COMMENTARY

Get cash-sniffing hounds to find Mitch

October 18, 2006 

Larry Keeling

DAVID STEPHENSON — LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER

— all the way back to 1984.

President Ronald Reagan was on his way to re-election. Amadeus won the Oscar for best picture. After leading at halftime, the University of Kentucky Wildcats seemingly bricked every shot they took in the second half of the NCAA semi-finals against eventual national champion Georgetown University.

And a second-term Jefferson County judge-executive was challenging a two-term incumbent U.S. senator.

We’ve journeyed back 22 years to listen to some of the things that challenger had to say. “I’m running against a fella who’s a nice guy,” Mitch McConnell said of U.S. Sen. Walter “Dee” Huddleston in one campaign stop. “But he does havesome difficulty showing up for work.”

He went on to tell that same crowd, “I don’t make many promises during a campaign. But I’m going to be over there (in the Senate) on the job.”

McConnell brought out the bloodhounds in campaign ads that year to highlight his claim that Huddleston had missed committee or floor votes 24 times to make speeches earning him “tens of thousands of dollars” in honorariums.

“I think the senator from Kentucky ought to show up to vote more than most,” McConnell was quoted in one Herald-Leader story, “and when he doesn’t, I don’t think he ought to be out lining his pocket.”

OK, let’s return to the present at warp speed and compare what McConnell said in 1984 with the picture of him that emerges from Sunday’s first installment of Herald-Leader staffer John Cheves’ look at “The McConnell Machine.”

It’s a picture that clearly suggests the offspring of McConnell’s bloodhounds should be sent to sniff out his own trail.

It’s a picture of a man who jets around the country with one obsessive mission in mind: raising money, nearly $220 million in 22 years, mostly from corporate America.

McConnell is so devoted to his pursuit of corporate money that one person on the receiving end of his persistence was prompted to e-mail a colleague, “Are you feeling a choking sensation?”

In McConnell’s pursuit of money, he seems to have forgotten his 1984 pledge “to be over there (in the Senate) on the job.”

As Cheves noted in Sunday’s article, Kentucky’s senior senator missed 83 percent of his assigned committee hearings on government spending and agriculture last year. And anyone who has observed the legislative process knows that committees are where the real work gets done.

True, McConnell didn’t raise that $220 million to line his own pocket. He raised it to line his campaign treasury and the campaign treasuries of fellow Republicans who can give him what he craves most: the power and prestige of being the Senate majority leader if Republicans manage to retain a majority in that chamber after November.

But really, what is the difference between lusting after personal wealth and lusting after personal power?

As might be expected of a politician who hits up a variety of corporate interests for money and then ensures that their interests are protected in the legislation that emerges from Congress, McConnell claims that money doesn’t influence him.

He just follows his pro-business conservative philosophy, and corporations reward him accordingly. At least, that’s what he says.

Yet this senator who claims that money equates to free speech and who professes purity when his actions coincide so neatly with his near full-time money-raising activities frets that the initial source of funding for Herald-Leader articles automatically biases Cheves’ look at “The McConnell Machine.”

You can’t get any more hypocritical than that.

Back in the day, 146 years ago, Kentucky indirectly — with an intermediate stop in Illinois — sent to Washington a Republican named Abraham Lincoln who eloquently opined in the Gettysburg Address “that we here highly resolve ... that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Now, Kentucky has sent to Washington a Republican named Mitch McConnell who is obviously committed to the belief that the United States should be a government of the people with money, by the people with money and for the people with money.

And the devil take the rest.

Reach Larry Dale Keeling at (859) 231-3249, 1-800-950- 6397, ext. 3249 or lkeeling@herald-leader.com.

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