
This would be like
driving from Chicago to Detroit and determining that at some
point you will need more gas to complete the trip. That would
mean stopping at a gas station and refilling your tank. By
contrast, McConnell's comment implies that the car is about to
breakdown and will not make the trip.
failed their readers when they didn't follow up and press the
Senator to clarify whether
A.) he didn't understand what the trustees actually said or
B.) was being deliberately dishonest in pursuit of political gain.
They can wail and gnash their teeth
and rend the cloth from their breast all day long and into the
night. That still won't change the fact that Social Security is not
only not responsible for our deficit woes, it is independent of the
it is solvent for decades.
Period. Full stop.
The trustees report that
McConnell misrepresented actually presents the same findings as the
CBO report in that last link. Both report that the Social Security
trustfund, without changing a thing, will be able to make full
payouts through 2030-something -- it should also be noted that the
full payout projections have been pushed downward not by flaws in
the system, but by the economic downturn of the last couple of
years. Both note that those numbers should start ticking back up as
the economy recovers, and if that isn't the case, we have a lot
bigger problems than Social Security heading our way.
In reality, any projected
shortfalls in future Social Security benefits could be easily
remedied with either of a couple of easy fixes would not only fill
that hole, it would put the program on a sound footing indefinitely.
The first option would be to raise the cap. Currently, a person
making more than $106,800 pays no Social Security tax on any monies
earned over that amount. Removing the cap and taxing all monies
equally would put the program on solid footing indefinitely. So
would a very modest increase -- 1% or less -- in the amount of
payroll tax withheld from the wages of those of us who earn less
I don't know about you, but I would be willing to give up
three designer coffees a pay-period now to assure that Social
Security will be there when I reach retirement age.
Elected leaders who embrace the "fundamental change is
necessary" mantra are either stupid, or lying. In neither instance
should they be making decisions that affect millions of Americans.
And that goes double for those who parrot the BS knowing full well
it's just that...BS.
I'm looking at
post originally appeared at Show Me Progress
and is part of a series I am writing as a blogging fellow for the
Strengthen Social Security Campaign,
a coalition of more than 270 national and state organizations
dedicated to preserving and strengthening Social Security.]
Senate Minority Leader Mitch
McConnell (R-Ky.) is "unabashedly courting Wall Street bankers for
political money" and "happy to scratch their backs if they'll scratch
his," opines McConnell's hometown newspaper, the Lexington
in an unusually strong rebuke.
An excerpt from a article by Matt Sedge on
huffingtonpost.com on April 6, 2010
The Center for Responsive Politics has an
post about the
campaign donations of Massey Energy, the company that owns the West
Virginia coal mine where at least 25 miners were killed in a methane
explosion on Monday. There is still faint hope that some survivors might
be saved; this should indisputably be the focus of attention right now.
But there is also a political dimension to the story.
The vast majority of Massey's federal
campaign donations go to Republicans -- no surprise, since Republicans
are dead set against climate change legislation that might begin to tamp
down our country's addiction to dirty coal energy. Massey's CEO, Don
Blankenship, has taken to lecturing Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi about
climate change, saying, according to the Washington Post, that
they "don't know what they're talking about." In this sphere Massey's
actions can at least be understood, from the point of cold corporate
calculation, and ignorance.
But Massey also has a long history of safety
50 in March at the deadly Upper Big Branch mine.
And it's also dead set against allowing more of its workers to unionize,
preventing workers from standing up for their own safety. The Upper Big
Branch is a non-union mine.
If Massey Energy's name sounds vaguely
familiar to you, there may be a good reason. Just a few years ago their
CEO played a critical role in a cynical -- and halfway successful --
scheme to put the company's very own judge on the West Virginia Supreme
Court, where they had a case pending. Again
[Blankenship] has also thrown his weight
around West Virginia, shelling out more than $3 million of his own
money for ads to help defeat a West Virginia state Supreme Court
justice. Blankenship expected the justice to rule against Massey in
an appeal of a $50 million award for a small coal company owner, who
convinced a jury that Massey had driven his company into bankruptcy.
The new judge cast the deciding vote against the $50 million award.
The U.S. Supreme Court later ruled that the new judge should have
While of course Monday's devastation was an
accident, accidents have causes, and at this preliminary point it's not
irresponsible to ask if Massey's abysmal safety record at the Upper Big
Branch had something to do with the explosion. Senate Minority Leader
Mitch McConnell has received $13,550 from "people and PACs associated
with Massey Energy," according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
This is not a company America's leaders -- the ones tasked with writing
our mining and climate change laws -- should be doing business with.
Senator McConnell should return all of that money.
I think that all homo sapiens can understand how the mere
thought of an organization that receives government money
through contract mechanisms being tangentially involved in
setting up a fake tax shelter for a fake pimp and his fake
prostitution ring of fake prostitutes can justifiably lead to
going absolutely cross-eyed with white-hot, impotent rage.
But what happens when a similarly taxpayer-endowed contractor
cover up employee-on-employee gang rape by locking up the
victim in a shipping container without food and water and
threatening her with reprisals if she report the incident?
Somehow, it doesn't engender the same level of anger!
30 misogynist Republicans
in the U.S. Senate are totally OK with rape,
at least where women are concerned. Predictably in yet another
routine attempt to serve their corporate masters, (this time the
GOP stood by Halliburton) Republicans voted against women and
for corporate contempt of rape victims.
Some Republican senators
are taking heat for voting against an amendment that would
allow employees of military contractors to sue their
employers if they are raped at work -- and they want the
Democratic senator who wrote the amendment to help them
fight off the bad publicity.
In October, 30
Republicans voted against Sen. Al Franken's amendment to a
defense appropriations bill that would de-fund contractors
who prevent their employees from suing if they are raped by
co-workers. Since then, those Republicans have faced outrage
for what critics say amounts to support for rape.
Instead of standing
up to take responsibility for or clarifying their disgraceful votes,
Republican cowards are instead attacking Al Franken, blaming him
for their votes.
Sen. John Cornyn
(R-TX) accused Franken exploiting the story of Jamie Leigh Jones
-- a former KBR employee who says she was locked in a
container in Iraq after alleging she was raped by co-workers
-- to further his political agenda.
"Trying to tap into the
natural sympathy that we have for this victim of this rape
--and use that as a justification to frankly misrepresent
and embarrass his colleagues, I don't think it's a very
constructive thing," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in an
I guess Franken held a
sledge hammer over Cornyn's head and said if he did not vote
against the anti-rape amendment Franken would crack it over his
What shameless cowards.
To summarize the Republican
position: As women, we are not "average Americans," and gang
rape is not a "serious" issue. As women, no matter how powerful
we become on our own merits, the Republican establishment will
still be hoping for a man to come along and put us in our place.
Not every Republican signs
onto these views -- indeed, 10 Senate Republicans voted for the
Franken amendment, giving the lie to the NRSC's claim of
partisanship -- but this is the undercurrent of the party's
policies. This is what they're hoping to get voters to overlook
when they run a Sarah Palin or a Kelly Ayotte for office. This
is why Bob McDonnell's campaign for Virginia governor has been
such a popular campaign stop for 2012 prospects: because of, not
despite, his opposition to marital contraception and women in
the workplace. This is why David Vitter (who voted against the
Franken amendment) is still a senator in good standing with the
party of alleged sexual morality.
