Mitch McConnell to U.S. Business: Stay Out of Politics – But Keep Those Contributions Coming

By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell delivered a message to U.S. business yesterday that seems to cast him against type. The Washington Post reported:

“My warning to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” McConnell said at a news conference in Kentucky on Tuesday, before adding: “I’m not talking about political contributions.”

I find myself in the unusual position of agreeing with Mitch – but only about that first bit.

Throughout his career, McConnell has happily wallowed in the trough of corporate money. Obviously. One couldn’t get to be Senate Minority Leader (and previously, Majority Leader), otherwise. Per The Hill:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has lashed out at corporations involving themselves in politics this week — a development that makes it seem as if politics has entered an alternative reality.

For his entire career, McConnell has been assiduous in courting big business and has been a staunch defender of corporate interests.

He has been a stalwart opponent of campaign finance reform and, roughly a decade ago, expressed approval of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case. The court’s 2010 ruling bestowed upon corporations many of the rights to free speech enjoyed by individual citizens and loosened restrictions on political donations.

The Washington Post dug out this encomium to the 2010 Citizens United decision – which further opened the spigot of corporate political donations and is one reason American politics has achieved its current corrupt state:

“For too long, some in this country have been deprived of full participation in the political process,” he said in a statement at the time. He hailed the decision, Citizens United, as “an important step” in “restoring the First Amendment rights of these groups.”

The WaPo expanded on McConnell’s belief that corporate money in politics is far more than a necessary evil:

Even while working as an attorney in Kentucky during the 1970s, a young McConnell argued for more money in politics before a college class he taught.“The three things you need to succeed in politics and to build a political party —money, money, money,” he wrote on the chalkboard during one memorable lesson, NPR reported.

That belief followed him to Washington, where he continued to argue that it is a First Amendment right to spend money on politics. And he practiced it himself: McConnell collected millions of dollars in campaign contributions — and notably, filibustered several bills to regulate the industry.

On that last point, The Washington Post supplied more details on McConnell’s steadfast opposition to campaign finance reform::

In the Senate, he battled with John McCain, the GOP senator from Arizona, over campaign finance reform. After McCain teamed up with Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) to limit “soft money” donations made through parties and committees, their bill was repeatedly filibustered by McConnell

When the Senate finally passed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act in 2002 with a bare-minimum tally of 60 votes, McConnell sued the Federal Election Commission to block the legislation. That lawsuit, McConnell v. FEC, upheld most parts of the law but eventually gave way to the 2010 Citizens United ruling that he fervently backed.

What’s Triggered Mitch’s Ire?

Mitch further elaborated on what behavior he now considers appropriate:

“Most of them contribute to both sides. They have political action committees. That’s fine. It’s legal. It’s appropriate. I support that,” he told reporters. “I’m talking about taking a position on a highly incendiary issue like this and punishing a community or state because you don’t like a particular law they passed. I just think it’s stupid.”

The Hill summarized the trigger for Mitch’s Ire:

But now McConnell’s ire has been sparked by major Georgia-based corporations, including Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, that have criticized new voting laws passed by the Republican legislature and signed by Gov.Brian Kemp (R).

The regulations, which pare back the number of drop boxes available for early voting and make it a misdemeanor to give water or food to people waiting in line to vote, have been compared to Jim Crow-era suppression measures by critics.

Defenders argue that the laws are being misrepresented. But that has not been enough to quell the chorus of criticism. In the most high-profile rebuke, Major League Baseball has moved its All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver.

McConnell isn’t alone among Republicans in his criticism of the backlash to Georgia’s new election law.  Donald Trump released a statement saying the new law didn’t go far enough, according to Newsweek:

“Georgia’s election reform law is far too weak and soft to ensure real ballot integrity,” Trump wrote in his Tuesday statement. Trump also blasted the state for giving people “far too many days” in which to vote.

And Mitch isn’t the only born again Republican critic of corporate meddling. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the MLB decision to move the All Star Game is “absolutely ridiculous” during a Fox News interview. Addressing businesses in his own state, Abbott warned, ‘They need to stay out of politics, especially when they have no clue’,” according to The Hill.

A bit of context: the WaPo reported that corporations have stepped up their criticisms of proposed Texas election law voting restrictions:

Similar showdowns appear to be brewing elsewhere, with American Airlines criticizing a Texas bill that would prohibit extended voting hours and outlaw drive-through voting across the state, among several other major changes.

The Last Word

Over to the WaPo’s coverage of McConnell again, for the next-to-the-last word:

“From election law to environmentalism to radical social agendas to the Second Amendment, parts of the private sector keep dabbling in behaving like a woke parallel government,” McConnell said in a statement. “Corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order.”

Serious consequences, hmm. I wonder what form those might take. And to whom would they apply? You know that old saw about not biting the hand that feeds you. Advice Mitch might do well to heed if he doesn’t want to jumpstart a full-scale reset of the norms of American politics.

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  1. JEHR

    I guess the best way to undermine a democracy is to vote in laws that defeat democracy. What an idea!

  2. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

    If corporations want to use ‘far left mobs’ as a vehicle for anything, there’s nothing Mitch McConnel can do about it and he knows it. So it’s amusing to see him stand up on his rear legs and bare his little fangs. I’m sure Bezos, Thiel and Gates are properly chastened.

    1. Kurtismayfield

      American corporations have never seen a far left mob, and they would be the first ones to call in the national guard if they did.

      Mitch’s definition of far left is the problem.

  3. marku52

    The hypocrisy is so naked, you’d almost think its the Onion.

    The conservative right, which has spent about the last 3 centuries arguing for the absolute right of private corporations to do whatever the h*ll they feel like, now has it’s panties in a twist because private corporations are doing exactly that?

