1988 Mitch McConnell explains 2014 Mitch McConnell’s campaign strategy

You may have seen this clip already, in which Mitch McConnell explains that he “doesn’t mind” talking to actual voters but that he “doesn’t think it’s particularly enlightening.”

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That clip comes from a much, much longer speech McConnell gave on the Senate floor in 1988 during a debate about reforming the campaign finance system — back when Mitch was in favor of limits on PACs and blocking wealthy individuals from buying office.

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McConnell’s comments about talking to factory workers and voters on the courthouse steps come during a seven minute section in which Mitch McConnell laments the cost of TV advertising while advocating for government controls on the free market to set prices for that advertising so that politicians running for office could spend less money to bombard voters with idiotic, mind-numbing TV advertisements.

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During that 7 minute stretch, McConnell also argues that if he gave a speech on the courthouse steps, no one would show up.

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Given that Mitch McConnell, and his unregulated and anonymous dark money Super PAC supporters from outside the state, are spending tens of millions of dollars on TV advertising and given that Mitch McConnell is currently paying people to show up at his campaign stops to create the appearance of “enthusiasm,” it seemed like a nice time, here on this Friday afternoon, to share Mitch McConnell’s vision of the political future, circa 1988, and just how right he turned out to be.

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The average voter with their petty everyday concerns about family, health, and retirement may not be particularly “enlightening” but Mitch McConnell sure is — take a listen:

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His defense of “higher spending” and how that equals “support” is particularly enjoyable, at about 3:15.

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At around 4:00, McConnell explains that no one wants to come out to see a politician make a speech… and given that throngs of people have been showing up to see McConnell’s opponent in this race twenty-six years later, it makes sense that Mitch McConnell would be paying people to show up and forcing them to listen to whatever enlightening things he has to say.

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“Typical candidate would make a speech on the courthouse steps and nobody’d be there but his family.”

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Unless you pay ’em!

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But enough of all that. Turn on your teevee… you’re missing all the campaign commercials about the fictional war on coal and guns and the invasion of ebola-ridden illegals.

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John Oliver & HBO’s ‘Last Week Tonight’ Record PSA for Andy Barr & the Voters of Kentucky’s 6th District

Andy Barr has taken at least $30,000 in campaign contributions from Predatory Payday Lenders. In the debate last night, Elisabeth Jensen attacked him for “going to bat” for an industry that preys on hard working Americans who struggle to make ends meet — while Andy Barr struggled to explain that his real goal is actually to protect the predatory lending habits of these Predatory Lenders.

As Andy Barr explained that the dictates of the free market should allow lenders to rip off struggling Kentucky families, Elisabeth Jensen at one point jumped in to ask, “Does that mean it’s okay to take advantage of people?”

Apparently, as far as Andy Barr is concerned that is a-okay. As the Herald Leader reported last week, Andy Barr is getting this money from the Predatory Payday Loan industry because he’s pushing legislation to protect them from any sort of regulation.

What Andy Barr is doing is despicable, and since he doesn’t appear to understand why, or care, here’s HBO’s John Oliver and ‘Last Week Tonight‘ to explain:

New Campaign Ad, Watch Elisabeth Jensen Rip Congressman Andy Barr Apart in a Hair Salon

In the wake of last night’s pretty fascinating debate between Andy Barr and Elisabeth Jensen, the Jensen campaign is out with a new ad. Watch it here:

That ad — called “Perks” — hits Andy Barr hard on his abuse of taxpayer funded perks in his first two years in office. There’s the hair salon, the first class travel he’s voted to protect, and there’s his really quite obscene abuse of taxpayer funded communications, the mailers and such that bombard your home and look like standard campaign spam but are actually government paid for propaganda.

For all his talk about how terrible the Big Bad Government is, it’s ironic that Andy Barr would spend more than 411 other members of Congress in sending out these taxpayer funded communications. Andy Barr’s taking government handouts and feeding at the trough. Here’s how Andy Barr stacks up against the rest of the Kentucky delegation in wasting your dollars:


That’s embarrassing for Andy.

Here’s more from the Jensen campaign:

Earlier this year, Barr responded to a Herald-Leader inquiry about how he has spent more tax dollars than 411 other members of Congress on these campaign style communications by claiming he was “helping seniors.” This remark came despite the fact that Barr has voted repeatedly for budgets ending Medicare’s guarantee for seniors.

