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By Doug Thompson  Posted by Doug Thompson (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink

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In 1987, GOP Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell often took to the floor of the Senate to call for the elimination of Political Action Committees (PACs).

PACs, the bombastic McConnell said, represented a scourge on society, a scab on the body politic and a threat to America as we knew it.

McConnell's attack against PACs came with the blessing of the National Republican Party, the minority party in Congress at the time, which meant they got what was left after PACs distributed most of their largesse on the controlling Democratic Party.

Over on the House side, Rep. Guy VanderJagt, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, added to the war on PACs.

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"PACs are nothing but a bunch of whores," VanderJagt said.

In 1987, as Vice President for Political Programs at the National Association of Realtors, I ran the county's largest PAC, a multi-million dollar monster that dispensed money to politicians like Mad Dog 20/20 to winos, feeding their political campaign fundraising habits with frequent fixes.

So it was inevitable that VanderJagt and I would meet in public debate - a televised one on PBS.

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The Congressman from Michigan repeated his charge that PACs, in his and his party's opinion, were "nothing but a bunch of whores."

"There's a problem with your analogy," I replied. "Where I come from, whores aren't the one who pay. Whores are the ones standing there, with their hand out, asking for money in advance for something they are, at that point, only promising to deliver. I think we all should remember that when one pays money under those circumstances, the very best one can get is screwed."

VangerJagt never spoke to me again, no great loss, and I left the political world in 1992, only to run across Mitch McConnell again shortly after the Republicans seized control of both the Senate and the House in the 1994 elections.

In 1995, I covered an appearance by McConnell at The American Heritage Foundation in Washington. The man who wanted PACs outlawed eight years earlier now sang a different tune.

"You can't outlaw PACs," he told the audience. "That would be unconstitutional. PACs represent a basic freedom of political activity and I will do everything in my power to protect that freedom."

With Republicans in control of both Houses of Congress, McConnell knew he had to butter up the big money boys. As soon as Republicans won control, the pattern of giving by PACs shifted to the GOP side of the fence. McConnell and his party would stall serious attempts to reform campaign finance laws in the coming years.

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"Senator," I asked McConnell after his speech at the American Heritage Foundation, "you called for outlawing PACs in 1987 and now you claim to be their biggest booster. What happened to change your mind?"

McConnell smiled.

"In 1987, I was carrying water for the Republican leadership and I said what they asked me to say," he responded.

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