Andy Kroll

Andy Kroll

Senior Reporter

Andy Kroll is Mother Jones' Dark Money reporter. He is based in the DC bureau. His work has also appeared at the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Men's Journal, the American Prospect, and, where he's an associate editor. Email him at akroll (at) motherjones (dot) com. He tweets at @AndyKroll.

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Surprise! Mitch McConnell Reads Mother Jones

| Fri Oct. 18, 2013 12:12 PM EDT

In an interview on Thursday morning with the National Review's Robert Costa, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made an intriguing comment that caught our eye. Fresh from helping to broker the deal to end the government shutdown and lift the debt ceiling, McConnell was asked by Costa if political factors in Kentucky were shaping his legislative strategy in Washington. As we've reported, McConnell faces a tough reelection fight, including a fierce primary challenge, with Kentucky tea partiers steaming over McConnell's deal-making on issues like the 2012 fiscal cliff deal, Syria, and now the debt ceiling.

McConnell's response: "Oh, that's the Mother Jones thesis."

Here's the full exchange:

COSTA: A lot of reporters think your decisions are driven by political considerations in your home state, especially your primary versus Matt Bevin and a potential general-election campaign versus Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. How are those factors shaping your strategy?

MCCONNELL: Oh, that’s the Mother Jones thesis. I have nothing to say about my primary opponent. And this week, it’s pretty obvious about whether that’s driving my decisions. As for [Lundergan Grimes], the whole rationale for her candidacy is that I’m part of the dysfunction in Washington, so she’s probably been pretty unhappy over the past 24 hours. I’ve demonstrated, once again, that when the Congress is in gridlock and the country is at risk, I’m the guy who steps forward and tries to get us out of the ditch. So it’s been a bad 24 hours for her, and she’s going to need to find a new rationale.

We're flattered to know that McConnell, arguably the most influential Republican official in Washington, reads Mother Jones. We assume he's referring to a September 19 story by David Corn which examined whether McConnell's tea-party challenger, Matt Bevin, was preventing the minority leader from fully engaging in the shutdown negotiations. "McConnell must fear the wrath of [Kentucky Senator Rand] Paul and the Paulites, should he engage in wheeling and dealing that results in any accords that offend the sensibilities of the tea partiers," Corn wrote. "Caught between Rand Paul and the White House, one of the most powerful and sly politicians in Washington has little room to work his behind-closed-doors magic."

For what it's worth, we'd also direct McConnell to our reporting on other aspects of his reelection fight, including the race's hefty price tag, the fundraising dream team assembled by Lundergan Grimes, McConnell's tea party challenger, and grassroots conservatives' dim view of McConnell and their eagerness to oust him.

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Conservative Group Warns GOPers on Debt Deal: "This Vote Is a Vote for Funding Obamacare"

| Wed Oct. 16, 2013 2:42 PM EDT
Sens. Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell

The deal to lift the debt ceiling and reopen the federal government unveiled by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday barely touches Obamacare. That's a major blow to conservative lawmakers in the House and Senate who shut down the government on October 1 over demands to delay or defund President Obama's health-care law. This deal, crafted by Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, leaves them empty-handed, with little, if anything, to show for their anti-Obamacare crusade.

Now, one prominent conservative group is telling Republicans that they cannot claim to oppose Obamacare if they vote yes on the Reid-McConnell deb ceiling deal. Those members who support the deal "can't credibly claim they oppose Obamacare if they vote for this deal," Rick Manning, a spokesman for Americans for Limited Government, tells Mother Jones. "This vote is a vote for funding Obamacare."

Manning says that ALG will urge members to vote no on the Reid-McConnell deal. "This whole thing was about Obamacare," he says. "And now this deal doesn't touch Obamacare at all."

The glitches marring the roll-out of Obamacare's insurance exchanges, which opened for business on October 1, are even more reason to do everything possible to kill the law, Manning says. "We now have dramatically more evidence that this thing is a failure. Even if you like Obamacare, you can't like what you're getting right now."

The Club for Growth, another heavy-hitting conservative group, is also telling members to vote no on the Reid-McConnell bill. The House and Senate are expected to vote on the bill later on Wednesday or early Thursday.

Heritage Action CEO: "Everybody Understands" We Can't Repeal Obamacare Until 2017

| Wed Oct. 16, 2013 12:25 PM EDT

When conservative activists began laying the groundwork months ago for their plan to shut down the federal government, their stated goal was delaying or defunding the Affordable Care Act, the equivalent of landing a haymaker on President Obama's signature policy achievement. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tromped around Texas railing against the health care law, a banner proclaiming "DEFUND OBAMACARE" hanging behind him.