    What’s next, a law to force MLB to play in Atlanta? To force Amazon to carry a particular children’s book? Meanwhile, let’s decry excessive government regulations, why don’t we?

  4. Mikel

    “Most of them contribute to both sides. They have political action committees. That’s fine. It’s legal. It’s appropriate. I support that,” he told reporters. “I’m talking about taking a position on a highly incendiary issue like this and punishing a community or state because you don’t like a particular law they passed. I just think it’s stupid.”

    Even worker rights laws?

    And does this apply to USA coroporations in places like Latin America, etc? Talk about communities being punished for trying to pass laws…

  5. flora

    I sort of agree with Mitch here. egad! Pols thinking to play corporations for donations is one thing; pols being played by corporations is something else I guess.

    Thanks for this post.

  6. Synoia

    But ins;t there a Supremes’ ruling that Money is Speech?

    Thus for Corporations to be silent would require them not to Contribute Money to Politics in any way.

  7. drumlin woodchuckles

    So , can large numbers of private citizen supporters of ” radical agenda” hurt business more by boycotting it if it supports voter suppression laws, or can Mitch ” the GopFather” McConnell hurt business more if it opposes voter suppression laws?

    And maybe millions of people can force the same question into existence for business on other issues.
    ” Are you with us, or are you with the GopFather”?

  8. nothing but the truth

    if corporations are willing to get into politics, then, they have to allow workers the right to no retribution for political views.

    in most places, you would be very very careful in expressing non-woke views. even woke ones have gotten fired because everyone knows the corporations are not serious about what they’re saying.

    its just virtue signalling – easy credits for BS on the media.

    It is also a way to distract for the _real_ damage the big business is causing – destroying jobs, grabbing all the wealth the destroying the future of the next generation.

    even my mom and pop business got a letter in the mail the other day from the PE firm trying to buy me out. The ZIRP policy has driven them absolutely nuts. They can’t see any revenue that they don’t want to buy with ZIRP funds.

  9. eg

    Hoist on their own petard in the form of a Citizens United blowback?

    Heh. Couldn’t happen to nicer people, really …

  10. cnchal

    > . . . including Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, that have criticized new voting laws . . .

    Coca Cola = gross poisoner of anyone that drinks that crap.

    Delta Air Lines = gross polluter flying rich lardasses around spreading disease

    The most immoral of all have a morality lesson for the rest of us and they want to horn in on Mitch’s territory and Mitch is pissed. It would be a better world if all three dissapeared today.

    1. Yves Smith

      You are exhibiting a cognitive bias called halo effect, wanting to see people and institutions as all good or all bad. The US media has been pushing the public’s buttons very successfully, it appears. You are exhibiting the sort of reasoning that also goes like “Orange Man bad, therefore everything he did is bad” and won’t acknowledge that he initiated the Covid moratoriums on evictions, bigger weekly unemployment insurance supplements than the Biden Administration is providing, and less belligerence in foreign policy than Team Biden is showing so far.

      1. bassmule

        Am I guilty of TDS for believing that whatever good Trump did was overwhelmed by the damage he did?

        1. Synoia

          I believe you mistaken, not guilty.

          There is a difference between Good and Bad Intentions, Good and Bad results, and one’s opinion of Trump as a Human.

          There is only one human who is credited with only good intentions, and even he had fits of anger (Money changers in the Temple).

      2. DTK

        True, one might forget Trump’s proposal to eliminate (or temporarily so) the Payroll Tax, which would mean an instant 20% pay raise for income earners.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          It would also mean an instant underfunding of Social Security, which is the sole and only reason Trump suggested it. To ” deplete the Trust Fund” and accuse Social Security of being
          “insolvent, bankrupt, etc.” so as to privatise it and flush all the money down the Wall Street.

          ( Actually, I don’t know if Trump was smart enough to see that and support it or not. He may have gotten the idea from his economic advisor Stephen Moore, the notorious Koch Brothers intellectual agent-of-influence and well practiced spin-miller.)

          1. DTK

            Not true. SS payments do not derive from the trust fund. The sum in the trust fund is merely an entry-like the number on a calculator-not an account with real dollars. See Stephanie Kelton’s chapter on Social Security in The Deficit Myth. Thank You

      3. Statisad

        Less beligerent towards autocrats and dictators, more beligerent towards the leaders of democratic countries and supposed allies, especially if they are female.

      4. cnchal

        My cognitive bias is called horn effect.

        Coca Cola uses halo effect to weigh in on whatever legal wrangling is going on in it’s home state, along with other corporations doing the same. The objective is to increase profits by grabbing attention. It must have really pissed off a few marketing people that they coudn’t hand out their crap to voters standing in the heat of the Georgia sun, so lets make a big deal about that, grab publicity and call it leadership.

  11. Dikaios Logos

    Implicit in McConnell’s statements is a fairly wide-spread idea that politicians are running a rent-seeking scam with political contributions, forever threatening big donors if they don’t money up. Problem is, it’s been so long since any politico has really pushed back on big donors that McConnell probably doesn’t get that donors have long taken the upper hand.

    1. DTK

      We in KY elect and the nation suffers. A legitimate question; Is McConnell a senator masquerading as a lobbyist or vise versa?

  12. Larry

    MLB seems less united than the NBA, but to me this shows the power of the players union. The players could easily shut down the all star game by boycotting it. MLB executives likely don’t care about voting laws in any state, but are wary of upsetting the powerful players union.

    The 2008 crash, the BLM movement, and now the pandemic have awakened some awareness in a generation of their political lot in life. Corporations are trying to serve that change in the least disruptive fashion possible, while Mitch tries to suppress any change as such with all his Y might.

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