That’s the most recent Alison Lundergan Grimes ad. It attacks Mitch McConnell for spending 30 years in Washington and getting insanely rich. Technically, as several fact checkers have pointed out, the vast sum of McConnell’s accumulated wealth does not come from the repeated pay raises he gave himself (though those didn’t hurt) but rather from the fact that in his first decade in Washington, McConnell was able to woo another DC insider and eventually marry her — and it turns out her daddy’s a billionaire shipping magnate.
In 2004, Mitch McConnell’s net worth was just $3.1 Million; by 2007, it was a measly $7.8 million; but in 2008 it leapt to somewhere around $23 Million.
That giant leap for Mitch McConnell came at a time when the rest of Mankind was taking one small step backwards — America’s economy had imploded and trillions in personal wealth were lost. But Mitch was okay thanks, in part, to a vast monetary gift from McConnell’s father-in-law to his wife, then the sitting Secretary of Labor in the Bush Administration, Elaine Chao.
When Grimes released the above ad a few days ago, the McConnell folk did some leaping of their own, quick were they to dismiss Mitch’s wealth as purely the burden of having in-laws rather than the result of some power couple politicking or Mitch’s own three decades of power consolidation.
Which is fine. Sometimes your in-laws show up unannounced for the Holidays, sometimes they give you $15,000,000. It’s all part of the sanctity of marriage.
The Kentucky Senate race seems to have moved from a deadening tit-for-tat about which candidate will burn more coal over the next six years into a Hatfield/McCoy inter-family grudge match — if the Hatfields and McCoys were multi-millionaires.
Yesterday the race was all atwitter over Alison Lundergan Grimes’ sweet family deal on a fleet of campaign busses.
— Kelly Steele (@steelekelly) August 19, 2014
Tomorrow, perhaps we’ll be trying to figure out the answer to this riddle: If Mitch McConnell’s campaign says the vast majority of his wealth isn’t the result of him enriching himself on the taxpayers dime but is rather just a gift from his father-in-law to his wife, whose money is it that keeps underwriting loans at vast sums to McConnell’s own campaign? Is that the Foremost family gift money, or is that the couch-cushion change from all those raises McConnell’s given himself?
If the McConnell people were so quick to leap to their bosses defense to suggest that his vast wealth was really barely his at all but actually belonged to his wife, then where’d the $250,000 Mitch McConnell loaned his own campaign come from?
Where McConnell’s money comes from doesn’t really matter. He’s got a lot of it, his wife has even more of it, it’s theirs to share — and it’s also rather sweet. After a couple decades of marriage, Mitch’s in-laws have given him over $100,000 in contributions, $27,500 in 2012 alone. That’s the sign of a healthy relationship. So good for Mitch & Elaine!
What all this comes down to, really, is the most expensive Senate race in history being waged by two enormously wealthy families in one of the poorest states in the Union.
The bickering about whose family has more money and whose money is more tainted by family is entertaining (though I still prefer Days of Our Lives) but it’s also a little off-putting.
Take, for example, this ad from the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition — a dark money group that funnels cash from billionaires into the Kentucky Senate with, thanks to the decades long service of Mitch McConnell, absolutely no telling which billionaires are actually paying for the ad:
That’s an advocacy ad against the “Death Tax.” The “Death Tax” is just a pretty name for the “Estate Tax.”
Billionaires and mega-millionaires hate the Estate Tax, which explains why the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition and Mitch McConnell want to end the “Estate Tax” but doesn’t particularly explain why Kentucky voters should care about the issue.
The ad’s nice. Guy talking, seems real, says “family farm” about 80 times in 30 seconds, you see a standard Kentucky home on a hill, not exactly a mansion.
But the Estate Tax only actually affects estates that are worth more than $5,000,000. ["Death Tax" Myths Debunked, CBPP].
If your estate isn’t worth $5,000,000 or more, repealing the estate tax will do nothing for you.
The median annual household income in Kentucky is $42,000. Twenty percent of the state population lives below the poverty line.
But — when you’ve got a political debate being dictated by billionaires and millionaires, perhaps ending the “Death Tax” is the kind of issue they like to see raised in the ads that they pay for.
Oh… also… tax relief for the wealthy is just what Kentucky needs:
While the poorest 20 percent of Kentuckians pay 9.1 percent of their income in state and local taxes and the middle 20 percent pay 10.9 percent, the wealthiest one percent pay only 5.7 percent, according to the fourth edition of “Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States,” released today by the Washington-based Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP).
“Our tax system is upside down,” said Jason Bailey, director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. “It’s the wealthiest Kentuckians who have the greatest ability to pay taxes and whose incomes have grown the most over the past couple of decades. Many poor and middle-class Kentuckians have seen their wages stagnate or decline. Yet the wealthiest pay far less of their income in taxes.”