In July, Jensen pledged to vote to refuse campaign contributions from bailed-out financial institutions; end taxpayer funded first-class travel; enroll in Kynect for her family’s healthcare; publicly disclose her congressional schedule, and refuse to send taxpayer funded campaign style mailers.  Barr has accepted tens of thousands from bailed out banks; voted against banning first-class travel at taxpayer expense; voted to protect taxpayer funded healthcare for members of Congress for life; refuses to make his schedule public; and has spent more than ten times as much on campaign-style mailers as any other Kentucky Representative.

“Hard working moms in Kentucky know that every penny saved counts – but Congressman Andy Barr is wasting our tax dollars to benefit himself,” Jensen said. “From protecting perks like taxpayer funded first class travel to spending exorbitant amounts on taxpayer funded campaign style mailers, Andy Barr has proven he’s looking out for himself and his lobbyist allies – not hardworking Kentucky families. This kind of self-interested behavior from Congressman Barr is exactly what we hate about the dysfunctional politics of Congress. Rejecting these five wasteful perks is a simple step we can take to cut Washington’s out-of-control spending, and I urge Congressman Barr to join me in taking this pledge.” 


Mitch McConnell’s Terribly Awkward, No Good, Really Bad Road Trip

If you’ve been following along here at B&P, you know we’ve long advised that the Kentucky Senate race between Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes is strategically tied to the 6th District Congressional race between Andy Barr and Elisabeth Jensen. If Grimes is to win, she will likely need big turnouts in Jefferson County and in Central Kentucky — the 6th District. Conversely, the better Andy Barr does in getting out his base in the 6th, the better the chances Mitch McConnell has to win the entire state.

Well, I’m happy to report that one of the Senate campaigns finally took my advice! Mitch McConnell embarked yesterday on a three day road trip to visit fifteen different counties and he’ll be joined on the journey by 4th District Representative Thomas Massie, 5th District Representative Hal Rogers and 6th District Representative Andy Barr!

Road trips are supposed to be fun — this one is anything but. Here’s why.

  • The Hill reports that the crowds at the events along McConnell’s road trip will be bussed in at the expense of the McConnell campaign. Lacking grassroots supporters, McConnell has chosen to pad his numbers by paying volunteers to show up and provide “enthusiasm.”


  • If bussing in paid supporters to create a fake sense of “enthusiasm” isn’t awkward enough, Thomas Massie and Mitch McConnell have something of a tepid relationship as is, with the Tea Partier Massie toying with the McConnell campaign in their pre-primary pleas for unity.
  • On top of that, there’s the United Mine Workers of America. In their infinite wisdom, they endorsed Alison Lundergan Grimes in the Senate race and were met with the overwhelming derision of the McConnell campaign and McConnell’s few actually enthusiastic supporters. McConnell and his team insulted the UMWA, saying it’s basically not a real organization, that it’s beliefs shouldn’t be taken seriously and that no one particularly cares what they think or who they support. That’d be fine except for the fact that in their infinite wisdom, the UMWA also endorsed Andy Barr. The choice to split the difference could be seen as a tactical choice to help Grimes except that it’s unclear how many voters who would actually care about such things would ever actually be swayed by that tactical decision. It’s an even more troubling, and awkward, choice since the UMWA’s stated goal of protecting mine workers is directly at odds with Andy Barr’s stated goal of not protecting mine workers.