You don't have to go very
far beneath the Republican surface claims of
equality-but-not-really to get to the rock-bottom sense that
women just don't count, that our rights and our wellbeing are
always subordinate to whatever interest of men they might
conflict with. When it comes to it, even the (themselves sexist)
notions of chivalry and protecting women come behind protecting
the right of corporations to imprison their female employees to
shield their male employees from rape charges and still get
new Senator Al Franken however, for
introducing an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill
that would punish contractors if they "restrict their employees
from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination
cases to court." You'd think that this would be a no-brainer,
actually, but that didn't stop Jeff Sessions from labeling
Franken's effort a "political attack directed at Halliburton."
Franken, of course, pointed out that his amendment would apply
broadly, to all contractors, because otherwise,
'twould be a bill of attainder, right? Right?
Franken's amendment ended up
passing, 68-30. Here's a list of the Senators who showed broad
Rapists and Pedophiles by
voting against it: (Click on their names to
find out more about them).
In February, the Wall
Republicans were "stepping up their campaign to win donations from
Wall Street. In discussions with Wall Street executives, Republicans
are striving to make the case that they are banks' best hope of
preventing President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats from
cracking down on Wall Street."
Two months later, it seems the
GOP is relying on the same strategy. In return for obstructing
Democratic legislation to hold Wall Street CEOs accountable,
Republican lawmakers are pressing bankers for financial help heading
into the November elections.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and National
Republican Senatorial Committee chairman John Cornyn (R-TX) had a
"private meeting" with "25 Wall Street executives, many of them
hedge fund managers." After listening to "numerous complaints the
executives have with the bill," the GOP lawmakers reportedly assured
the bankers that Republicans would be their ally in the fight. After
discussing likely Republican electoral gains this November,
"McConnell and Cornyn made it clear they need Wall Street's help."
A day after the story
broke about McConnell's "private meeting" with Wall Street bigwigs,
he stormed onto the Senate floor to spout
on Democratic efforts to hold those bankers accountable. The timing
was no coincidence.
Republicans are brazenly
playing politics by putting the needs of big banks and credit card
companies above struggling American families. Now is the time to
hold Wall Street accountable for causing the worst recession in a
True financial regulatory
reform would restore fairness to America's banking system, get rid
of confusing fine print, and hold Wall Street's bad actors
accountable for getting us into this mess.
an article by Adam Sorenson at swampland.blogs.time.com
Bit by bit, bipartisan
negotiations in the Senate over financial regulatory reform have
broken down. Richard Shelby, the ranking Republican on the Banking
Committee split with the Democratic Chairman, Chris Dodd in
February. Bob Corker filled the gap, stepping in to try to hammer
out a compromise on an issue in which both parties see the potential
for good policy and good politics. But wary of delays after a bitter
health care fight, Democrats voted the bill out of committee in
March with no Republican support, and now are looking to open up the
legislation to amendments and debate on the Senate floor. As
recently as last month, Republican leadership was open to a deal.
In a floor speech this morning,
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell threw cold water on the
prospects of detente, establishing a hard line of attack against the
Dodd bill, and indelibly marking the party line: "We must not pass
the financial reform bill that's about to hit the floor."
The crux of his criticism
is that the bill "institutionalizes... taxpayer-funded bailouts of
Wall Street banks." He knocked the expansion of power at the Fed and
Treasury, while sounding the alarm on Wall Street accountability.
If the outline of his speech sounds familiar, it's because it is the
exact argument pollster Frank Luntz urged Republicans to make
earlier this year in a
widely publicized memo.
Compare the excerpts below (emphasis mine):
Luntz: "The single best
way to kill any legislation is to link it to the Big
McConnell: "We cannot allow
endless taxpayer-funded bailouts for big Wall Street
banks. And that's why we must not pass the financial
reform bill that's about to hit the floor."
Luntz: "Taxpayers should
not be held responsible for the failure of big business
any longer. If a business is going to fail, not matter
how big, let it fail."
McConnell: "[The Dodd bill]
gives the government a new backdoor mechanism for propping up failing or failed institutions.... We won't
solve this problem until the biggest banks are allowed
Luntz: "Government policies caused the bubble and its ultimate crash. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Reserve,
and the Community Reinvestment Act all had a role in the
catastrophe. The government inflated economic bubbles
with easy credit policies."
McConnell: “It also directs the Fed to oversee 35 to 50 of the biggest
firms, replicating on an even larger scale the same distortions that
plagued the housing market and helped trigger a massive
bubble we'll be suffering from for years. If you thought
Fannie and Freddiewere
dangerous, how about 35 to 50 of them?"
Thus begins the wrestling match
for the populist mantle, both sides claiming their party as the
champion of Main Street. The Democrats' response to McConnell
(policy-wise) will be that the tax for a "bailout fund" is levied on
financial institutions that pose a risk to the system, and that such
a measure would help refund taxpayers for the original cost of TARP,
as well as avoid the need for Americans to foot the bill in the
future. Their political response will be basically the same as
McConnell's attack: to paint the opposition as protectors of Wall
Street interests and the status quo.
Though McConnell has been
masterful at holding his caucus unified against the Democrats' major
legislative agenda items so far, some observers predicted the
anti-bank populism easily adopted by the Dems on this issue would
make it difficult for the GOP to oppose legislation outright. Not
so; the battle over financial regulation has just begun.
“A lot of smart people have
thought about how to prevent a repeat of the kind of financial
crisis we saw in the fall of 2008. We've heard plenty of ideas. But
if there's one thing Americans agree on when it comes to financial
reform, it's this: never again should taxpayers be expected to bail
out Wall Street from its own mistakes. We cannot allow endless
taxpayer-funded bailouts for big Wall Street banks. And that's why
we must not pass the financial reform bill that's about to hit the
floor. The fact is, this bill wouldn't solve the problems that led
to the financial crisis. It would make them worse.
“The American people have been
telling us for nearly two years that any solution must do one thing
— it must put an end to taxpayer funded bailouts for Wall Street
banks. This bill not only allows for taxpayer-funded bailouts of
Wall Street banks; it institutionalizes them.
“The bill gives the Federal
Reserve enhanced emergency lending authority that is far too open to
abuse. It also gives the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp and the
Treasury Department broad authority over troubled financial
institutions without requiring them to assume real responsibility
for their mistakes. In other words, it gives the government a new
backdoor mechanism for propping up failing or failed institutions.
“A new $50 billion fund would
also be set up as a backstop for financial emergencies. But no one
honestly thinks $50 billion would be enough to cover the kind of
crises we're talking about. During the last crisis, AIG alone
received more than three times that from the taxpayers. Moreover,
the mere existence of this fund will ensure that it gets used. And
once it's used up, taxpayers will be asked to cover the balance.
This is precisely the wrong approach.
“Far from protecting consumers
from Wall Street excess, this bill would provide endless protection
for the biggest banks on Wall Street. It also directs the Fed to
oversee 35 to 50 of the biggest firms, replicating on an even larger
scale the same distortions that plagued the housing market and
helped trigger a massive bubble we'll be suffering from for years.
If you thought Fannie and Freddie were dangerous, how about 35 to 50
“Everybody agrees on the need
to protect taxpayers from being on the hook for future Wall Street
bailouts. This bill would all but guarantee that the pattern
continues. We need to end the worst abuses on Wall Street without
forcing the taxpayer to pick up the tab. That's what Republicans are
fighting for in this debate. The taxpayers have paid a high enough
price already. We're not going to expose them to even more pain down
“The way to solve this problem
is to let the people who make the mistakes pay for them. We won't
solve this problem until the biggest banks are allowed to fail.”
