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Newly exposed recordings that show prominent Republican Senate candidates pandering to the Koch brothers could shake up key Senate races, according to MoveOn.org.
The recordings, published this morning by The Nation and Huffington Post, provide a troubling, behind-the-scenes look at speeches by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and GOP Senate candidates Joni Ernst (IA), Cory Gardner (CO), and Tom Cotton (AR) at a private retreat hosted by oil billionaires Charles and David Koch. Audio clips from the June retreat for elite donors shed a light on the candidates’ extreme views and plans for a GOP-controlled Senate and highlight the lengths to which Republican Senate candidates will go in order to woo their wealthy and powerful donors.
Ilya Sheyman, executive director of MoveOn Political Action, responded to the recordings:
“These recordings of a closed-door Koch retreat could be a game-changer in crucial states, exposing for voters what a Republican-controlled Senate would mean. It’s clear that GOP Senate candidates like Mitch McConnell, Joni Ernst, and Cory Gardner are more focused on satisfying their out-of-state, billionaire donors than on legislating for the benefit of their constituents and the country as a whole. In key Senate contests like Iowa and Colorado, if there were any question what a GOP-controlled Senate would mean for the American people, these recordings have answered it.”
With control of the Senate hinging on a few key seats, these recordings could be a game changer to stop the momentum of Republicans set on winning back control of the upper chamber.
The tapes show McConnell saying that passage of campaign finance reform was the worst day of his political life, and telling donors that Democrats “believe in all the wrong things,” such as raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment insurance, and addressing our nation’s student loan crisis. But while those proposals may be unpopular with the Kochs and their fellow Republican One Percenters, all three policy proposals have broad public support, with an overwhelming majority of Americans backing a $10.10 minimum wage and proposals to lower student loan interest rates.
Speaking to several hundred donors at the St. Regis Monarch Beach resort in California, McConnell also said that, if Republicans take back control of the Senate, they would use the budget process to roll back progress in important areas, “go[ing] after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board.” He also argues the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United that allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts on elections “just leveled the playing field for corporate speech.” But once again, these views show a stark divergence from those of voters as a whole, who in large part oppose the ruling.
For Ernst and Gardner, the tapes highlight how beholden they have become to wealthy donors, instead of their constituents. Both are heard discussing the influence of the Koch network in fueling their campaigns, with Ernst saying the Koch Brothers’ groups “started my trajectory.”
MoveOn members across the country are mobilizing in response to these recordings.