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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > McConnell’s Shameless Approach to Lawmaking

When Senator Bob Packwood (R-OR) decided to resign after the Senate Ethics Committee voted to recommend his expulsion, Committee Chair, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), assumed the role of the Prince of Ethics in denouncing the behavior of his colleague.

To even use the word “ethics” in association with Mitch McConnell’s name is appalling. Better to use the words “cash register politician.”

McConnell is the king of the PACs (political action committees). Scores of insurance, medical, auto, oil, mining, drug, tobacco, hospital chains and other industry contributions pour into his coffers in return for his votes, his support and his networking energies inside the Senate.

McConnell’s most unique characteristic is his utter shamelessness, a brazen willingness to oppose all kinds of ethics reforms while holding the Chair of the Ethics Committee. Last year he led the opposition to a bi-partisan bill to clean up the campaign finance racket. He wants no limits on campaign expenditures.

He called campaign finance reform “food stamps for politicians,” at the time he set a record in spending over $2 million in free postage to send his propaganda to Kentucky. He is a leading abuser of this “franking” privilege.

Until he no longer could withstand public pressure, McConnell opposed legislation to curtail the gift giving that lobbyists lavish on Congressional politicians from free liquor to free junkets at luxury resorts. Again he was brash about his opposition.

Similarly, McConnell used his muscle to undermine lobbying reform until he was overwhelmed but he succeeded in weakening its provisions.

The New York Times, in a recent profile, called him the “leading Republican opponent of efforts to overhaul campaign-finance laws and lobbying-reform laws.” The paper could have added that he was the leading adversary against the successful “motor voter” law that has already registered over five million American citizens to vote.

Around Washington town, the campaign check-writers view Senator McConnell as “Mr. Reliable.” He votes as his political campaign is paid. Business money wants him to vote to tie the hands of judges and jurors so that corporate polluters and defective product manufacturers can escape responsibility for their injuries to innocent people. So they write him checks and he delivers in his typically loud and brazen manner.

Hard core pornographers are not writing him checks: so he introduces a bill to let victims of sex crimes sue hardcore pornographers who stimulated their offenders. But when workers, children and parents are killed or injured from dangerous workplaces or products, such as defective automobiles or flammable fabrics, there is McConnell determined to block their right to their full day in court.

And as an ally of the nation’s richest drug dealers, the tobacco companies, Mitch McConnell is second to none in defending their right to addict youngsters free of effective regulation. Over 400,000 Americans die from smoking every year and most of them were tempted into the addiction by the clever attractions of tobacco promotions when they were early teenagers.

The financial industry sends him contributions. McConnell delivers for them again this year with a vote to weaken defrauded investor protections in legislation that critics call “the crooks and swindlers protection” Act.

The Democratic Party in Kentucky is weak and in disarray which is the way an aggressive, cash rich and sometimes dirty campaigner like McConnell likes it.

He is up for re-election next year and, with the absence of a vigorous two-party context, he may well slither through for another six years of consummate hypocrisy — the Ethics chairman who fights all major ethics reforms and exploits the monied politics for all its greasy worth.