Here's some clarity on what the bill actually does as far as
"Roadmaps" for shutting down
banks: The bill would require large institutions to periodically
submit plans for systematic shutdown to be used in the event of
disaster. Higher capital requirements and restricted trading
activities could be be used to punish companies that failed to
submit adequate "funeral plans." These plans are supposed to help
oversight agencies understand the best way to start dismantling the
institution and selling assets quickly in a dire scenario -- it's an
information and transparency measure, not a structural change.
Liquidation: Under the Dodd
bill, the FDIC would take charge of selling off pieces of large
financial institutions that go bust, but the Treasury, Fed and a
panel of bankruptcy judges would have to sign off on liquidating an
insolvent firm before action could be taken. (The judges aren't a
part of the Frank bill.)
"Bailout" fund: The biggest
financial institutions pay into what is basically a bailout
insurance fund, a $50 billion pool fed by a tax on the largest
financial institutions that acts as a cushion between the cost of
intervention and the taxpayer. (The fund is $150 billion in the
Frank bill.) This money would be used to rescue or liquidate some
firms in trouble, paying for taking bad assets off the books or the
operational cost of busting down the company to spare parts. The
FDIC can borrow more money from the Treasury to work with while it
sells off assets, but only as much as they expect to be repaid in
the end. If those funds get eaten through and the government lends
institutions money out of its own pocket, the feds get to be first
in line for repayment. Worth noting: Current estimates put total
losses from TARP at a bit under $100 billion.
So back to the issue at hand.
When McConnell talks about "the tax payer," at least for the first
$50 billion, he means the banks. And when he says "let them fail,"
he means don't seize and dismantle. As far as "institutionalizing"
bailouts, a more accurate characterization is probably that the bill
establishes a protocol for rescue scenarios. But that doesn't mean
it incentivizes them.
Excerpted from an article by Sam Stein in the
HuffingtonPost.com on November 9, 2007
The past month has not
been a good one for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The candidate he endorsed in
Kentucky's gubernatorial election was trounced by his Democratic challenger. McConnell
himself is embroiled in a possible ethics scandal involving a $25 million earmark he
secured for a British defense contractor under investigation by the U.S. Justice
Department. And the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is openly targeting his seat
With polls showing his support dipping in Kentucky,
McConnell this week became the first Senate Republican to launch an in-state ad campaign.
But now even that is proving troublesome.
In a 60-second clip running in the Lexington market,
McConnell is endorsed by Alben Barkley II, the grandson of the one-time Kentucky senator
and Truman Vice President Alben Barkley.
"As Majority Leader of the Senate, my grandfather
had a tremendous amount of influence and could get a lot of legislation passed which was
of benefit to Kentucky," Barkley II says in the advertisement. "Sen. McConnell
is a very powerful man in the Senate today. When one is in a position like that they can
do great things for their state."
The message: McConnell is, like the elder Barkley, a true
The problem: Barley II is not world's best spokesperson.
Back in 1981, the Barkley grandson was convicted of
sexually harassing a young secretary. According to an April 7 UPI article from that year:
"Alben W. Barkley II, [then] 36, asked his
secretary, Ann Hester, to be his lover, asked to look down her dress on several occasions,
once hugged her, and commented she looked 'sexy.''"
At the time Barkely was serving as the state's
Agriculture Commissioner. Because he was an elected official, the Kentucky Personnel Board
personnel board said it did not have the authority to punish him. The secretary said the
incidents "forced her to seek a transfer to another state department."
Republicans sliming and swiftboating should
come as no surprise, but picking on a middle school student is low - even for the GOP.
The Kentucky press has been reporting on a story involving an aide for Republican Sen.
Mitch McConnell who was spreading false rumors about a 12-year-old boy and his family.
Then when McConnell was asked about the incident, he failed to set the record straight.
The 12-year-old bravely advocated for S-CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program that
provided much-needed health care coverage for him and his sister after a car crash.
McConnell has already voted twice to block S-CHIP, and then his aide was trying to drag a
kid's name through the mud in a failed attempt to further make his point.
Sen. McConnell should know to pick on someone his own size.
Weve journeyed back 22 years to listen to some of
the things that challenger had to say. Im running against a fella whos a
nice guy, Mitch McConnell said of U.S. Sen. Walter Dee Huddleston in one
campaign stop. But he does havesome difficulty showing up for work.
He went on to tell that same crowd, I dont
make many promises during a campaign. But Im going to be over there (in the Senate)
on the job.
McConnell brought out the bloodhounds in campaign ads
that year to highlight his claim that Huddleston had missed committee or floor votes 24
times to make speeches earning him tens of thousands of dollars in
I think the senator from Kentucky ought to show up
to vote more than most, McConnell was quoted in one Herald-Leader story, and
when he doesnt, I dont think he ought to be out lining his pocket.
OK, lets return to the present at warp speed and
compare what McConnell said in 1984 with the picture of him that emerges from
Sundays first installment of Herald-Leader staffer John Cheves look at
The McConnell Machine.
Its a picture that clearly suggests the offspring
of McConnells bloodhounds should be sent to sniff out his own trail.
Its a picture of a man who jets around the country
with one obsessive mission in mind: raising money, nearly $220 million in 22 years, mostly
from corporate America.
McConnell is so devoted to his pursuit of corporate money
that one person on the receiving end of his persistence was prompted to e-mail a
colleague, Are you feeling a choking sensation?
In McConnells pursuit of money, he seems to have
forgotten his 1984 pledge to be over there (in the Senate) on the job.
As Cheves noted in Sundays article, Kentuckys
senior senator missed 83 percent of his assigned committee hearings on government spending
and agriculture last year. And anyone who has observed the legislative process knows that
committees are where the real work gets done.
True, McConnell didnt raise that $220 million to
line his own pocket. He raised it to line his campaign treasury and the campaign
treasuries of fellow Republicans who can give him what he craves most: the power and
prestige of being the Senate majority leader if Republicans manage to retain a majority in
that chamber after November.
But really, what is the difference between lusting after
personal wealth and lusting after personal power?
As might be expected of a politician who hits up a
variety of corporate interests for money and then ensures that their interests are
protected in the legislation that emerges from Congress, McConnell claims that money
doesnt influence him.
He just follows his pro-business conservative philosophy,
and corporations reward him accordingly. At least, thats what he says.
Yet this senator who claims that money equates to free
speech and who professes purity when his actions coincide so neatly with his near
full-time money-raising activities frets that the initial source of funding for
Herald-Leader articles automatically biases Cheves look at The McConnell
You cant get any more hypocritical than that.
Back in the day, 146 years ago, Kentucky indirectly
with an intermediate stop in Illinois sent to Washington a Republican named
Abraham Lincoln who eloquently opined in the Gettysburg Address that we here highly
resolve ... that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish
from the earth.
Now, Kentucky has sent to Washington a Republican named
Mitch McConnell who is obviously committed to the belief that the United States should be
a government of the people with money, by the people with money and for the people with
attended the 2003 Kentucky Derby. Chinese-Americans have been big donors to McConnell.
When Sen. Mitch McConnell married Elaine Chao in
1993, he got more than a wife he got a river of campaign donations from her family
and friends in the Chinese-American business community.
Some people think that might affect his views on China,
the worlds other superpower.
Eight days after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989,
where Chinas communist regime crushed a nascent democracy movement, McConnell
collected his first $8,000 from the Taiwanese-born Chao, then just a friend, and her
The Chao family is headed by James Chao, founder of
Foremost Maritime Corp., a shipping company in New York that benefits from Chinese trade.
It buys cargo vessels from China.
