Concerns Arise Over McConnell Push For Campaign Finance Rider In Omnibus Spending Bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) talks with reporters after the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol July 21, 2015 in Washington, DC.
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Washington, DC

While it’s unclear at this time what the final product will look like since it’s still being negotiated, some on Capitol Hill are seriously concerned about potential ramifications regarding a campaign finance law rider that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is aggressively fighting for in the forthcoming omnibus spending package.

The rider, something that may change campaign finance law, would according to a recent piece from Politico, “boost party spending.”

Politico’s Ken Vogel and Seung Min Kim wrote in late November that the provision “would vastly expand the amount of cash that political parties could spend on candidates.”

“The provision, which sources say is one of a few campaign-finance related riders being discussed in closed-door negotiations over a $1.15 trillion omnibus spending package, would eliminate caps on the amount of cash that parties may spend in coordination with their candidates,” they wrote.

While Politico’s piece—which nailed several of these details down—focused on the ramifications such a change in law would have on party spending and donor influence, in addition to transparency effects, at least one Senate aide is raising the possibility that this might have an effect on presidential primaries. The aide, whose argument has yet to be fully confirmed, told Breitbart News on condition of anonymity that he’s branding this McConnell effort as the “Stop Donald Trump Amendment” because of the supposed effects this rider may have on a political party’s establishment’s ability to influence presidential primaries.

The specifics of the amendment, the aide explained, are that McConnell aims to eliminate limits of the funds political parties can spend in coordination with campaigns.

“Political parties are allowed to spend funds on behalf of a candidate in coordination with a candidate’s campaign, but these coordinated expenditures are subject to campaign finance limits based on the office, state, and voting age population (VAP),” the Senate aide, who’s in a key position with inside knowledge on this matter, told Breitbart News.

In Senate races in 2014, political parties could coordinate $94,500 for smaller states up to $2.8 million for larger states.  Multi-district House seats were subject to a limit of $47,200 in 2014, while parties could coordinate up to $94,500 in single district states. As a result of these spending limits and the prohibition on coordination, the four major Congressional campaign committees spend the bulk of their funds through independent expenditure programs that are barred from contact with campaigns.

Senator McConnell wants to change the definition of coordinated expenditures to narrow the circumstances in which a national or state party spending would count against candidate limits, effectively eviscerating the wall between the party and independent expenditures programs.  In other words, any dollar spent by the party in support of a candidate would not count towards the campaign spending limits.

Most importantly, the aide added, is the effects this may have on presidential primaries—essentially that a political party may coalesce donor class resources behind a candidate of their choice and box out the grassroots entirely.

“What this means is that a political party committee would be able to spend nearly unlimited funds in support of their party’s candidate,” the Senate aide said.

If the law is changed, as Senator McConnell is proposing, it will effectively allow a political party to handpick their party’s nominee by promising to spend millions in support of their candidacy. It will weaken the hold of grassroots activists on the nominating process and provide for the establishment to support mainstream candidates that can compete in the general election.

McConnell’s office wouldn’t comment on ongoing negotiations. Those negotiations are close to being finalized, and it’s worth noting that none of this has yet been confirmed. It’s also worth noting that McConnell is singularly focused on this campaign finance rider—and is ignoring other national security-focused matters like fighting President Barack Obama’s efforts to resettle Syrian and other Middle Eastern Muslim refugees across America in the wake of terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Paris.

“There is no question that this is far and away Senator McConnell’s top priority in these negotiations,” the aforementioned Senate aide said. “Nothing else comes close.”

These revelations come after a report in the Washington Post found that McConnell, alongside Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Reince Priebus, attended a lavish dinner with party bosses in downtown Washington, D.C., at which they worried about a potential brokered convention in 2016.

The rise of outsiders including Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)—and the failure of establishment Republicans such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich to launch—has party insiders panicking, and at this dinner they plotted out what might happen in a brokered convention.

What’s more, BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins reported on Friday that loyalists to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney may launch a desperate bid to re-nominate the failed 2012 GOP nominee on the floor of the convention in Cleveland in 2016. While Breitbart News was the first to break the news that most of the 2016 GOP presidential campaigns are preparing for a brokered convention possibility in 2016, this news from Coppins and from the Washington Post’s Bob Costa and Tom Hamburger represents a new dynamic according to Dr. Ben Carson.

“If the leaders of the Republican Party want to destroy the party, they should continue to hold meetings like the one described in the Washington Post this morning,” Carson said in a statement on Friday morning.

“If this was the beginning of a plan to subvert the will of the voters and replace it with the will of the political elite, I assure you Donald Trump will not be the only one leaving the party,” Carson added. “I pray that the report in the Post this morning was incorrect. If it is correct, every voter who is standing for change must know they are being betrayed. I won’t stand for it.”

Negotiations over the omnibus are expected to wrap soon. Technically, the government shuts down at midnight on Friday, but lawmakers are going to pass a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government open into next week while the omnibus negotiations conclude. The omnibus spending bill will likely fund the government through the end of this current fiscal year, which wraps at the end of September 2016.