There has not been much to laugh about in politics for a long time now, but last week Sen. Mitch McConnell broke the dire mood when he said corporations “should stay out of politics.” If you follow politics and were having your morning coffee when you heard that, you might have sprayed your java across the table.
McConnell was objecting to the decisions by major corporations in Georgia to oppose the state’s new election law. The companies have spoken out because they believe that the law will restrict minority voting rights. Major League Baseball moved the upcoming All-Star game from Atlanta in protest.
But McConnell must figure that hypocrisy doesn’t count for much these days. He has raised millions for political campaigns throughout his career from corporate leaders and corporate PACs. And he has repeatedly fought against campaign finance reforms that would restrict “soft money” and compel the disclosure of donors’ identities.
McConnell trumpeted the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 that said that limits on “independent political spending” by corporations violates their First Amendment right to free speech. He said it helped restore “the First Amendment rights of these groups.”
So the laughs kept coming when McConnell later tried to explain his contradictory position. “My warning to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” he said. Then he added the punchline: “I’m not talking about political contributions.”
“It’s absurd. It’s Sen. McConnell believing he can say completely contradictory things and get away with it,” according to Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21, a nonprofit that opposes the Citizens United and supports campaign finance reform.
McConnell wants corporations to have just a little bit of the First Amendment. He wants their money — what the Supreme Court has called “speech” — but then he wants them to shut up and go away.
“My complaint about the CEOs is they ought to read the damn bill. They got intimidated into adopting an interpretation of that given by the Georgia Democrats in order to help get their way,” he said. And he points to an article that contradicts President Biden’s claim that the bill restricts voting hours.
But McConnell never mentions the articles that list more than 16 ways that the law will limit ballot access and give Republican legislators unprecedented power to decide elections, even their own reelections.
We should be sick and tired of this by now. We fought a Civil War in the 1860s and 700,000 Americans died.
We passed the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution and thought we had secured the right to vote forever.
Then came Jim Crow laws and we needed a civil rights movement in the 1960s and passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
But games continue to be played across the nation to suppress the vote, so let’s try this for a change: Let’s make our elections more efficient and secure while making it easier to vote.
And while we can laugh at Mitch McConnell’s gyrations as he tries to find some defendable position, the real issue is deadly serious. This has to do with the survival of democracy itself: Pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
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