As others in Washington reacted with outrage to the
bloodshed in Tiananmen Square, it fell to McConnell to defend normal trade relations with
China and help kill a bill that would have granted amnesty to 40,000 Chinese students in
the United States, which Beijing opposed.
Since then, McConnell, R-Ky., has received more than
$200,000 from Chinese-Americans outside Kentucky, not all of it legal, most of it
originating with Chaos connections. After their wedding, McConnell joked about his
campaign donors: Get used to difficult names.
Obviously, Elaine with the possible
exception of (broadcaster) Connie Chung is the most prominent Chinese-American in
the country, and a lot of her friends and acquaintances want to help her husband,
McConnell said recently. I dont find that in any way unusual.
Some conservatives find China an awkward dance, a target
of scorn for its brutal communist regime, but also a target of capitalist opportunity for
its booming economy and cheap labor.
But few shuffle quite like McConnell, who as a Senate
leader calls for freedom in Asia and warns about the menace of Red China in
fund-raising letters, while consistently defending Chinese business ties treasured by the
Chao family and other China-interested donors.
Nowhere is this contradiction more glaring than
McConnells vocal opposition to the military dictatorship in Burma, in Southeast
Asia, which persecutes its citizens and has Nobel Peace Prize recipient Daw Aung San Suu
Kyi under house arrest. McConnell frequently calls for economic sanctions against Burma to
isolate its regime.
The Burmese people want these sanctions because
they want democracy, justice and freedom, and we stand with them, McConnell said on
the Senate floor in July.
McConnells rhetoric rings hollow to Chinese
human-rights activists. Like Burma, they said, China is run by a dictatorship that has
butchered its own people; that denies citizens the freedom to speak, read, publish, pray
or travel; and that jails political dissidents without trial.
Yet McConnell pushes for more lucrative trade relations
with China. He and Chao meet privately with Chinese officials, including Jiang Zemin in
1997, then general secretary of the Communist Party of China. (Chaos father and
Jiang were schoolmates in China.)
Chao and her father declined to be interviewed for this
story. McConnell helped block attempts to link U.S. trade with China to human rights,
religious freedom or a ban on prison labor, even splitting with fellow Sen. Jim Bunning,
R-Ky., who warned about putting profits ahead of people.
McConnell is no idealist, said John Stempel, senior
professor at the University of Kentuckys Patterson School of Diplomacy and
Hes not terribly sensitive to things like
human rights. He looks at things like politics and business, Stempel said.
Hes very pragmatic that way.
In 1999, McConnell invited Li Zhaoxing, the Chinese
ambassador to the U.S., to speak at the McConnell Center for Political Leadership at the
University of Louisville. Li used his speech to blast Congress for what he called its
malicious attacks in demanding that China allow its people religious freedom.
A few years later, as Chinas foreign affairs
minister, Li traveled to McConnells loathed Burma to promote stronger ties between
his regime and theirs.
Harry Wu, who spent about 20 years in Chinese prisons as
a political dissident, said McConnells friendship with Beijing is motivated by one
No mystery. Its the money, said Wu, a
fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank.
Elaine Chaos family has a tight relationship
with the Chinese government through their business, Wu said. And the big
companies that give money to McConnell, like Boeing, they want an open door to China so
they can do business there. McConnell accommodates them.
Added Minxin Pei, director of the China Program at the
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: Burma is a tin-pot dictatorship. You can
be tough on Burma and not pay any kind of price.
McConnell said Chinese-American money has no effect on
his foreign policy.
I was a free-trader long before I met Elaine, and I
think Ive been on the free-trade side of virtually every issue, not just related to
China, he said. Asked why he calls for sanctions only on Burma, he said, chuckling,
You cant treat China a major trading partner you couldnt
have trade sanctions against China.
Still, he said, he occasionally is willing to irritate
Chinese leaders, such as in his sponsorship of a law that recognized Hong Kong as its own
territory, even after China took it back from the British in 1997.
Ho Tsu Kwok, chairman of Global China Group Holdings and
the Hong Kong Tobacco Co. and member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese
Peoples Political Consultative Conference, is one of McConnells larger
individual donors. Ho and his family have given more than $80,000 in the last decade to
McConnell, the Kentucky Republican Party and Senate Republican candidates for whom
McConnell held a 2004 fund-raiser. Ho declined to be interviewed.
McConnell said he met Ho many years ago, when Ho called
himself Charles Ho and worked in Louisville on assignment with tobacco company
Brown & Williamson. At the time, McConnell said, Ho claimed dual Chinese and U.S.
citizenship, although hes apparently back in China now.
Toward the end of President Bill Clintons
administration, Congress investigated illegal donations to Clintons 1996 campaign
that apparently were funneled from China. Seizing on the scandal, McConnell launched a
blistering attack in a Republican fundraising letter. He invoked the threat of Red
The Clinton-Gore team has put the presidency
up for sale to the slimiest crooks and low-lifes of our society, McConnell wrote.
This is a direct slap in the face to those brave, young American soldiers who
spilled their blood defending freedom and democracy in the world.
Then congressional investigators learned that McConnell
took a few thousand dollars from two of those crooks Maria Hsia, whom
McConnell helped with an immigration bill friendly to China, and John Huang, who forwarded
illegal donations from The Lippo Group, an Indonesian financial conglomerate with ties to
Chinese intelligence agencies.
Testifying to Congress and in a deposition, Huang said
Elaine Chao approached him and other Chinese- American businessmen. They sought influence
in Congress. Chao urged them to give money to McConnell, Huang said.
She was a very distinguished, you know,
Chinese-American community leader then, Huang told a House committee in 1999.
Two years after Huangs testimony, McConnell
returned the money and said he had been unaware of its source. More recently, McConnell
said his aides cannot determine whether his donors are U.S. citizens or have green cards.
They expect that all donors are legally able to give, he said.
Former U.S. Labor Secretary
Elaine Chao and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell showed Chaos parents, James and Ruth Chao,
a display of memorabilia from Chaos career placed at the University of Louisville in
April, when a new university library auditorium was named in her honor.
WASHINGTON - Millionaire coal magnate Bob Murray
knew the name to drop in September 2002, when Mine Safety Health Administration inspectors
confronted him about safety problems at his mines: Sen. Mitch McConnell.
Murray, a large man with a fierce temper, is a huge donor
to Republican senators. McConnell, R-Ky., rose through the ranks by raising money for
those senators. And McConnell is married to former
Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, whose agency
Shouting at a table full of MSHA officials at their
district office in Morgantown, W.Va., Murray said: "Mitch McConnell calls me one of
the five finest men in America, and the last I checked, he was sleeping with your
boss," according to notes of the meeting. "They," Murray added, pointing at
two MSHA men, "are gone."
Murray, in a recent interview, denied that he referred to
McConnell "sleeping with" Chao.
But nobody disputes that district manager Tim Thompson,
at one end of Murray's jabbing finger and the man whose notes recorded the meeting, was
transferred to another region, away from Murray's mines. He appealed the transfer for
three years until he grudgingly took retirement in January. Labor Department officials
refused to discuss his transfer.
"The ironic part is, I'm a Republican," said
Thompson, now a private mine-safety consultant. "But I don't think you should bring
up politics at a meeting like that, involving safety."
When it comes to workplace-related issues such as mine
safety, the McConnell-Chao marriage presents an intriguing target for industry donors. At
the Labor Department, Chao has taken what some reports say is a relaxed attitude toward
the regulation of coal mines and an approach that labor unions perceive as hostile.
