McConnell accuses Dems of 'backroom dealing' on campaign finance legislation


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused Democrats of engaging in "backroom dealing" in their efforts to win support for a campaign finance bill.

The top Senate Republican sought to frame Democrats' work to win the National Rifle Association's (NRA) support for their Disclose Act as borne out of a series of secret deals between lawmakers and interest groups.

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"If there is one thing Americans loathe about Washington it’s the backroom dealing to win the vote of organizations with power and influence at the expense of everyone else," McConnell said in a statement. "Just as it wasn’t the Democrats’ money to offer in the health care debate, free speech isn’t theirs to ration out to those willing to play ball — it’s a right guaranteed by our First Amendment to all Americans.”

Democrats have made clear that it's a top priority of theirs to move the Disclose Act as soon as possible, a piece of legislation crafted with some GOP support in the House in reaction to a Supreme Court decision freeing up corporations and labor groups to spend money in elections.

The legislation, supported principally by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in the Senate and Assistant to the Speaker Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) in the House, would require greater transparency in identifying the financial backers of ads and look to forestall foreign corporate spending in U.S. elections, among other reforms.

Schumer has said that Democrats plan to bring the legislation to the floor before the Fourth of July, giving them just a few precious weeks to include the reform bill in their busy summer schedule.

Democrats saw cause for optimism in reaching an agreement with the NRA to exempt the gun-rights group from certain disclosure requirements. Other groups, from organized labor to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have yet to back the legislation.

Democrats, meanwhile, also touted backing for the legislation on Tuesday from the following good-government groups: the Campaign Legal Center, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, Public Citizen, and Democracy 21.

Not making efforts to pass a bill any easier, though, was McConnell, a longtime opponent of rules on campaign spending on First Amendment grounds. The top Senate Republican likened the process to the controversial work on healthcare reform.

"Taxpayers are still fuming over a health care process where their money was thrown around like a high roller in a hotel lobby to win last-minute votes, and now the same backroom dealing is being repeated with their freedom of speech," he said.

Doug Thornell, a spokesman for Assistant to the Speaker Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), shot back:

“The framework of this bipartisan bill has been publicly available since February and Van Hollen has met with anyone interested in addressing this radical Supreme Court ruling. Mitch McConnell continues to demonstrate that hypocrisy will never stand in the way of making a baseless attack. By opposing this bill, McConnell is embracing less disclosure and transparency in our Democracy. He wants to keep the American people in the dark on who is spending money on our elections and make it easier for shadowy organizations and foreign companies like BP to have even more influence. This is not a surprising position for a Senator who has been so adept at cutting deals with powerful special interests for 25 years.”