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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Senate Conservatives Fund levels harshest attack yet on Mitch McConnell -- By Byron York, The Washington Examiner

On Tuesday, the Senate Conservatives Fund called for the ouster of House Speaker John Boehner. Now the SCF, originally founded by Sen. Jim DeMint and run by a close DeMint associate, has launched the harshest attack yet on its No. 1 target, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. In a new ad based in part on supposition, misleading reporting, questionable assertions and a single (erroneously cited) poll, the SCF likens McConnell's leadership of the Senate to Internal Revenue Service harassment of conservatives.

"Bullying. Threats. Intimidation," the ad begins. "The IRS? No. Try Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican Leader. That's right. Mitch McConnell is trying to bully and intimidate conservatives just like the IRS is." (The full script of the ad is below.)

The ad says McConnell "tried to silence conservatives, calling them traitors." It offers no evidence that McConnell called conservatives traitors but is apparently referring to a report from Glenn Beck last October in which Beck, citing an anonymous source, said McConnell, in a private meeting with other senators, denounced some of the outside groups working against McConnell's re-election in Kentucky. Beck conceded that McConnell did not actually use the word "traitor," but, in Beck's words, "that's what everybody [in the meeting] heard." Beck said his source did not remember whatever word McConnell actually used to describe his adversaries.

Nevertheless, on the basis of one anonymously-sourced mention from Beck — one in which the radio host specifically said the word "traitor" was not used — the SCF ad says McConnell "called [conservatives] traitors."

There's more. The full text of the "traitor" sentence is: "Mitch McConnell tried to silence conservatives, calling them traitors who he 'wants to punch in the nose' for criticizing his liberal votes." The ad sources the "punch in the nose" allegation to a Breitbart News story from last November. The report said that in an Oct. 30 fundraising conference call arranged by Karl Rove's Crossroads group, McConnell told wealthy donors "that the Tea Party movement, in his view, is 'nothing but a bunch of bullies' that he plans to 'punch … in the nose.' "
The call was recorded. Listening to the entire recording makes clear that McConnell was not talking about "the Tea Party" but was instead specifically venting against two groups that had driven the recent government shutdown and opposed McConnell's re-election bid: the Senate Conservatives Fund and Heritage Action, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation (now run by Jim DeMint). Here is a portion of McConnell's remarks:
There's a group called the Senate Conservatives Fund that was set up initially by Jim DeMint, who used to be a colleague of mine, and they are run by a group of people who make a living off of misleading their supporters and trying to convince them that if things don't go well, it’s the Republicans' fault and not the Democrats'. So let's use this last example [the government shutdown]. This strategy, basically ginned up by Heritage Action, the 501(c)(4) of the Heritage Foundation, and the Senate Conservatives Fund, was led by people who misled their supporters into believing the Democratic president and Democratic Senate were actually going to go along with defunding Obamacare if we shut down the government. Of course it was nonsense. And didn't work. And then when it didn't work, they blamed not the Democrats but the Republicans.
McConnell's observations continued in that vein for quite a while; he was clearly unhappy with the groups that had pushed the shutdown strategy and were trying to oust him. Near the end of the call, McConnell said he believed most of the funding for SCF and Heritage Action "is coming from small donors off the Internet and direct mail who are being lied to in order to raise that money. And then 100 percent of the money is being spent [against] Republicans, not Democrats." McConnell concluded:
As long as they want to keep lying to people, and stealing their money, and spending it in counterproductive ways, I guess they can do it. But what I'm doing in my state is I'm telling these people the truth. I'm standing up to the bullies, punching them right in the nose, and telling them the truth … They need to be stood up to, just like standing up to a bully, punch them right in the nose, and that's the way to win.
So McConnell did in fact talk about punching people in the nose, but it was the SCF — the maker of the new ad — and not the Tea Party, and certainly not the conservative grass roots.

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