Sometimes Chao achieves what her husband cannot in the
Senate, such as a wage freeze her department instituted on certain farm
Chao attends her husband's fund-raisers, chats with his
donors and seeds her agency with his former aides. Chief among them is Deputy Labor
Secretary Steven Law, whose last job was helping McConnell tap donors -- Bob Murray
included -- at the National Republican Senatorial Committee. They collected an impressive
$187 million in four years there.
Chao declined to comment for this story. (Law, who did
comment, said politics do not influence the Labor Department.)
McConnell recently said he neither asks Chao to favor his
donors nor advises her on Labor Department activities. "She doesn't need any
direction from me," he said. "In fact, I think that's a little bit
insulting." It's hardly surprising they both push the Republican Party agenda in
their jobs, he said.
"I'm a Republican, and I generally support what the
Bush administration is trying to do," McConnell said. "She takes her orders from
the White House."
Some longtime McConnell donors found their lobbying
efforts more effective once Chao took over the Labor Department.
For example, the Food Marketing Institute lobbied the
Senate and the Labor Department after President Bush took office in 2001 to kill the
mandatory ergonomics rules that President Clinton had intended to protect workers from
repetitive-stress injuries. The institute says it represents 26,000 grocery stores.
At the urging of the institute and other business groups,
in 2001 McConnell and the GOP Senate narrowly approved a resolution declaring that
Clinton's safety rules "shall have no force or effect."
But it was Chao, after the food institute's officials
approached her, who sealed the deal by replacing Clinton's safety rules with
"voluntary guidelines," the institute told its members in a newsletter.
"The proposed voluntary guidelines will give our
member companies helpful suggestions," the group's chief executive, Tim Hammonds,
said in a statement thanking Chao for "the new spirit of cooperation."
The institute, which had contributed at least $13,000 to
McConnell in the 1990s, upped its donations, giving him nearly $13,000 more during Chao's
first two years as labor secretary. Officials of the institute declined to comment.
"There's definitely an overlap in what they're
doing, and McConnell makes no bones about it," said Bruce Goldstein, director of
Farmworker Justice, a Washington non-profit that advocates for laborers.
Asked about the 2002 incident in which Murray angrily
threw his name at mine inspectors, McConnell said he knew nothing about it and hasn't
spoken to Murray since before then. He denied calling Murray one of America's five finest
men. "After what he apparently said about me, he wouldn't make my list,"
Murray, chief executive of Murray Energy, acknowledged in
a recent interview that he loudly complained about MSHA manager Thompson at the meeting.
Thompson harassed his mines for no reason and even shut down operations in one for hours,
He said it's possible he mentioned his friend McConnell.
His company's political-action committee has given about $360,000 in campaign donations
since 2000, nearly all to Republicans, including McConnell. Murray personally has given
"I have no idea why I would have brought up Sen.
McConnell, but I can tell you I have a tremendous respect for what he does," Murray
said. Regarding Thompson's transfer, Murray added: "I said he should be removed. But
they didn't do it because I said so."
After the Murray incident was reported in various
publications, Thompson said he was angry that his name had been released, and scared that
McConnell would be mad at him. So, he said, he sent a polite letter this year to McConnell
to make it clear that he didn't blame the senator or his wife for his problems. He has
never been given a reason for his transfer, he said.
Bush picked Chao as labor secretary in 2001 after his
original choice, Linda Chavez, withdrew because of questions about an illegal immigrant
who had lived in her home. Chao had proved her Republican loyalty as a "Bush
Pioneer," having raised more than $100,000 for the president's campaign.
Born in Taiwan and raised in New York, her father the
wealthy founder of a shipping company, the 53-year-old Chao was educated at Mount Holyoke
College and Harvard Business School. She worked in international banking and as a midlevel
Republican federal appointee before taking over the United Way of America, which had been
rocked by financial scandal. Chao is credited with restoring its reputation.
When Bush chose her, Chao was making more than $200,000 a
year as a "fellow" at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative, corporate-funded
think tank in Washington. While she was there, Heritage scholar D. Mark Wilson issued a
report titled How to Close Down the Department of Labor, in which he blasted Labor's
"excessive burdens on businesses." Chao hired Wilson as deputy assistant
secretary in charge of workplace standards.
She also made hundreds of thousand of dollars in speaking
fees and by serving on the boards of directors for 13 corporations, several of which
donated to McConnell and lobbied the Senate for favorable laws and federal contracts.
Nearly all her board memberships began after they married in 1993.
Chao is staunchly conservative. Speaking at a Washington
event in May, she said, "Often, people come into public service with a zeal to take
immediate action. But, sometimes it's not what you do but what you refrain from doing that
Few industries were happier to see Chao bring that
philosophy to the Labor Department than mining, which has given more than $400,000 to
McConnell's Senate campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
In early 2001, industry magazine Coal Age listed the
various mining executives invited to shape the agency's agenda and wrote that they were
"benefitting from high-level access to policymakers in the new administration."
At the Mine Safety and Health Administration, Chao named
Utah coal operator David Lauriski as director, assisted by former McConnell aide Andrew
Rajec. (Lauriski resigned in 2004, citing family concerns, after the Labor Department's
inspector general questioned no-bid MSHA contracts that went to firms connected to him.)
His deputies for policy and operations, John Caylor and
John Correll, had been executives at Cyprus Amax Minerals Co. of Englewood, Colo. The
company's PAC gave $17,000 to McConnell and $15,000 to the National Republican Senatorial
Committee while McConnell and Law, now Chao's deputy, ran it.
"They stacked MSHA with executives who came straight
from the coal and mining companies," said Tom Kiley, a Democratic aide to the House
Education and Workforce Committee. "Sure, it's good to have some expertise, but there
was no effort to balance that with people from the workers' side. It's totally the fox
guarding the henhouse over there."
Close to Coal
The first battle over the Labor Department's new
practices concerned its investigation of the largest-ever environmental disaster east of
the Mississippi River.
At a subsidiary of Massey Energy Co., a McConnell donor,
a massive coal slurry spill was unleashed on Eastern Kentucky in October 2000. Nobody
died, but the waterways ran black with several hundred million gallons of coal waste. MSHA
investigated for evidence of negligence. Jack Spadaro, the MSHA engineer in charge, said
Massey had been warned that its slurry retention pond was unstable.
After Chao became secretary, Spadaro said, she put on the
brakes. She told reporters "it's time to call off the MSHA food fight" over the
"They came to us and said, 'Boys, it's time to wrap
things up,'" Spadaro said recently. "And we were nowhere near finished."
Spadaro said he argued with Lauriski over the contents of
the final report, which he alleged "whitewashed" Massey's misdeeds. Spadaro and
his MSHA bosses continued to butt heads for months, and he left the agency under protest.
In April 2002, MSHA levied $110,000 in fines on Massey, a
sum Spadaro said was much smaller than appropriate. A Labor Department administrative law
judge later reduced that to $5,600 and ruled that the MSHA failed to show enough
negligence by the company.
In September 2002, Massey's PAC gave $100,000 to the
National Republican Senatorial Committee.
The Labor Department and its critics disagree on the
agency's recent impact on mine safety.
A January 2006 report by the Democratic staff of the
House Education and Workforce Committee said that, under Chao, MSHA cut its
coal-enforcement staff and weakened its oversight.
Labor Department officials dispute those findings and say
that, between 2001 and 2005, citations to mine operators rose.
One undisputed fact is that by Oct. 12, the number of
U.S. mining deaths for 2006 had climbed to 62 -- up 41 percent from this time in 2005, the
worst fatality rate in the last five years.
