The Two Faces of Mitch McConnell

Enemy of Freedom and Traitor to America

Mitch McConnell

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Mitch McConnell

Senator Mitch McConnell

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Senator Mitch McConnell

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Mitch McConnell

Question:  "Separation 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."


ARE (TEA PARTY) REPUBLICAN EXTREMISTS 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.

Those 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 )


CONTENTS

Mitch McConnell and Dantes Inferno

Mitch Called for the Rich to Pay their Fair Share in 1990

CQ lets Mitch McConnell get away with lying?

Mitch McConnell's Homestate Paper Thrashes Him

Mitch McConnell Should Return Massey's Dirty Coal Money

Senator Mitch McConnell And the Republican Party Supports Rape by Defense Contractors!!!

After Hobnobbing With Bankers, McConnell Attacks Wall Street Reform

McConnell Attacks Financial Reform Bill

Campaign Ads For Senate GOP Leader Feature Convicted Sexual Harasser

MITCH MCCONNELL AND THE GOP DECEIT OF THE WEEK

Mitch McConnell thinks the United States should be a government for the people with money

Wedded to Elaine Chou and Free Trade in China

Two for the Money

A Lucrative Connection

Bates' Ride from McConnell Driver to Gatekeeper


MITCH MC CONNELL AND DANTES INFERNO

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 (or 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!!!


Mitch McConnell Called For Rich To Pay Their 'Fair Share' In 1990 Ad

Mcconnelltaxes
First Posted: 8/11/11 12:34 PM ET Updated: 8/11/11 01:28 PM ET
 
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 ad.

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 too.

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 percent.

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 Sloane.

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 the jobs."

, 1990 Television Ad , Kentucky Taxes , Mcconnell 1990 Ad , Mcconnell Kentucky , Mcconnell Medicare , Mcconnell Rich , Mcconnell Seniors Medicare , Medicare Taxes , Mitch Mcconnel Taxes , Mitch Mcconnell Tax , Rich Tax Rates , Tax Rates Debt , Politics News


Why did CQ let Mitch McConnell get away with a subtle, but nefarious, lie?

Excerpts from an article on crooksandliars.com posted on a blog by Blue Girl on 29 May 2011

 
Sen. Mitch McConnell fearmongers on Medicare: We need to 'make sure that people on Medicare still have a program'

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:

"Last week, the Social Security trustees issued a report saying Social Security and Medicare are not sustainable under their current structure."

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.

"Projected long-run 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.

McConnell's 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.

The essential Dean Baker had the best analogy I have seen on McConnell's misrepresentation:

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.

Congressional Quarterly 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.

There is no option C.

The reality is there is no Social Security crisis, no matter how loudly the greed-mongers and deficit scolds insist there is.

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 deficit /and/ 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 than $106,800.

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 you, CQ.

[This 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.]

 


Mitch McConnell's Homestate Paper Thrashes Him For 'Unabashedly Courting Wall Street Bankers For Political Money'

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 Herald-Leader, in an unusually strong rebuke.

In a staff editorial headlined "McConnell to big banks' rescue," the Herald-Leader decries McConnell's pandering to Wall Street executives and repeated use of the catch phrases outlined in an anti-financial reform memo written by pollster Frank Luntz. Here's a sample of the Herald-Leader's outrage:

McConnell's statements are perfectly calibrated to inflame the public. He insists the bill would "allow endless taxpayer-funded bailouts for big Wall Street banks."

Their resemblance to the truth is another matter.

McConnell, it should be remembered, voted for the bailout of the big investment banks in the fall of 2008, when it was the only alternative to global economic meltdown.

We have read that the Republicans have a plan for financial reform, but McConnell isn't talking up any solutions, just trashing the other side's ideas with no respect for the truth.

While the intricacies of financial regulation are complicated, McConnell's calculus is pretty obvious.


Mitch McConnell Should Return Massey's Dirty Coal Money

An excerpt from a article by Matt Sedge on huffingtonpost.com on April 6, 2010

The Center for Responsive Politics has an important 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 violations, including 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 from the Washington Post:

[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 recused himself.

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.


Senator Mitch McConnell And the Republican Party Supports Rape by Defense Contractors!!!

 

Jackson Franken
 
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 lawmakers going absolutely cross-eyed with white-hot, impotent rage. But what happens when a similarly taxpayer-endowed contractor attempts to 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 interview.

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 head.

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 government contracts.

Credit 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 support for Rapists and Pedophiles by voting against it: (Click on their names to find out more about them).

Alexander (R-TN)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Gregg (R-NH)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Kyl (R-AZ)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)

ADDENDUM: It's been pointed out to me that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce lobbied against the Franken amendment as well:

Republicans point out that the amendment was opposed by a host of business interests, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and applies to a wide range of companies, including IBM and Boeing.

I guess we must cover up crimes like rape in order to save capitalism.