Yet the ultimate goal of conservative interest groups such as Heritage Action and FreedomWorks has always been the wholesale repeal of Obamacare. Some conservative lawmakers reportedly even insisted on repealing Obamacare as part of a deal to end the government shutdown that began on October 1.

But on Fox News Wednesday morning, Michael Needham, the CEO of Heritage Action, brought some reality to the discussion over repealing Obamacare:

Fox News: With a Democrat in the White House and Harry Reid with the majority in the Senate, what can you do [to stop Obamacare]?

Needham: Well, everybody understands that we're not going to be able to repeal this law until 2017. And that we have to win the Senate and win the White House.

But right now, it is clear that this bill is not ready for primetime. It is clear that this bill is unfair. The president's given a waiver to employers; why can't we give that waiver to the individual people all across America?"

So there you have it. Obamacare isn't going anywhere until Republicans wrest full control of Congress and the White House. They won't get a shot at that until the 2016 elections, and by then, with Obamacare fully implemented, it could be too late.

Rep. Steve King: "I'm Not Worried About This Thing They Term Default"

| Wed Oct. 16, 2013 11:16 AM EDT
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).

As Congress gets perilously close to its October 17 deadline to lift the nation's debt ceiling, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) isn't worried. Default? King shrugs. If anything, he says, the real risk is President Obama's scaremongering about a partial default by the United States on its obligations.

That was King's message Wednesday morning during an appearance on CNN's "New Day." "I'm not worried about this thing they term default because we are going to service our debt," he said. "But I am concerned about all the rhetoric around this, about the weeks and months building up to this point and the utilization of that term default."

The real risk, he went on, is blowback from Obama's dire rhetoric about the debt ceiling. "I'm concerned that it will scare the markets; I'm concerned that the president's remarks will scare the markets."

King is hardly the only the debt ceiling "denier" in Congress. In fact, there's so many of them that my colleague Tim Murphy divided them up into seven different caucus; they include the Debt-Limit-Is-Too-Damn-High Caucus (those who want to lower, not raise, the debt ceiling), the #YOHO Caucus (comprised solely of Florida's Rep. Ted Yoho, who believes default would be a good thing), the straight-up Default-Deniers (who believe the government cannot default on its debts), and the It's-Just-a-Flesh-Wound Caucus (you get the point).

Not a member of any of these caucuses: Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio). He's tried for weeks to convince and cajole his more conservative Republican colleagues into a deal, with no luck. As ofWednesday morning, media reports suggest that Boehner will bring a Senate-passed bill to the House floor, attempting to pass it with Democratic votes.

Andrew Cuomo's Much-Touted Corruption Watchdog Is Beginning to Look Like a Joke

| Tue Oct. 8, 2013 11:10 AM EDT
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

In June, an anti-corruption bill that included the holy grail of money-in-politics reforms—public financing of elections—died in the New York State Senate. Progressives and election reformers had pinned their hopes on passing a public financing system modeled after New York City's, a system that helped Bill de Blasio clinch the Democratic mayoral primary. But they weren't left empty-handed when the bill died: In its place, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) created the Commission to Investigate Public Corruption to get at the root of Albany's corruption woes and to study the funding of state elections.

Now, it looks like Cuomo's commission is not all it's cracked up to be. And the Cuomo administration is partly to blame.

State lawmakers are refusing to turn over the information about their outside income that the corruption commission requested, the New York Times reports. Cuomo's staff, meanwhile, "has leaned on the commission to limit the scope of its investigations," according to the Times.

Here's more from the Times:

The turmoil over the commission began in late August, when it asked members of both houses of the Legislature to release information about their outside income above $20,000. Several weeks later, lawyers for the Legislature refused, saying, "These demands substantially exceed what New York law authorizes."

The commission's relationship with the governor's office has also been freighted. It issued a flurry of subpoenas at the start, but then was slowed by Mr. Cuomo's office in several instances, according to people familiar with the situation who insisted on anonymity because they feared retribution by the governor.

In one such instance, when the commission began to investigate how a handful of high-end residential developers in New York City won tax breaks from Albany, its staff drafted, and its three co-chairmen approved, a subpoena of the Real Estate Board of New York. But Mr. Cuomo’s office persuaded the commission not to subpoena the board, whose leaders have given generously to Mr. Cuomo's campaign, and which supported a business coalition, the Committee to Save New York, that ran extensive television advertising promoting his legislative agenda.

A Cuomo spokeswoman told the Times that "ultimately all investigatory decisions are up to the unanimous decision of the co-chairs." Still, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he's worried about "interference and micromanagement" at the commission, and good-government groups are increasingly disillusioned over the commission's trajectory. "New Yorkers are losing patience with the continuing culture of corruption in Albany and the continued indictment of their representatives," reads a letter from Common Cause New York to Cuomo. "The commission was established to help restore their faith in government, not confirm their cynicism that the system will never change."

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