Some MSHA officials talk of being pressured to go soft
even when they uncover serious problems.
In April, MSHA inspector Danny Woods told the Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette that colleagues wanted to shut down part of a Massey coal mine in West
Virginia in January because spilled coal and dust had accumulated along a belt line,
raising the risk of a fire. The request was denied. Woods said inspectors were told
"to back off and let them run coal, that there was too much demand for coal."
Days later, on Jan. 19, a fire in that part of the mine
killed two miners. MSHA spokeswoman Amy Louviere recently said MSHA is investigating
Woods' allegation, so she cannot discuss it.
McConnell, a longtime advocate of tax breaks for mine
owners, has had relatively little to say about miners, although he represents thousands.
The United Mine Workers of America said they count a number of Republican and Democratic
senators as champions of miners, willing to tour mines and promote safety legislation. But
not McConnell, the union said.
"He's not done anything to help us with mine
safety," said Bill Banig, the union's legislative director. "It does seem odd,
given the state that he represents."
Law, the deputy labor secretary, said Chao's Labor
Department has markedly improved enforcement on mine safety since 2001.
Sometimes Chao picks up the ball and runs with it at the
Labor Department when McConnell fails to reach a similar goal in the Senate.
For example, McConnell filed legislation for three years,
starting in 1998, to curb the mandatory annual raise in wages of legal immigrant
farmworkers under the government's H2A program. By 2001, the wage in Kentucky was $6.60 an
hour, which struck some agricultural businesses as too high. (Agribusinesses have given
McConnell more than $1 million for his campaigns -- out of $21 million from all donors
over 22 years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.) But the bills kept
In 2001, Chao ordered an indefinite delay in the release
of an annual Labor Department wage report that triggered the farmworker raise. It was an
insider move, not noticed by most Americans, but praised by McConnell's Republican
congressional colleagues and business groups in letters obtained from Chao's office.
Farmworker Justice sued Chao on behalf of immigrant
workers, and in 2002, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ordered her to resume publishing
the wage report in a timely fashion.
In 2002, McConnell filed an amendment to a corporate
ethics bill that would force unions -- whom McConnell criticizes for supporting Democrats
over Republicans -- to file far more detailed public reports on their spending. His
amendment drew protest from unions, and four Republicans joined with Democrats to defeat
The next year, Chao announced stricter rules on unions'
expense disclosures through the Labor Department's mandatory reporting system. Unions now
must itemize every expense of $5,000 or more. The unions protested, but her order was
Richard Berman, a corporate lobbyist whose clients
include McConnell donors, seized on the newly released financial data to launch a Web
site, UnionFacts.com. The Web site -- like McConnell -- criticizes unions for giving more
money to Democrats than Republicans. It also alleges criminal activities and urges union
members to quit.
Berman's organization, The Center for Union Facts, found
an ideological ally in Chao's Labor Department.
Berman and Chao both send aides to attend First Friday
Labor Reform Working Group meetings on Capitol Hill, where Republican congressional staff
and lobbyists brief each other on union policy. Labor Department e-mails obtained in June
show Berman's staff and Chao's aides sharing union criticism, organizing lunches and
promoting Berman's Web site within the department.
Berman declined to talk about his relationship to Chao, a
The watchdog group that obtained the e-mails, Citizens
for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said McConnell, a conservative Republican
senator, can choose to side with corporations. But the labor secretary should not be so
"cozy" with businesses, said Melanie Sloan, CREW president.
"The Labor Department is supposed to be there for
the American worker," Sloan said.
$375,000 -- Mining industry donations to McConnell's
$200,000 -- Chinese-American donations to McConnell from
out of state
$8,000 -- First donation to McConnell from the Chao
WASHINGTON - Kentucky farmers
needed help from Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., three years ago as Congress debated a buyout
of their government tobacco quotas.
The farmers ended up with the perfect lobbyist to present
their case: Gordon Hunter Bates, McConnell's recently departed chief of staff and campaign
manager, just getting his start in the private sector.
They signed up as clients of the brand-new Bates Capitol
Group, a small firm Bates opened after he was disqualified from the 2003 race for Kentucky
lieutenant governor because he had been living in Virginia. Bates charged about $350,000
in fees, and with McConnell's help, the farmers got what they wanted, a $10 billion buyout
over a decade.
As the deal was approved, McConnell gave a Senate floor
speech and described Bates' role as "extremely important."
"Hunter is like a son to the senator, and having
that kind of access is a big help," said Danny McKinney, chief executive of the
Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association in Lexington. "Most of the work he did
for us was just the two of them in a room, in private, without the rest of us."
Bates soon hired other lobbyists tied to McConnell and is
now perceived as a gatekeeper to one of the most powerful figures in the Senate. His
business likely will boom if McConnell, now the majority whip, replaces the retiring
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., in January, as planned.
From his seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee,
McConnell has recommended about $45 million in federal funds for four of Bates' clients,
interviews and public records show. The senator has filed or rewritten bills for three
other clients, loosening pension contribution rules and making it harder to sue
Overall, Bates, who is 38, reports that he has charged
about $2.4 million in fees to clients helped by McConnell -- more than half of the fees he
reports for his first three years as a Washington lobbyist. Those clients have given
McConnell about $120,000 in campaign contributions. Most did not give to McConnell until
they hired Bates. They declined to say whether Bates, who asks people to give to
McConnell, solicited their own donations.
In a city still touchy about the criminal investigations
that surround disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, watchdogs are critical of cozy
ties between members of Congress and the connected lobbyists whose special-interest work
seems to pump money into their campaigns.
Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for
Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, says a new breed of lobbyists
is especially troubling: congressional aides who go private not to market their knowledge
of Congress, but to sell precious access to their onetime bosses, becoming highly paid
For example, Sloan said, the high-powered Alexander
Strategy Group was founded by former aides to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas,
who resigned this year after being indicted.
"Alexander Strategy's whole raison d'tre was
that they got you into the room with Tom DeLay ... until they both collapsed in
scandal," said Sloan, previously a federal prosecutor and congressional aide.
In a recent interview, McConnell said he helps worthy
Kentucky companies whenever he can. If much of his assistance has gone to Bates' clients,
that is coincidental and unrelated to their friendship or the money Bates raises for his
campaigns, he said.
"I'm not sure who Hunter's client list is,"
McConnell said. "I have 280 former employees. I know some of them work in this town
(as lobbyists). I couldn't tell you who represents who."
Some farmers say McConnell himself sent them to Bates --
"He told us, 'You need to hire Hunter Bates, I can work with Hunter Bates,'"
said Versailles farmer Rusty Thompson, a Burley Tobacco Cooperative board member -- which
Bates Declined to be Interviewed.
In a prepared statement, Bates wrote: "Working with
members of Congress to achieve outcomes that are consistent with shared vision and values
is not corrupt, but rather, is a critical part of the democratic process."
"I also have been blessed to work with talented,
principled friends that I previously worked with on Capitol Hill and have known for more
than five years," he wrote. "Again, such actions would be viewed by most
reasonable observers as natural and sensible, not alarming and inappropriate."
One beneficiary of Bates' pull with McConnell is eCavern,
a Louisville company that leases out space within a 3-million-square-foot, man-made cave
near the airport.
Founded in 1999, eCavern hopes to create an underground
computer data storage center in a quarry once mined for limestone to pave highways. It
promoted itself at trade shows and for three years retained a Louisville lobbyist, Timothy
Mulloy, to get federal money.
