By Robert A. Vella
Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R- Kentucky) is in a very tight race with Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes for the U.S. Senate seat he has held for thirty years. The outcome of this race could determined which party controls that powerful legislative body in Washington, D.C. Two recent developments have the potential to alter the electoral landscape in his state just before the November midterms. The first is a leaked audio recording of McConnell’s speech at a fundraising event hosted by the anti-government Koch brothers. The second involves a possible federal investigation into key members of his reelection team who have been linked to a former Iowa state senator guilty of campaign violations committed during the 2012 GOP presidential primary.
Last week, in an interview with Politico, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) outlined his plan to shut down President Obama’s legislative agenda by placing riders on appropriations bills. Should Republicans take control of the Senate in the 2014 elections, McConnell intends to pass spending bills that “have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy.”
What McConnell didn’t tell Politico was that two months ago, he made the same promise to a secret strategy conference of conservative millionaire and billionaire donors hosted by the Koch brothers. The Nation and The Undercurrent obtained an audio recording of McConnell’s remarks to the gathering, called “American Courage: Our Commitment to a Free Society.” In the question-and-answer period following his June 15 session titled “Free Speech: Defending First Amendment Rights,” McConnell says:
“So in the House and Senate, we own the budget. So what does that mean? That means that we can pass the spending bill. And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board [inaudible]. All across the federal government, we’re going to go after it.” [emphasis added]
From Open Secrets – Former Iowa Senator Pleads Guilty to Accepting Money to Back Ron Paul:
A former Iowa state senator has pleaded guilty to federal charges that he accepted money from the Ron Paul 2012 presidential campaign to switch his endorsement from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who was also running for the GOP White House nomination.
Kent Sorenson, of Milo, Iowa, has been at the center of accusations that he was paid for his endorsement, first by the Bachmann campaign and then by the Paul campaign, in late 2011. Sorenson switched his endorsement at the last moment before the Iowa caucuses in the 2012 race, but vehemently denied he had been paid to do so.
Last year, OpenSecrets blog published emails alleged to be between Ron Paul campaign officials and representatives of Sorenson discussing Sorenson’s demands for payment. Later, audio recordings emerged in which Sorenson discussed how a Paul operative named Dimitri Kesari offered him a $25,000 check, written in the name of a jewelry shop owned by Kesari’s wife, to switch sides. Sorenson denied cashing the check but later admitted to an independent investigator from the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee that he had received payments from a company in Maryland.
Today, the Department of Justice said that Sorenson pleaded guilty to two federal charges, for receiving payment to switch his endorsement and for obstructing justice in attempting to conceal those payments.
From The Washington Post – Endorsement-for-pay investigation that brought Kent Sorenson guilty plea is ongoing:
Two sealed documents were filed in court as part of the case, a possible indication that Sorenson is cooperating with federal prosecutors as part of a broader investigation.
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Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr confirmed that the investigation is ongoing.
Jesse Benton, a Republican strategist who is married to Paul’s granddaughter, served as chairman of Paul’s 2012 campaign. He is now running Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s reelection campaign and is expected to play a significant role in a 2016 presidential bid by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
It is unclear if Benton knew about the payments made to Sorenson, but emails published last year by the TheIowaRepublican.com and OpenSecrets.org show that Benton wrote to a Sorenson associate in the fall of 2011, asking if the then-state senator would be “joining our team.”
Neither Benton nor the McConnell campaign returned requests for comment.
Mitch McConnell personifies the image of a corrupt politician who’ll perform any act – no matter how egregiously destructive to society – in the name of ideological loyalty and for the allure of personal reward. “Despicable” might be too kind a word to describe him.