Opinion: A Hogan Senate Bid? He Shouldn’t Run on Promise of Special Interest Money

Special Interest Money
Karolina Grabowska/pexels.com photo.

At End Citizens United, our mission is simple. We want to protect the right to vote and get big money out of politics.

That’s why we’ve been at the forefront this Congress working with allies to pass the For the People Act, a landmark anti-corruption bill that would protect the freedom to vote, end partisan gerrymandering, put in place ironclad ethics laws and end dark money so that billionaires can’t buy elections.

That last component — ending dark money — is key, because corporate special interests use dark money to fuel so many of their efforts to rig the system in their own favor at the expense of everyone else.

We won’t be able to limit the influence of these special interests until we take away their ability to write giant checks to unaccountable dark money groups that hide their donors.

It probably will not come as a surprise that one of the biggest obstacles we face in passing this legislation, or any legislation that reduces the influence of big money in politics, is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

McConnell has spent his career kowtowing to special interests and fiercely opposing any efforts to curb their influence in Washington. And they’ve returned the favor by showering McConnell and his candidates with obscene amounts of dark money that they funnel through McConnell’s labyrinth of super PACs and committees. It’s how McConnell won his Senate majority the last time, and it’s how he’s planning on winning it this time.

While we all know this is how McConnell operates, it’s rare to hear Republican insiders say the quiet part out loud. But that’s exactly what they did recently in touting their efforts to push Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to run for the U.S. Senate next year.

Washingtonian recently reported McConnell was “aggressively” recruiting Hogan, and that he promised Hogan “significant” outside spending to boost Hogan’s possible candidacy and make the minority leader the majority leader.

Tiffany Muller is president of End Citizens United and Let America Vote. Courtesy photo.

This is how the corrupt status quo works, and it’s why we need to pass the For the People Act. And it’s why we need to stop Mitch McConnell from ever regaining control of the Senate.

What we don’t know yet is how Gov. Hogan responded. Did he accept McConnell’s offer? He is being wooed by McConnell’s promise to flood Maryland’s airwaves with millions of dollars in television ads funded by corporate special interests in an attempt to buy the Maryland Senate seat.

Larry Hogan is clearly planning something. That’s evident by his efforts to generate headlines by making it harder for his constituents to make ends meet. If Larry Hogan wants to run for Senate, he has every right to do so. But he should run on what he believes is the strength of his candidacy, not the bottomless pit of McConnell’s dark money machine.

Larry Hogan can make a statement here and now that he is not beholden to McConnell’s political bribery by following the lead of Democrats in his own congressional delegation and announcing his support of the For the People Act.

This would be a strong declaration from Hogan that he wouldn’t be beholden to McConnell’s special interest backers. Anything less than his full-throated support of this legislation will be confirmation that a Senator Hogan would be nothing more than a puppet for McConnell and his allies.

Maryland deserves better than that.

— TIFFANY MULLER

The writer is president of End Citizens United and Let America Vote.