So, now that it appears that lying, corruption, vote suppression and intimidation, and skirting campaign finance laws are hard and fast requirements to run for Senate as a Republican, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appears to be as corrupt as his peers; precisely what Republicans expect him to be. Right on the heels of a despicable voter intimidation, and likely suppression, move by McConnell, documents obtained by a trio of reporting sites reveal that the Kentucky senator withheld disclosure information on his campaign filings with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) or Senate Ethics.
When McConnell traveled to Dana Point California in June to promise the Koch brothers billionaire club that if Republicans won control of the Senate their only order of business was “going after the Federal government, all of it,” he did not disclose expenses for the trip. The Nation reports that McConnell failed to disclose expenses for the St. Regis Hotel that all federal legislators are required by law to disclose unless they pay for them personally. McConnell’s campaign did not return a request from the Nation for comment about how he paid for the hotel.
According to an attorney specializing in campaign finance ethics, Joe Sandler, there were several different ways McConnell could have paid for the trip if not out of his own pocket, but there is no evidence he used any of those. He could have just asked the Senate Ethics Committee for approval for a “third-party expense” that was paid for by a non-profit or for-profit group such as Freedom Partners or Koch Industries. But according to the Senate Outside Paid Travel Database there is no Ethics Committee filing for McConnell. There is also no record of the hotel expense in McConnell’s campaign committee or leadership PAC reported to the FEC. Something the other Republican Senate candidates attending the Koch’s secret meeting, Tom Cotton, Cory Gardner, and Joni Ernst all disclosed as expenses through their campaign committees.
To make matters worse for McConnell, the Freedom Partners Action Fund, the Koch organization that funded the billionaire confab, did not show any expenditure for McConnell’s hotel stay. Apparently, the Kochs could have disguised the hotel expense by lumping it “with in-kind contributions to candidates,” but McConnell still had to seek approval from the Senate Ethics; something he did not do. According to campaign ethics lawyer Joe Sandler, “The absence of any report of the expenditure by the campaign or leadership PAC raises serious questions about how the trip was paid for and why the costs were not treated as a campaign expense as they were by the other campaigns.”
McConnell theoretically could have listed it as a Senate office travel expense and billed American taxpayers, but that kind of welfare is supposed to be restricted to home-state travel for the purposes of legislative business. Sandler indicated that those kinds of disclosures do not come due until after the election, but thinks it is unlikely that McConnell would choose “this flagrantly incorrect route.” Obviously he is not aware of McConnell’s flagrant voter intimidation letter on Friday to frighten Kentucky voters into staying home on Election Day.
According to the executive director of the Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Melanie Sloan, it is extremely rare for a senator or representative to personally pay for their own expenses. Sloan said, “That’s just not the way members of Congress operate. They have too many other pots of money at their disposal to pay for these things themselves.” According to disclosure rules of which there are very few requirements, it is simple for a member of Congress to obscure their trips if they do not stay overnight. Expenses such as flight expenses reveal the airline they used and the cost, but not the specific destination or the reason for traveling. The FEC uses hotel expenses that are often the only means of connecting a politician to an event like the Koch’s secret meetings. McConnell was connected to the Koch cabal when a recording of his speech promising to eliminate wide swathes of the federal government was revealed.
McConnell is not the only Republican Senate candidate distancing himself from connections to the Kochs. Last week Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst lied to a Nation reporter, and an Iowa business group, about her advocacy for, and connection to the Kochs, their secret cabal, and their agenda; including which federal agencies the Koch brothers want Republicans to eliminate from the federal government. Remember, at the same event, McConnell promised to “go after all of the Federal government” for the Kochs. When Ernst attended the secret Koch meeting, she credited them with “starting her trajectory” in politics and issued high praise for the Koch network including Aegis, Americans for Prosperity, and Freedom Partners. For allegedly not having any connection to the Kochs, she earned reciprocal praise from a panel moderator who said, “I think it’s fair to say you’ve exceeded everyone’s expectations.” Still, Ernst told business leaders in Des Moines complaining about negative ads run by Koch groups “that she doesn’t have any contact with outside groups running ads in her race.”
Apparently Republican corruption has reached such a level that blatant lying and obvious violation of campaign disclosure laws is part and parcel of what it means to be a Republican; at least a Republican Senate candidate. It has been reported for weeks that both Ernst and McConnell spent time with the Koch cabal in June, and yet Ernst effortlessly claims she has no connection and McConnell failed to disclose that he even went and promised to eviscerate the federal government if Republicans control the Senate.
It is blatantly obvious why Republicans have to resort to lying and dirty campaign tricks and it has everything to do with their dedication to advancing the Koch brothers’ anti-government agenda; a dedication and agenda they are desperate to keep concealed from voters, including their corruption-loving base. The real travesty is that they have garnered undying support from the corporate, conservative main-stream media that will not report on either their propensity for deception and corruption or their intent to impose the Kochs’ agenda on the country at their earliest opportunity. Because if the media did their jobs, Republicans would hardly survive an election; even with a preponderance of stupid, religious, and corrupt voters cheering them on and flocking to the polls.