Cross-posted from Reader Supported News
Never before in our history has the U.S Senate been as unproductive as the U.S. Senate post-2008. Even the staunchly obstructionist Republicans during FDR's tenure got more done than our current Senate. Most Americans, by and large, regardless of party affiliation, agree that we need more jobs; that veterans need better healthcare; that the current minimum wage is insufficient; that our infrastructure could use some upgrading; that politicians are too beholden to their benefactors; and that there's too much bickering instead of legislating.
One man has continuously denied the necessary progress to the American people out of sheer political bitterness, and that one man alone can take all the credit for the complete lack of action on all of those fronts -- Mitch McConnell.
Mitch McConnell is the shittiest Senator in the history of Washington. And there are numbers to back that up. Since he became the Republican leader in the Senate, McConnell has filed more than a quarter of all cloture motions ever filed as long as the Senate has existed. To put that in perspective, this means McConnell, in just his most recent term, is responsible for over 25 percent of all the Senate filibusters since 1787. McConnell is literally a cancerous tumor on the Senate, collecting a six-figure paycheck while depleting all hope of progress as long as he's in office.
On the flip side, McConnell is quite productive if you're willing to write him a fat check. One week after Amgen, a pharmaceutical multinational, hosted a fundraiser for McConnell in December of 2012, one of their lobbyists, who was in charge of monitoring the "fiscal cliff" negotiations, wrote a $3,000 check to McConnell's campaign. By the time the negotiations were finished, McConnell had secured a $500 million Christmas present for Amgen that came directly out of Medicare. But even that wasn't McConnell's foulest moment of corruption.
This past July, McConnell took time out of his busy day to have a breakfast date with Richard Anderson, the CEO of Delta Airlines, in the exclusive Senate dining room. Just a day after the breakfast, Anderson and his wife wrote over $10,000 worth of checks to McConnell's campaign. McConnell's spokespeople of course denied the allegations that McConnell solicited the donations in the Senate dining room, which would be a felony.
Nevertheless, the donations to McConnell's campaign could be easily interpreted as a quid pro quo in a relationship where McConnell will likely return the favor by continuing to block closing unfair corporate tax loopholes that cost U.S. taxpayers billions each year. Delta Airlines has used an accounting loophole called "deferral," which allows them to carry their losses forward for several years. This means that despite making billions in profit, Delta Airlines pays $0 in taxes on those profits, and is likely to continue dodging all U.S. income taxes for several more years, at least. If McConnell keeps his job after November, the tax dodging will continue, as will the checks Delta's CEO writes to McConnell's campaign.
Mitch McConnell's position as a politician who puts out depending on how much you're willing to put in is a far cry from what he used to stand for. Ironically, McConnell used to be a proponent of full disclosure when it came to campaign donations several decades ago.
"What we ought to do is eliminate the political action committee contributions, because those are the ones that raise the specter of undue influence. And those can be gone tomorrow. We can pass a bill tomorrow to take care of that problem," McConnell was quoted saying in 1987.
"We Republicans have put together a responsible and Constitutional campaign reform agenda. It would restrict the power of special interest PACS, stop the flow of all soft money, keep wealthy individuals from buying public office," McConnell said in 1988.
Now, McConnell is the personification of the insidious culture that exists among Washington politicians and their big donors. Thanks to Lauren Windsor's surreptitiously-recorded audio of McConnell's address at a Koch Brothers-funded gathering of GOP politicians and corporate oligarchs this past summer, the Senate minority leader's deference to big money is well-documented. McConnell, who has received over $41,000 from Koch Industries in this campaign cycle, shamelessly genuflected to the oil barons in front of the entire audience, acknowledging their role in keeping the Republican Party well-funded.
"I want to start by thanking you, Charles and David [Koch], for the important work you're doing," McConnell said. "I don't know where we'd be without you."
At the summit, McConnell assured benefactors of his continued servility, promising not to spend any time on "gosh-darn" minimum wage increases, eases in student loan debt, or extensions of the safety net for the long-term unemployed. Instead, McConnell vowed in his speech to defund the Environmental Protection Agency, eliminate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and repeal the Affordable Care Act -- all of which are greatly pleasing to billionaires who profit from polluting air and water, jacking up interest rates on millions of unwitting college students and credit card holders, and denying health insurance to sick and injured people who depend on it. Mitch McConnell can be counted on to make the rich richer, as well as himself, through his votes.
McConnell increased his own personal wealth from $3.4 million in 2004 to $27.2 million in 2010. Oddly enough, that was a time when most Americans were seeing their wealth dissipate during the greatest recession in modern history. The Washington Post reported that most of McConnell's gains during that time were due to stock trades, though he's also voted to increase his own Congressional salary six times. Interestingly enough, The New York Times reported that the investment portfolios of U.S. senators consistently outperform the rest of the market by a full 10 percentage points, seeing even more growth than hedge fund managers. Given that most Americans were caught completely off guard by the crash resulting from the banks' misleading investors on subprime loans, it's curious that politicians like McConnell reaped such a massive windfall while everyone else saw their life savings get flushed away. It's almost like he knew what would happen ahead of time.
Even ignoring all allegations of corruption and insider trading, McConnell is still a paragon of sleaziness. CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) has named McConnell to their most corrupt politicians list four times now, most recently over what smells like Congressional aides doing campaign work on taxpayer time. Mother Jones obtained secret recordings of a McConnell campaign strategy meeting in which the senator lauded opposition research on his potential 2014 challengers obtained by his legislative assistants. Had this research been done using McConnell's office resources, during the work week, it would certainly merit, at the very least, an ethics investigation if not an indictment.
If Kentuckians are still planning to vote for McConnell despite well-documented instances of his serving billionaire donors over citizens, the highly-questionable rapid growth of his net worth during a recession, and potential violations of basic ethics, even his record as a true-blue Kentuckian can be called into question.