  • To add to this awkwardness, on Sunday the Herald Leader chose to endorse Andy Barr’s opponent in the 6th District, Elisabeth Jensen. The Barr campaign and their supporters have essentially decried this choice as yet further proof of the fact that the media is controlled by far left-wing extremists who are bent on destroying America. Except that on the same day the Herald Leader endorsed Elisabeth Jensen, the paper also endorsed Hal Rogers in the 5th. Unlike the UMWA’s split decision, the Herald Leader’s reasoning is quite clear: Hal Rogers appears to be the only powerful Republican in the state with the guts to talk truthfully about what is happening to the coal economy in Eastern Kentucky. And, frankly, on this subject, Rogers isn’t just at odds with Mitch McConnell and Andy Barr who just dumbly repeat “the War on Coal” as if the EPA were the Islamic State, Rogers is at odds with Alison Lundergan Grimes as well who’s busily wrapped herself in coal dust and mirrors on this issue. While McConnell and Barr will spend the road trip talking deceptively about a war that doesn’t exist while offering no real discussion of what happens next, Hal Rogers will grit his teeth and play along as he secretly pines, for the sake of the people he represents, to have a (surprisingly) adult conversation about the issue with Governor Steve Beshear.
  • And while that awkwardness is bubbling just below the surface, there’s the more obviously awkward fact that Andy Barr and Hal Rogers simply don’t like each other. That may be because in 2010, Andy Barr campaigned on pushing term limits. Setting aside the fact that Mitch McConnell has been in the U.S. Senate for three decades, this awkwardness stems from Barr’s central argument for term limits which focused on Committee Chairmen and, as he says here specifically, Appropriations Committee Chairmen. Hal Rogers has been the House Appropriations Committee Chairman for most of the past two centuries.

Still, for all it’s awkwardness, Mitch McConnell’s terrible road trip is strategically quite smart. Among moderate voters (not to mention liberal ones) who make up 43% of registered voters, McConnell has lower favorability ratings and higher unfavorability ratings than both his opponent, Ms. Grimes, and the guy she may or may not have voted for, Barack Obama. Mitch McConnell needs help and — however awkwardly — Barr, Rogers and Massie are gonna give it.

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Eeesh. But I guess it’s like they always say, Make Love Not A War On Coal!


Get Pumped for Tonight’s Barr vs. Jensen Debate by Reviewing Andy Barr’s Latest Wall Street Bankroll!

At 8PM tonight, KET will host a debate between 6th District Congressional candidates Andy Barr and Elisabeth Jensen. The two campaigns are both gathering supporters for pre-debate rallies in the KET parking lot starting at 6PM.

The debate comes one day after the Lexington Herald Leader endorsed Ms. Jensen in the race. There’s little doubt that the Barr campaign will try to spin that as a liberal rag endorsing one of their own but that argument struggles against reality since on the same day they endorsed Elisabeth Jensen, the paper also endorsed Republican incumbent for life Hal Rogers in the 5th.

In their endorsement of Elisabeth Jensen, the Herald Leader cited Andy Barr’s sellout politics. Rather than protecting the voters of the 6th District whom he represent, Barr has chosen to service his big campaign donors:

In the area where Barr has the most clout, as a member of the House Financial Services Committee, Jensen is focused on protecting consumers while Barr’s overriding interest is reducing government regulation.

Barr, for example, is trying to block a Justice Department crackdown on the practice of online payday lenders making illegal, unauthorized withdrawals from borrowers’ bank accounts, often causing overdrafts.

Barr had taken in $334,666 from finance and Wall Street interests, including payday lenders, as of June 30, helping give his campaign a huge funding advantage.

This will no doubt be a topic of discussion — and Barr’s stance here is not helped by last week’s revelation that Andy Barr is one of the biggest defenders of Predatory Payday Lenders in Washington, DC.

As the Herald Leader noted in their endorsement of Jensen, Garland H. Barr IV has taken $334,666 from finance and Wall Street interests as of June. Over the weekend, we took a look the amount Barr has taken from Predatory Payday Lenders and, including his new totals from the most recent reporting period which ended on September 30th, Andy Barr has accepted at least $30,000 from these Predatory Loan Sharks.

But what about Wall Street? Andy Barr’s dalliances with the Too Big To Fail banks and investment firms and hedge funders who nearly destroyed the U.S. economy in 2008 is well documented… but how much more has he taken from them since June?