Mulloy said he introduced eCavern president Mark Roy to
Kentucky's congressional delegation but had no luck winning funds for the untested
Luck improved once eCavern replaced Mulloy with Bates in
2003. Since 2004, McConnell has set aside $2.5 million for eCavern from the Treasury
Department, with $1 million more announced for the coming year.
Under a deal proposed by eCavern, the University of
Kentucky will use its cave to study the effectiveness of underground storage of computer
data from the financial sector in the event of disasters or terrorist attacks.
"In a post-9/11 world, it is critical that our
financial institutions be secure," McConnell said in a 2004 press release.
"ECavern is ideally suited to protect critical data and communications
ECavern came up with the idea and asked UK to join as
research partner, said Wendy Baldwin, UK's former executive vice president for research.
"They had this unique resource and were thinking, 'Hmm, how do you take advantage of
this?'" Baldwin said.
The project is supposed to start this year and continue
UK, which would not allow a tour, pays by far the highest
rent in the cave.
Louisville Underground rents out storage elsewhere in the
cave for cars, boats and other items, charging from $3 to $5 per square foot annually. UK
is paying eCavern $173.60 per square foot for the first 19 months, according to its lease.
eCavern charges so much because of infrastructure
improvements needed for computer equipment, such as a raised floor, high-speed Internet
access and backup electrical systems, said Larry Williams, a Louisville leasing agent for
eCavern and Louisville Underground.
In fact, taxpayers are enhancing eCavern's prospects.
"That's the exciting thing about the Treasury
Department project, that it's facilitating improvements to the space that will allow
eCavern to leapfrog forward with additional customers in the future," Williams said.
Bates has reported about $400,000 in fees charged to
eCavern so far. (In a written statement, Roy -- eCavern's president, who declined to be
interviewed -- said that sum is what Bates has charged, but his company has been able to
pay Bates only about $7,700 so far. "Hunter Bates is a hero to Kentucky and should be
applauded," Roy wrote.)
ECavern officials gave $3,000 in donations to McConnell
in 2005. They gave $2,000 to an out-of-state Republican Senate candidate for whom
McConnell held a fund-raiser. ECavern also gave $1,000 to the legal defense fund of Tom
DeLay, who was indicted on multiple criminal charges.
Independent watchdogs who monitor federal spending say
it's not unusual for the government to protect things by burying them, such as the North
American Aerospace Defense Command, beneath Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado.
But a commercially owned cave 50 feet under Louisville,
with its plans and location revealed by McConnell in press releases, isn't the same thing
as NORAD, they said. And if the project is essential, they asked, why is eCavern the only
"It's the politics of contracting," said
Jennifer Porter Gore, spokeswoman for the non-profit Project on Government Oversight.
"There was no open competition from other companies that might offer their own ideas
on data-storage protection. It's a contract steered to one company by a friendly senator.
We find that troubling at best."
ECavern is only one of at least four Bates clients to win
federal money from budget "earmarks" added by McConnell. An earmark puts
language into spending bills that orders federal agencies to give money to specific
companies for projects the agencies did not request. There is no public notice or debate.
McConnell has claimed credit for the eCavern earmarks in press releases.
"There's really very little oversight that takes
place after an earmark is given out. It's not like when you have a planned project that an
agency requests, with competitive bidding and progress reports," said David Williams,
vice president for policy at Citizens Against Government Waste, a congressional watchdog.
In 2005, McConnell earmarked $2.1 million
from the Defense Department for Accella Learning, a division of Boardpoint LLC of
Lexington, a Bates client.
Accella is developing an "intelligent tutoring
system" at the Army's Fort Detrick, in Maryland. In one example in Accella sales
material, medical personnel are shown skin sores on a computer and taught to identify the
one caused by anthrax.
Bates has charged Boardpoint about $240,000 in fees so
far. Director Joe Coons, a Lexington businessman, made a $2,100 donation to McConnell in
October 2005. Coons declined through a secretary to comment.
Bates also lobbies for Appriss Inc. of
Louisville, which sells communications technology to law enforcement and owns VINE, the
National Victim Notification Network.
Bates has charged Appriss about $260,000 to promote
government purchase of its victim-notification products. Scores of local and state police
agencies use Appriss products, from the Texas Rangers to the Kentucky Justice Cabinet.
Since 2004, the small Senate budget negotiation teams on
which McConnell sat have earmarked $17 million from the Justice Department for the
purchase of victim-notification systems. At a Washington news conference about the
products in 2004, McConnell praised Appriss for "innovative techniques that are going
to help us make children of this country a lot safer."
Appriss values McConnell's assistance, said Mike Davis,
Appriss's president. But the money that he helped set aside must be matched by money from
state and local governments before police agencies make purchases, Davis said. Even then,
Appriss shares the pot with competitors.
"We certainly won't get all of that," Davis
Appriss created a political-action committee in 2003 that
has given $11,200 to McConnell and $3,000 to out-of-state GOP Senate candidates for whom
he bundled donations. Appriss executives and their wives gave $28,400 to McConnell in
recent years and $3,000 to out-of-state GOP Senate candidates for whom he held a
Bates' work for Voice for Humanity Inc., a
Lexington company, won attention last year in a Herald-Leader story. The company sells
small audio devices -- similar to iPods -- with recorded messages.
Bates has billed Voice about $200,000 to get federal
Since 2003, McConnell has earmarked $8.3 million for
Voice from the State Department to send its devices to Afghanistan and Nigeria, with
messages intended to promote democracy or AIDS prevention. McConnell recommended Voice get
$15 million more to move into Iran and North Korea.
The State Department paid nearly $8.5 million of the
$23.3 million to Voice by this summer, spokesman David Snider said. More than 60,000 of
its devices went to Afghanistan alone. State Department officials said the devices are
unusual but effective. They cited a study, released in January, of 364 Afghans who
listened to the devices before parliamentary elections in 2005.
Voice founder Michael Kane gave $4,200 to McConnell in
2005. He gave $1,000 to an out-of-state Republican Senate candidate for whom McConnell
held a fund-raiser.
Some of McConnell's favors for Bates' clients involve
changing laws, not appropriating money. The senator has introduced or amended bills for at
least three, including UPS, the shipping giant that has its main U.S. air hub in
Bates has charged UPS about $400,000 since 2003 to lobby
Congress on several topics, such as the company's effort to ease its burden under federal
In 2004, President Bush signed a law to let many large
employers delay pension fund contributions for two years because of stock market losses.
At the last minute, McConnell persuaded the Bush administration to include the pension
fund that covers UPS.
UPS is grateful to McConnell for "making sure"
it was added to the plan, said UPS spokesman David Bolger. The UPS PAC has given McConnell
more than $45,000 since 1999.
Another Bates client is the American Beverage
Association, a trade group for soft-drink makers. Since 2005, Bates has charged it about
$100,000 to lobby for a law to shield soda and food companies from obesity-related
Shortly after Bates was hired, McConnell filed that bill,
the Common Sense Consumption Act, which states that "fostering a culture of
acceptance of personal responsibility is one of the most important ways to promote a
McConnell's bill -- similar to one he pushed in 2003 --
won praise from soda, candy and fast-food companies. They face challenges from consumer
groups, such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which this year sued
Louisville-based KFC over "startlingly" high levels of artery-clogging trans
fats in its fried chicken.
"It's not Ben & Jerry's fault if you eat too
much ice cream. It's not Sara Lee's fault if you eat too much cake," McConnell argued
when introducing his 2003 bill. The latest version of his obesity bill awaits committee
action. A House version has moved through that chamber.
