Monday, September 17, 2007

From last week's City Strobe:

Money = free speech — unless it’s someone else’s
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell — who probably could use a hug… Anybody? Anybody? — became the talk of the town again last week after Insight Communications killed a political TV ad critical of him, and then promptly decided to unkill it, after the requisite outrage over censorship ensued and, uh, nobody could prove the ad was inaccurate.

Insight made its initial move in response to pressure from McConnell’s peeps and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, who claimed the ad was inaccurate (a political ad? No!). The Public Campaign Action Fund ad (“McConnell+mp3” at YouTube) claims Mitch helped lobbyist Hunter Bates wrangle $8.3 million in grants to fund his organization’s effort to distribute propaganda-bearing digital audio players to Afghan tribesmen, while voting against body armor for troops fighting in Iraq. Insight — which in 2004 ran the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth lie-ads that helped defeat John Kerry — yanked the ad after Republicans complained its claims were false.

Before his Pashtun podcasting program, Hunter Bates was McConnell’s chief of staff, campaign manager, editorial ghostwriter and legal adviser on, um, yeah, campaign finance reform. He was also Mitch’s handpicked candidate for lieutenant governor — that is, before Bates discovered he didn’t live in Kentucky and therefore was ineligible. Bates has greased McConnell’s reelection campaign with $120,000. And, natch, Insight bigwigs Michael Wilner and Keith Hall, along with numerous other Insight executives, have donated to McConnell’s campaign war chest — to the tune of $17,000.

After Insight’s lawyers reviewed the ad (and after Kentucky bloggers started writing about Insight executives’ close ties to McConnell and the fact that nobody could disprove the ad’s claims), the cable company decided to allow it after all. The Public Campaign Action Fund says the point of its ad is to shine a light on McConnell’s participation in the age-old American political lube system: lobbyist donates to politician; politician secures money for lobbyist’s organization.

The story is especially tasty to McConnell’s detractors because he has long been that lube system’s go-to man in quashing campaign finance reform, under the guise of free speech. Well, as long as it’s not anti-McConnell free speech.

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