A quick look at his most recent FEC report reveals an additional $67,000 from the Too Big To Fail Banks, investment firms and Big Insurance companies which Andy Barr oversees from his position on the House Financial Services Committee:

  • $3,500 from the American Financial Services Association
  • $500 from Branch Bank & Trust in Wilmington, NC
  • $2,000 from the Chicago Board Options PAC
  • $3,000 from Citigroup, Inc. PAC
  • $1,000 from Deloitte PAC
  • $2,000 from PNC Financial Services Group
  • $500 from Fifth Third Bancorp PAC
  • $1,000 from FMR LLC PAC (that’s Fidelity Investments)
  • $2,000 from JP Morgan Chase PAC
  • $1,000 from Mastercard PAC
  • $2,000 from MetLife PAC (which is overseen in part by Barr’s Financial Services Committee)
  • $1,000 from Morgan Stanley PAC
  • $2,000 from the Mortgage Bankers PAC
  • $4,000 from New York Life Insurance PAC (which is overseen in part by Barr’s Financial Services Committee)
  • $2,000 from the Oppenheimer Fund PAC
  • $2,000 from Regions Financial PAC
  • $3,000 from Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association PAC
  • $2,000 from Supporting Conservatives of Today and Tomorrow PAC, a campaign committee funded almost exclusively by banks and investment firms
  • $1,000 from Vanguard Group PAC
  • $1,500 from US Bancorp PAC
  • $4,000 from UBS Americas PAC
  • $2,000 from Wells Fargo PAC

The number of those groups that got bailed out by the government following the economic collapse and/or have been implicated in the preceding and succeeding financial scandals from suspect mortgage lending to LIBOR price fixing is, well, overwhelming. This is where Andy Barr’s money comes from and this is who Andy Barr works for — Wall Street and the Investment and Banking firms he is supposed to oversee.

Among the individual donors to Andy Barr’s campaign since the end of June, there is only more of the same:


The $10,400 from the Blackstone Group is notable because Blackstone is under intense scrutiny for its “investment” in the Kentucky Retirement System (see here, here, here) and their deep pocketed contributions to Mitch McConnell’s campaign (here).

The $11,600 from Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft is a whole ‘nother can of worms. Cadwalader earlier this year hosted a fundraiser for Andy Barr at their headquarters in lower Manhattan, but these additional donations come after Andy Barr’s birthday bash in Washington DC where Barr was feted by Wall Street lobbyists. Cadwalader has argued heavily for unfettered access by the Too Big to Fail Banks to the “collateralized loan” market which even some prominent investment types view as a bubble ready to burst, and which has been described in the business press as bundled “junk rated corporate loans in top rated securities.”

Here’s what just part of what the Herald Leader reported last month on Andy Barr’s ties to Cadwalader:

Several of Barr’s campaign donors who are lobbying for his CLO bill declined to comment last week, including Citigroup, JPMorgan and the Wall Street financial advisory firm of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. Cadwalader hosted a campaign fund-raising luncheon for Barr at its New York office on March 24, a month after a Cadwalader partner, Neil Weidner, spoke to lawmakers in favor of an early draft of Barr’s CLO bill.

“Without significant changes to these regulatory initiatives, we are deeply concerned about the sustainability of the CLO industry,” Weidner testified Feb. 26 before the House Subcommittee on Capital Markets. Weeks later, he donated $2,600 to Barr’s campaign.

Cadwalader, which works for many of the nation’s largest banks, won about $19 million in legal contracts from the $700 billion federal bank bailout in 2008. It later was criticized by the bailout’s special inspector general, who questioned nearly $2 million of the firm’s fees and expenses, citing vague billing that made it impossible to determine “whether these charges were reasonable and therefore allowable.”

The Herald Leader reported yesterday that Andy Barr “had taken in $334,666 from finance and Wall Street interests, including payday lenders, as of June 30.”

Since June 30th, Andy Barr has accepted an additional $67,000 from the finance industry and another $8,000 from the Predatory Payday Loan industry. That’s an additional $75,000, bringing that total to at least $409,666 as of the end of September. There’s no telling yet how much more they are pouring into Andy’s pockets at this moment.

The Barr/Jensen Debate will air live on KET at 8PM. It should be good TV. Andy Barr is hilarious, like a George W. Bush Mini-Me, and Elisabeth Jensen is a no-bullshit straight shooter. Tune in.

(The $75,000 total above does not take into account any donors in the state of Kentucky. In the interests of Kentucky, it does not consider any donor in Kentucky regardless of whom they worked for — as Kentuckians, it’s understandable why they’d have some interest in electing Andy Barr. This total only accounts for the amount Andy has taken from PACs and big out-of-state donors in the Too Big To Fail Predatory investment industries.)