The association's PAC has given McConnell $2,000 since
2002. The PACs of association members Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola have given him at least
Finally, Bates has billed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's
Institute for Legal Reform about $260,000 to lobby for McConnell's Common Sense
Consumption Act, and for a law to protect corporations from class-action lawsuits, which
allow large pools of people who claim related injuries to combine their resources and seek
Last year, three months after Bates took that client,
McConnell co-sponsored the Class Action Fairness Act to make it harder for people to win
damages through those kinds of suits. It passed Congress. President Bush signed it into
A grinning Chamber official shook McConnell's hand after
the Senate vote, shown on the Chamber Web site. The Chamber PAC gave McConnell $2,500 two
months later. Corporations represented on its board of directors -- such as Massey Energy,
Accenture and BellSouth -- have given tens of thousands of dollars to McConnell.
'The Right People'
As Bates prospered, he hired other lobbyists from
McConnell's circle. They included Holly Piper, wife of McConnell chief of staff Billy
Piper, who left Bates' firm earlier this year. Former McConnell aides Patrick Jennings and
Lesley Elliott currently work for the firm.
For all those connections, though, clients say it's the
Bates-McConnell relationship that is invaluable.
"He has Mitch McConnell's cell phone number. I know
I don't," said Roger Quarles, president of the Tobacco Growers Cooperative.
In his spare time, Bates raises money for McConnell.
Louisville lawyer Robert Cusick said Bates approached him and several colleagues last year
and urged them to give money to McConnell's re-election fund. Cusick gave $2,500.
Months later, Cusick said, McConnell wrote him a
recommendation letter, and President Bush named him to direct the U.S. Office of
Government Ethics, a post he desired. Cusick said he does not think his donation prompted
the offer. The Senate confirmed Cusick this year. McConnell introduced him as "a man
of wisdom, character and judgment."
Bates gets client referrals from other McConnell donors,
such as Louisville attorney C. Edward Glasscock, whose law firm provides Bates with
Kentucky office space; from other Republicans in the Kentucky congressional delegation,
and from McConnell's Senate staff.
Dan Parker, owner of a Louisville environmental
management firm, said he spoke by telephone to Billy Piper and McConnell aide Michael Zehr
in 2004, seeking federal funds. One of them -- he's not sure which -- suggested he hire
Bates, he said.
"They knew I didn't have anyone who could help me in
Washington, and within a few weeks, I got a call from Hunter," said Parker, who used
Bates for a year. "He got us in front of the right people. He even got us a bill
written, but we couldn't quite get it to the floor."
Parker said he never questioned why his senator's office
would refer him to a lobbyist. He assumed that's how Washington works.
He declined to say whether Bates recommended the $1,400
he has given the National Republican Congressional Committee, starting six months after he
hired the lobbyist. Giving to political parties once you ask for help -- he assumed that's
also part of the game.
"They've got a business to run as well," Parker
$10 billion -- Value of buyout of tobacco quotas
McConnell arranged for farmers, for whom Hunter Bates lobbied
$45 million -- Federal funds McConnell has recommended
for four of Bates' lobbying clients
$2.4 million -- Lobbying fees Bates has reported from
clients helped by McConnell
$133,000 -- Donations to McConnell from Bates, his wife
and lobbying clients
Hunter Bates and wife
Jennifer listened in April 2003 as Ernie Fletcher named Steve Pence as his new running
mate, replacing Bates, who was ruled ineligible.
WASHINGTON - Sen. Mitch McConnell is famously
close-lipped, but not with Gordon Hunter Bates.
Barbara Kucera, a University of Kentucky researcher,
occasionally talks to Bates about millions of federal dollars McConnell is steering toward
a project she shares with Louisville company eCavern.
But until a reporter told her, Kucera had no idea Bates
is a lobbyist and eCavern is his client. Based on his inside reports, she said, "I
thought he was on the senator's staff."
He once was. Bates, 38, started as McConnell's driver and
ended as his chief of staff. Now a lobbyist, he is perceived as a gatekeeper to McConnell,
who recently called Bates "one of the finest young men I've ever known." It's a
relationship so strong that some compare it to blood.
Bates a decade ago was exactly the type of bright,
clean-cut young man whom McConnell likes to have serve him in a variety of positions.
A native of Williamsburg in southeastern Kentucky, Bates
attended Eastern Kentucky University before making the leap to Harvard Law School.
"Not many people from Williamsburg go on to Harvard,
so that gets your attention. He's a top-notch young man, very smart," said Senior
Judge Eugene Siler Jr. of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, for whom
Bates spent a year clerking.
Bates went to Capitol Hill detailed as one of McConnell's
"Men of the Wheel" -- the nickname the senator's drivers gave themselves.
From 1997 to 2002, he rose from being McConnell's legal
counsel to chief of staff. He helped McConnell write speeches, newspaper columns and
legislation. He served as counsel to the Senate Rules Committee while McConnell was
chairman. Together, they blocked campaign-finance reform.
In 2002, as a reform bill finally passed over their
protests, the senator declared in a Senate floor speech: "Hunter Bates ... has been a
tower of strength on this issue."
Bates left the Senate that year to successfully manage
McConnell's re-election campaign. Afterward, he decided to enter Kentucky politics for
But try as he might, McConnell couldn't get his
protg into elected office.
In late 2002, Republicans in Northern Kentucky rebuffed
McConnell's aggressive efforts to make Bates their man for a congressional seat. Instead
they chose a local favorite, Geoff Davis.
In 2003, McConnell arranged for Bates to run for
lieutenant governor under Rep. Ernie Fletcher, R-Ky., whom he persuaded to seek the
Republican gubernatorial nomination. But Bates was forced to abandon the ticket when a
court ruled him ineligible because he had lived in Virginia, not Kentucky, while working
After two rejections, Bates entered the world of lobbying
and political fund-raising, asking politicians for public money by day, raising private
money for them at night.
His friendship with McConnell is key -- he and his wife
have given the senator $13,000 in recent years -- but he is branching out. He has given
tens of thousands of dollars to other Republicans and nearly $25,000 to state and national
And he's getting noticed.
He hosts Republican fund-raisers across Kentucky.
President Bush's 2004 campaign named him statewide grassroots chairman. He was a delegate
to the Republican National Convention in New York that year, one of two Kentuckians to sit
on the platform committee.
Fletcher, his onetime running mate, gave Bates a seat on
the Eastern Kentucky University board of regents. Fletcher appointed Bates' step-father --
Paul Steely, owner of a Ford auto dealership in Williamsburg -- as Kentucky's aviation
commissioner, a $93,000-a-year job.
In March, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao -- who is
McConnell's wife -- organized a two-day summit of government and business leaders to
discuss private retirement accounts. Vice President Dick Cheney and members of Congress
mixed with executives from major corporations such as Charles Schwab and Metropolitan Life
Insurance Co. Bates was invited to network as a delegate, though his expertise on the
topic is unclear.
Bates tells people he might run for office again. His
name is floated as a future candidate for governor or congressman.
But for the moment, he's doing well collecting lobbying
fees -- several million dollars during his first three years.
He went from being an apartment-dwelling Senate staffer,
paying off student loans, to flying weekly between one office in Louisville and another
blocks from the White House. He owns a $370,000 home in Oldham County and a $1 million
brick, four-story townhouse in Arlington, Va., right across the Potomac River from
As he told a business publication last year, "I'm
thoroughly enjoying my court-ordered trip to the private sector."
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