Democrats pounce on recording of Mitch McConnell speaking at Koch brothers retreat

syoungman@herald-leader.comAugust 27, 2014 

Senate-Kentucky

Sen. Mitch McConnell criticized President Barack Obama's efforts on trade policies during an appearance last week at the Kentucky Farm Bureau "Measure the Candidates" forum.

TIMOTHY D. EASLEY — AP

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was the subject of Democrats' ire late Tuesday night after a left-leaning publication revealed remarks the senator gave at a June retreat sponsored by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch.

The Nation, a liberal publication, released the recording, in which McConnell outlines his plan to cut funding for President Barack Obama's initiatives and decries having to vote on raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment insurance and a proposal to ease interest rates on student loans.

[More about the McConnell-Grimes race]

McConnell doesn't veer much in the recording from the same things he says on the campaign trail in Kentucky, but Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes and several Democratic groups jumped on the tape late Tuesday night and early Wednesday, seeing a possible gotcha moment.

"This speech gives us the real Mitch McConnell: one that is only concerned about creating a political system of, by, and for the wealthy few," David Donnelly, president and CEO of Every Voice, said in a statement. "Kentuckians ought to beware of the millions Mitch took from special interests before he decided student loans and unemployment insurance weren't worth his time."

In the recording, McConnell focuses on his pet issue of fighting campaign spending limits, declaring that "the worst day of my political life" was the day the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill was signed by former President George W. Bush.

McConnell, who would probably become Senate majority leader if he wins re-election and Republicans take control of the Senate in November, outlined a plan to shape the nation's spending bill in ways that Democrats predict would lead to another government shutdown.

"And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what's called placing riders in the bill," McConnell said. "No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We're going to go after them on health care, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board."

He went on to say that "we're not going to be debating all these gosh-darn proposals," according to the recording.

"That's all we do in the Senate is vote on things like raising the minimum wage (inaudible) — cost the country 500,000 new jobs; extending unemployment — that's a great message for retirees; uh, the student loan package the other day, that's just going to make things worse, uh. These people believe in all the wrong things," McConnell reportedly said.

The tape was met with a metaphorical yawn from the McConnell campaign, which accurately stated that nothing the senator said is all that different from what he says when he is campaigning for a sixth term in the Bluegrass State.

On Twitter on Tuesday morning, McConnell senior adviser Josh Holmes responded to a mention of the recording by saying: "Really have to hand it to the nation for scoring a recording of a stump speech. Can hear it again today at 5 KY locations!"

McConnell declined to answer questions about the recording Wednesday morning after an unrelated event at the University of Kentucky.

In a statement, McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore referred to a recording of Grimes, speaking at a Washington fundraiser with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. She said McConnell stood up for coal behind closed doors, while Grimes did not despite promises that she would.

"In contrast to Alison Lundergan Grimes' failure to defend Kentucky coal from the EPA behind closed doors with Obama donors, Senator McConnell fights for Kentucky wherever he goes," she said in a statement.

While not breaking much new ground, the recording is precisely the kind of rhetoric Grimes has repeatedly seized on as evidence that McConnell is out of touch with Kentucky after 30 years in office.

The Grimes campaign said in a news release Wednesday morning that the recording reveal's McConnell's "true quest for power."

"In the secretive closed-door meeting with wealthy special-interest backers, he outlined how he plans to hurt Kentucky families and pander to millionaires and billionaires," the campaign said in a news release. "On issues like raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment insurance and helping Kentuckians with college affordability, McConnell promised his party's rich backers that he stands with them, no matter the cost to Kentuckians and this nation."

Sam Youngman: (502) 875-3793. Twitter: @samyoungman. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.

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