In a must-read piece for National Review Online today, Robert Costa looks at Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s long history of battling restrictions on political speech under the guise of campaign finance reform.
Costa writes, “As the elected leader of Senate Republicans, he wears many hats, but on a personal level, no issue has shaped his career more than the intersection of campaign financing and free speech. Late last week, he made two major addresses on the subject, first at the American Enterprise Institute and soon after at Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom conference. McConnell’s multi-decade pushback against campaign-finance reformers . . . has not always been popular, he acknowledges. But as the Obama administration attempts to ‘micromanage’ political speech, he says, his efforts are more than a pet project — they’re critical for every political group, conservative or liberal, that wants to speak up without Big Brother calling the shots.”
“[H]e adds, if conservatives who care about the Constitution do not actively defend the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, the president and his allies will do whatever they can to delegitimize it. Or at the very least, McConnell says, Obama and his allies will keep shaming Americans who support conservative causes. Blocking the DISCLOSE Act, a bill which would have expanded disclosure requirements for donations to political groups, was a good start, he says, but Democrats’ thirst for exposing conservative donors remains strong. Obama-friendly organizations such as Media Matters, he notes, frequently use ‘thuggish’ tactics to pressure private citizens.”
“McConnell underscored that threat in his AEI talk,” Costa notes, “citing Nixon, the man who got him interested in the issue 40 years ago. He compared Obama’s eagerness to bully organizations that disagree with him to the Nixon White House, right down to an ‘an old-school enemies list.’ Obama’s obsession with the Koch brothers, he said, is not only a crass political strategy, but a dangous one: He noted that after Obama’s campaign manager sent an e-mail to supporters about a Koch-backed event, Koch employees were ‘threatened and harassed by left-wing groups.’”
As Costa highlighted in one of Leader McConnell’s key points: “‘Especially if you’re a conservative, your ability to speak out on behalf of that cause is very much at stake right now,’ McConnell said at AEI. ‘But this isn’t just a conservative fight. It affects all of us. Because everyone in this room, liberal or conservative, is engaged in what they regard as a very important battle of ideas. And the First Amendment makes all of that possible. If we lose the right to speak, we’ve lost these battles before they’ve even been waged.’”