Ad campaign depicts McConnell's position on campaign donations as Godzilla

10/03/2013 07:52 PM

Using Godzilla to illustrate how “bigger isn’t better,” a new TV ad campaign starting Friday urges Kentuckians to sign a petition challenging U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s position in favor of unlimited campaign contributions.

McConnell will be making that argument before the Supreme Court next week in the case McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. At the center of the case is whether it’s constitutional for the FEC to cap the amount of money donors can give to federal candidates and political organizations in an election year. The limit in the 2014 election cycle is $123,200.

McConnell, in an amicus brief , argues that a ban on giving beyond that limit “severely infringes the rights of association and speech.” And McConnell argues for unlimited campaign contributions.

The Public Action Campaign Fund, a non-profit campaign finance and election reform activist group, is taking to Kentucky’s airwaves to highlight their opposition to McConnell’s argument. The “six-figure ad buy” will buy “significant time” in the Lexington, Bowling Green and Paducah markets in the five days leading up to the Tuesday’s oral arguments before the Supreme Court, said David Donnelly, the group’s executive director. He declined to give specific figures.

“Bigger isn’t always better. And bigger sure isn’t better when it comes to political influence. So why is Sen. Mitch McConnell asking the Supreme Court to get rid of all limits on campaign contributions? Unlimited campaign cash from lobbyists, bailed out bankers and big oil CEOs,” the ad says before asking viewers to sign its online petition .

The group recently outlined how just 1,219 individuals came within 10 percent of the federal limit in the last election cycle. And 56 percent of them donated to Republicans, 41 percent to Democrats and 3 percent to candidates from both parties.

McConnell, according to the group’s research, already counts some of the wealthiest Americans among his donors.

“Collectively, at least 62 members of the Forbes billionaires list have donated about
$265,000 to Sen. McConnell’s campaigns over his career,” according to the Public Action Campaign Fund.

McConnell has said little publicly about his position beyond what he filed with the Supreme Court this spring. In it, McConnell’s attorney wrote:

For the contributor, an investment of money is both a symbolic show of support and
affiliation, but it is also tangible and quantifiable. Not all persons have the name recognition of a George Clooney, a Bruce Springsteen, or a Donald Trump, from
whom a public endorsement or appearance would possibly carry weight. Nor do all people have the free time, skills, or proximity to be effective campaign volunteers. Thus, for many if not most persons, a contribution of money is by far the most effective means of supporting a preferred candidate. And, just as intensity of support can be divined by the number of volunteer hours spent, for many if not most contributors the intensity of support is directly related to the size of the check.

Donnelly, director of the Public Campaign Action Fund, said allowing the wealthiest donors has the opposite effect on free speech, marginalizing the majority of Americans while concentrating most of that speech with a few who can afford it.

“Frankly, we’re all for free speech. But the 1,219 people aren’t suffering for free speech. It’s the rest of us getting hit,” he said.

Among those that gave money to the Public Campaign Action Fund are watchdog groups, such as Common Cause, the liberal group and Louisville residents Owsley and Christie Brown, who have often opposed McConnell.

But Donnelly said the group is motivated by a philosophy of running fair elections in the United States — not by partisan agendas.

“If he were a Democrat and wasn’t up for re-election, we’d still be saying this,” he said.


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