RELATED:
Franken Wins Bipartisan Support For Legislation Reining In KBR's Treatment Of Rape

PREVIOUSLY, on the HUFFINGTON POST:
Franken Gets His First Amendment Passed By Roll Call Vote

Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/07/meet-the-senators-who-vot_n_312976.html


After Hobnobbing With Bankers, McConnell Attacks Wall Street Reform

In February, the Wall Street Journal reported that 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.

FoxBusiness.com reported that 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 false attacks 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 generation.

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.


Excerpt from an article by Chris Harris a Communications Director for Media Matters Action Network


McConnell Attacks Financial Reform Bill

excerpts from 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 Bank Bailout."

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 to fail."

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 Freddie were dangerous, how about 35 to 50 of them?"

(See "Top 10 Financial Crisis Buzzwords.")

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.

(See "Financial Reform: Far from a Done Deal in Congress.")

Video and text of McConnell's speech:

“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 of them?

“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 road.

“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.”

(See "The Financial Crisis One Year After.")

UPDATE: Here's some clarity on what the bill actually does as far as "bailouts" go:

"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.)

(See "Top Ten Bankruptcies.")

"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.

(See "The Winners and Losers of the Wall Street Mess.")


Campaign Ads For Senate GOP Leader Feature Convicted Sexual Harasser

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 in 2008.

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 Kentucky leader.

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."


MITCH MCCONNELL AND THE GOP DECEIT OF THE WEEK

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.
 
Click here to watch a video featuring a news report about McConnell and his staff seeming to deceive the public.
 


Mitch McConnell thinks the United States should be a government of the people with money, by the people with money and for the people with money.


We’ve journeyed back 22 years to listen to some of the things that challenger had to say. “I’m running against a fella who’s 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 don’t make many promises during a campaign. But I’m 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 honorariums.

“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 doesn’t, I don’t think he ought to be out lining his pocket.”

OK, let’s return to the present at warp speed and compare what McConnell said in 1984 with the picture of him that emerges from Sunday’s first installment of Herald-Leader staffer John Cheves’ look at “The McConnell Machine.”

It’s a picture that clearly suggests the offspring of McConnell’s bloodhounds should be sent to sniff out his own trail.

It’s 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 McConnell’s 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 Sunday’s article, Kentucky’s 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 didn’t 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 doesn’t influence him.

He just follows his pro-business conservative philosophy, and corporations reward him accordingly. At least, that’s 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 Machine.”

You can’t 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 money.

And the devil take the rest.


Wedded to Free Trade in China


by Janet Worne

McConnell and Elaine Chao 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 world’s other superpower.

Eight days after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, where China’s communist regime crushed a nascent democracy movement, McConnell collected his first $8,000 from the Taiwanese-born Chao, then just a friend, and her family.

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 Chao’s 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 don’t 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.

Ideological Contradiction

Nowhere is this contradiction more glaring than McConnell’s 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.

McConnell’s 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. (Chao’s 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 Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce.

“He’s not terribly sensitive to things like human rights. He looks at things like politics and business,” Stempel said. “He’s 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 China’s foreign affairs minister, Li traveled to McConnell’s 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 McConnell’s friendship with Beijing is motivated by one thing.

“No mystery. It’s the money,” said Wu, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank.

“Elaine Chao’s 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.”

Donor Questions

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 I’ve 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 can’t treat China — a major trading partner — you couldn’t 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 People’s Political Consultative Conference, is one of McConnell’s 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 he’s apparently back in China now.

Toward the end of President Bill Clinton’s administration, Congress investigated illegal donations to Clinton’s 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 China.”

“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 Huang’s 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.


Two for the Money


Brian Bohannon | AP

Former U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell showed Chao’s parents, James and Ruth Chao, a display of memorabilia from Chao’s 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 oversaw MSHA.

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 workers.

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."

Ergonomics Rule

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," McConnell said.

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.

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 about $100,000.

"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.

Corporate Origins

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 is important."

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 spill.

"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.

Mirroring McConnell

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 failing.

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 it.

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 upheld.

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 spokeswoman said.

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 Senate campaigns

$200,000 -- Chinese-American donations to McConnell from out of state

$8,000 -- First donation to McConnell from the Chao family


A Lucrative Connection


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 businesses.

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 doorkeepers.

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 McConnell denied.

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."

Going Underground

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 company.

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 facilities."

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 indefinitely.

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 site participating?

"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."

McConnell Earmarks

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 said.

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 fund-raiser.

• 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 funding.

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.

Changing Laws

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 Louisville.

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 pension-contribution rules.

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 lawsuits.

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 healthier society."

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 $25,000.

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 compensation.

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 law.

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 said.

$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


Bates' Ride from Driver to Gatekeeper

Mark Cornelison | Staff

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 himself.

But try as he might, McConnell couldn't get his protŽgŽ 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 for McConnell.

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 Republican parties.

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 Washington.

As he told a business publication last year, "I'm thoroughly enjoying my court-ordered trip to the private sector."


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