“I Am Not a Scientist” — Does Mitch McConnell Believe Cigarettes Cause Cancer?

Mitch McConnell’s explanation for why he doesn’t believe in climate change — “I am not a scientist,” he says — has been roundly mocked. McConnell’s lame excuse didn’t just materialize out of no where, it is a Republican Party talking point with everyone from John Boehner to Bobby Jindal and Paul Ryan repeating it.

The idea is that despite the fact that 97% of the world’s climate scientists agree that humans are causing the world’s climate to change, Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans are uniquely unqualified to understand these facts because they are not scientists and cannot possibly comprehend scientific data nor are they capable of listening to actual scientists.

But this tactic — to declare that there are many facts and as simple cavemen elected officials, they do not understand all the facts and that as such there could be another explanation — is not new. It is a strategy ripped directly from the playbook of Big Tobacco.

The links between Big Tobbaco’s decades long fight to deny science and protect their profits at the cost of human lives and Right Wing strategies of today has been explored in relation to the tactics of scientific denial and the pursuit of willful ignorance, but it can also be clearly seen here in Mitch McConnell’s climate change denial.

The Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, which “contains over 14 million documents (80+ million pages) created by major tobacco companies related to their advertising, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and scientific research activities,” contains numerous internal communications from the 1970s through the 1990s which clearly demonstrate the tobacco industry’s efforts to counter the overwhelming statistical evidence presented by the scientific community that cigarettes cause all manner of public health ailments.

These talking points mirror exactly the talking points being used today by Mitch McConnell and other prominent Republicans to deny the reality of climate change. They say “I am not a scientist” and that there are still many “arguments on both sides” and that after “years of study, controversy remains.” Despite the fact that 97% of scientists agree on the issue of climate change, the Republican Party talking point is that “scientists disagree.” And, if pressed, these industry funded climate change deniers will argue that statistical associations do not establish causation.

All these points are ripped directly from the tobacco industry’s playbook. This raises many questions, but perhaps the first one is, Does Mitch McConnell believe smoking causes lung cancer, emphysema, and other deadly diseases?

It’s a yes or no question, but Mitch McConnell likely isn’t qualified to answer because, of course, he is not a scientist.

Here is a sampling of just some of the “I am not a scientist” documents that can be found in the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library. They range from personal letters to talking points created to prep executives for questioning before Congress:










This same lame “I am not a scientist” excuse also appears in the 1995 blockbuster report in Vanity Fair that led to the Oscar winning film, “The Insider”:

The relationship between CBS and Tisch’s tobacco company, Lorillard, became a vexing problem for the news division. According to someone who knows Tisch well, when he bought Lorillard, in 1968, he viewed it only as a potential investment. “Years ago, the Tisch family was not afraid of liability. If he had asked his technical people, ‘Am I in any danger?’ he would have gotten the typical answer back: ‘You can’t prove anything in a liability case since the surgeon general forced the companies to put a warning on the packs.’” Tisch could not have forecast then the sweeping change in tort litigation, the possibility of immense jury awards. There was no imagining in 1968 how medical costs would soar in a few years. “None of this was on the horizon,” Tisch told me. “I couldn’t tell you today whether or not I would have bought Lorillard 30 years ago.… There is no clear-cut proof about addiction. I am not a scientist. I never smoked. I take a drink, but am I an addict? Liability suits? This is all pure speculation. I hate it when people tell me what I have been thinking.”

Lorillard became an immense cash bonanza for the Loews Corporation—the parent company controlled by Tisch and his brother, Robert—earning approximately $700 million a year.

Industry funded climate change deniers like Mitch McConnell will say pretty much anything to stick to the industry’s strategy — a strategy to delay action, to suggest more research is needed, or to simply deny clearly established scientific consensus:

The tobacco documents have many great nuggets of information — some of which were reviewed by the most excellent John Cheves [here, here, here] — and one that might be of particular use to anyone trying to get Mitch McConnell to speak the truth on anything comes from their in depth backgrounders on each of the members of Congress. In their research on Mitch and how to woo him (and lean on his donors at home), the tobacco industry made careful note of Mitch’s drink of choice:


So keep that in mind the next time your trying to ply him for favors.