Republican lawmakers and conservative groups are worried that a provision to crack down on dark money in politics in the Democrats’ HR 1 bill is too popular among their voters to oppose it, according to a leaked call obtained by The New Yorker.
The January 8 call, which included Steve Donaldson, a policy adviser to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Caleb Hays, the top lawyer for Republicans on the House Administration Committee, and Kyle McKenzie, the research director for the Koch-backed Stand Together, among other operatives.
The participants aired concerns about HR 1, a massive legislative effort aimed at expanding voting rights and cracking down on corruption and dark money in politics.
The participants appear to have decided to try to kill the bill in Congress, believing that it would be pointless to try to turn public opinion against it because of its popular measures.
Conservatives want billionaires out of politics:
McKenzie told participants that the group’s polling showed that when voters were presented with a neutral description of the bill, “people were generally supportive.”
“The most worrisome part . . . is that conservatives were actually as supportive as the general public was when they read the neutral description,” he said. “There’s a large, very large, chunk of conservatives who are supportive of these types of efforts.”
McKenzie said that as a result, opponents will have to rely on “under-the-dome-type strategies” -- meaning Senate maneuvers intended to torpedo the bill -- because turning the public against it would be “incredibly difficult.”
He warned participants to avoid trying to “engage with the other side” of the argument that the legislation “stops billionaires from buying elections.”
“Unfortunately, we’ve found that that is a winning message, for both the general public and also conservatives,” he said.
GOP worried about big donors:
Donaldson expressed concern that the anti-dark money provision would impact GOP fundraising because donors may be reluctant to be named.
“When it comes to donor privacy, I can’t stress enough how quickly things could get out of hand,” he said on the call.
Nick Surgey of the progressive watchdog group Documented told The New Yorker that it made sense Donaldson was on the call because the bill “poses a very real threat to McConnell’s source of power within the Republican Party, which has always been fund-raising.”
Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center added that the call showed that “wealthy special interests are working hard to protect a broken status quo, where billionaires and corporations are free to secretly buy influence.”