While the two men are polar-opposite personalities, Gov. Matt Bevin and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell operate much the same — in secret.
They follow the purest conservative ideology, often backed by major conservative funders, the Koch brothers, and they do so without any accountability to the public — answering only to their political bases and disregarding the rest.
The same goes for the Kentucky Legislature, which should come as no surprise since McConnell has personally been constructing the state GOP for a generation.
Let’s start with McConnell, who spent the last several weeks under his shell, in darkness, plotting his own healthcare bill.
One man working in secret to reorganize a fifth of the economy — $3.2 trillion.
On the rare occasion that he did surface, reporters asked about the secretive process — in particular, his blatant hypocrisy for criticizing Democrats for lacking transparency during the crafting of Obamacare.
In December 2009, despite months of public hearings, committee debates and bipartisan amendments, McConnell said of Obamacare, “This massive piece of legislation that seeks to restructure one-sixth of our economy, is being written behind closed doors without input from anyone, in an effort to jam it past not only the Senate but the American people.”
However, just this month on the Senate floor, McConnell said, “In late 2009 our Democratic friends used reconciliation to force Obamacare on Americans. It’s a process that can be used in 2017 — the same one they used in 2010.”
Yet when he was asked about how he is handling the healthcare bill, he deflected and told blatant lies, which undoubtedly would be retold by conservative media and appeal to his hardcore base.
“As I said yesterday, the entire Senate Republican Conference has been active and engaged on legislation,” he said.
The truth is several of Mitch’s Republican colleagues have said — even complained — that they had not seen the bill. But then again, truth is a luxury in Mitch’s legislative process.
Bevin’s resentment for transparency is even more direct — and vitriolic.
In a Facebook video message to his followers, the governor announced his offices’ new policy in dealing with Kentucky’s free press, notably The Courier-Journal and The Lexington Herald-Leader, of which he said “If you subscribe to that newspaper … you’re wasting your money.”
He declared, “There is nothing more transparent … than your ability to hear directly from me.” But while he has routinely encourages people to follow him on social media — for transparency — he has also blocked hundreds of people.
Bevin’s legislative approach doesn’t offer much clarity, either. Beyond the promise of a special legislative session to address the tax code and pension crisis, Bevin has yet to provide any hint as to what a reform package might look like. In much the same way McConnell has operated — absolute secrecy — the only insight we have is to be inferred by a few comments Bevin has made, and reports of with whom he has met.
So far we know that Bevin has promised any plan would not be “tax neutral,” and that “there’s not enough austerity measures that we could apply … we’ve truly got to increase the revenue.” But getting a tax increase through the newly-empowered Republican supermajority in the state Legislature will be tough, if not impossible, which leaves us yet with even more ambiguity.
Like a healthcare reform bill, any tax reform proposal would face tremendous scrutiny, and bring a number of difficult questions. Bevin rarely holds news conferences at all, while McConnell simply refuses to answer questions he doesn’t like. And when he or his staff do deign to speak with the news media, it is limited to friendly outlets — usually either conservative, Christian or soft media.
Unfortunately, if the past is any indication, a tax reform bill will appear suddenly and then pass through Frankfort without much debate or public input. That is what happened in the last session with right-to-work, charter schools and women’s-health legislation.
We have commented on similarities between Bevin and President Donald Trump: Each shamelessly disparages the media, while using social media for state-run propaganda. But the unbridled assault on government transparency may have begun with McConnell, the wizard behind the curtain