Report links McConnell campaign donations to legislative work

The report was conducted by the Public Campaign Action Fund, a group that bills itself as "a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving America’s campaign finance laws" but has a largely left-leaning Board of Directors. It asserts that "special interests such as Big Oil corporate tax dodgers, insurance companies and Wall Street can count on McConnell to block legislation they don't like."

According to the report, which analyzed FEC data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, about 16 percent of donations to McConnell's campaign committee since 1994 came in amounts of $200 or less, and that dropped to five percent of his overall haul in 2012.

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His share of in-state funds has declined over the years as well, according to the report — in 2012, 13 percent of donations to his campaign and leadership committees came from in-state donors, with 20 percent coming from Texas and 19 percent coming from the New York-Connecticut-New Jersey area. That's not entirely unusual for a party leader, however; part of McConnell's job as Senate minority leader is to travel the country to help raise funds for his colleagues.

McConnell's spokesman, Robert Steurer, slammed the report as a "hack-job" and reiterated the campaign's assertion from a Wednesday fundraising email that McConnell had prevented the nation from incurring the steep tax increases and budget cuts expected before he and Vice President Joe Biden were able to broker a deal.

"The fact that this shameless hack-job is peddled on the same week Sen. McConnell is credited by Republicans and Democrats alike for saving the country from falling off the fiscal cliff shows how partisan and out of touch the authors of this garbage really are. The thesis of the shoddy work could be proven false in less than ten minutes by an intern with an iphone," he said in an email to The Hill.

The report notes that since 1990, the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate sector has contributed $8.7 million to McConnell's campaign committee and leadership PAC. Over that time, the Securities & Investment and Law Industries have both contributed over $2 million to his campaign committee and leadership PAC.

However, over that same period, the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate sector, as well as the Securities & Investment Industry, have historically contributed more to Republicans than Democrats.

And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), McConnell's Democratic counterpart, actually received more from both the the Securities & Investment and Law Industries in his last reelection cycle, 2010, than McConnell received during his last reelection cycle, in 2008.

But the report also goes on to link contributions from industries and corporations to McConnell's legislative efforts. It charges that with numerous bills over the past few years, filibusters were used by Senate Republicans to block legislation ranging from a bill to repeal subsidies for oil companies to the DISCLOSE Act, which would expand disclosure requirements for outside spending groups and ban some forms of outside spending.

In those two cases, the report notes that McConnell received more than $1 million in contributions to his campaign committee and leadership PAC from "oil and gas interests," and that McConnell has connections to at least one of the biggest outside spending groups, American Crossroads, which is headed by McConnell's former chief of staff, Steven Law.

McConnell's staff pushed back against the idea that he was swayed by campaign contributions in his vote against the bill to repeal oil subsidies, noting that McConnell had repeatedly voted against similar legislation in 2011 and 2008.

The report outlines five other situations in which it draws connections between McConnell's donors and Republican obstruction in Congress, including three cases in which President Obama's nominees were blocked or obstructed by Republican efforts.

In the case of Richard Cordray, who was nominated by Obama to serve as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Republicans filibustered his nomination for some time until Obama appointed him during winter recess while the Senate was out. The report notes the thousands given to McConnell by banks probed by the CFPB.

The report concludes with a plea for Senate rules reform, arguing that "if the Senate is to return to its function of actually serving the constituents that elected officials are charged with representing, Senate rules must be reformed such that a small group of senators cannot exploit the filibuster, secret holds, and other obstructionist techniques to block the will of the American people." View the full report here.

McConnell is leader of his caucus in the upper chamber, and has much sway over his fellow Republicans in pushing filibusters. But it's unclear in any one of these cases that he was the lone cause of what the report characterizes as obstruction, and the donations he received from many of these industries are typical of most other powerful senators.

However, Democrats clearly see McConnell's seat as a possible pickup opportunity, as evidenced by the early attacks. A recent poll, issued by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, would seem to support that conviction: McConnell was ranked as the nation's least popular senator, and polled with a lead, but under 50 percent support against three possible Democratic opponents.

--This post was updated at 1:15 p.m. to include a response from Sen. McConnell's office.

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