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Secret Recording Reveals McConnell’s Extensive Ties to Big-Dollar Donors and Their Agendas

August 27, 2014 | Adam Smith

Secret Recording Reveals McConnell’s Extensive Ties to Big-Dollar Donors and Their Agendas

Washington, D.C.—In the leaked secret recording of Senator Mitch McConnell’s candid speech at the Koch brothers’ summit released today by The Nation, McConnell revealed his extensive ties to big-dollar donors and pledged to adhere to the billionaires’ agenda if he is reelected and Republicans regain control of the Senate. Below, find a breakdown of three key moments in the speech on McConnell’s policy agenda, and which special interests are funding each part of it. The summit took place in June in Dana Point, California at the St. Regis Monarch Bay Resort.

“This speech gives us the real Mitch McConnell: one that is only concerned about creating a political system of, by, and for the wealthy few,” said David Donnelly, president and CEO of Every Voice. “Kentuckians ought to beware of the millions Mitch took from special interests before he decided student loans and unemployment insurance weren’t worth his time.”

1. In the speech, Sen. McConnell lavishes praise on billionaires, and for good reason, he has taken in hundreds of thousands of dollars from them over his career:

The quote: “I want to start by thanking you, Charles and David for the important work you’re doing,” he says in the speech. “I don’t know where we’d be without you.

The Facts—Mitch McConnell has received:

  • $94,000 in campaign contributions from Charles and David Koch, their wives, and the Koch Industries PAC over the years, according to analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
  • $3.4 million from 1,800 CEOs and top executives and $364,000 from 80 billionaires– fully one-fifth of the entire Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans.

2. McConnell attacked Senate votes to raise the minimum wage, address student debt, and extend unemployment benefits to millions of out-of-work Americans, including 150,000 in Kentucky—and no wonder, when he has taken in millions of dollars from groups opposing those issues.

The Quote: If McConnell is reelected: “we’re not going to be debating all these gosh darn proposals. All we do in the Senate is vote on things like raising the minimum wage (inaudible), extending unemployment. The student loan package the other day, that’s just going to make things worse. These people believe in all the wrong things”

The Facts– Mitch McConnell has received:

  • • $2.6 million in contributions and outside assistance from special interests opposed to minimum wage increases. In the first quarter of 2014, before a vote on the issue, he received $45,000 from minimum wage opponents.
  • • $470,000 from banks and interests that lobby on student loan issues. Specifically, Sallie Mae’s PAC has given $17,000.

McConnell has voted against raising the federal minimum wage at least 17 times, according to American Bridge analysis of Senate roll call votes (Secretary of the Senate, Vote 117, 4/30/14; Vote 23, 1/24/07; Vote 179, 6/21/06; Vote 26, 3/7/05; Vote 257,10/19/05; Vote 76, 4/7/00; Vote 356, 11/9/99; Vote 239, 7/30/99; Vote 94, 4/28/99; Vote 77, 3/25/99; Vote 278, 9/22/98; Vote 184, 7/9/96; Vote 183, 7/9/96; Vote 519, 10/27/95; Vote 344, 7/31/95; Vote 68, 5/17/89; Vote 39, 4/12/89].

3. McConnell might be bored by “gosh darn proposals” like student loan reform and minimum wage, but he is thrilled by his cozy relationship with billionaires. He’s working hard to stop any legislation that would decrease big money’s influence on politics.

The Quotes: The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision gave us “the most free and open system we’ve had in modern times.” It “leveled the playing field for corporations.”

Sen. Tom Udall’s proposed constitutional amendment to limit campaign contributions, on the other hand, is an “act of true radicalism.” Further, McConnell calls the day that President Bush signed legislation to ban unlimited individual and corporate contributions to political parties the “worst day of my political life.”

The Facts:

The Democracy for All constitutional amendment, which will likely be voted on in early to mid-September, is widely popular.

  • A July Democracy Corps poll of Senate battleground states found 73% of likely voters support a constitutional amendment.
  • CBS news poll from May found that 71% of Americans think contributions should be limited and 76% think independent spending should be.
  • A broad, bipartisan majority of Americans support efforts to rein in campaign spending.

Sen. McConnell joined the Senate in 1985, almost nearly 30 years ago. He was serving on September 11, 2001.  He voted to send our troops to war in Iraq. He was in the Senate when President George W. Bush addressed a joint session of Congress to announce the “war on terror.” He listened as former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson described the possible meltdown of the global economy to Congressional leadership. He witnessed not one but two government shutdowns.

But for McConnell, the worst day of his career in public service was the day a bipartisan bill designed to rein in the power of large contributors, including corporations, in our political system, a bill that regulated campaign spending was the worst day of his political life. McConnell is worried about power, not governing or his constituents.

“Mitch McConnell has made it clear that he will lead the Senate, if given the chance, for the benefit of the millionaires and billionaires — starting with their unfettered ability to buy elections and influence Congress,” said Donnelly.


Every Voice, formerly Public Campaign Action Fund, is focused on winning campaigns and policies to transform our political system into one that represents everyday people, not big donors. We’re building the political power necessary to create a democracy that’s truly of, by and for the people.

Every Voice and Every Voice Center have recently come under new leadership. We will be expanding and diversifying our efforts to promote a democracy that works for all of us and responds to the voices of everyday people. Watch this space for specifics later in 2019.