Paul: Local governments should pay for fight against drugs

Democrat Jack Conway, left, and Republican Rand Paul are running for U.S. Senate in Kentucky.

Democrat Jack Conway, left, and Republican Rand Paul are running for U.S. Senate in Kentucky.

By Bill Estep –

Drug abuse and addiction is an issue that local communities should address — and pay for — themselves, Republican U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul said this week.

Paul’s Libertarian-leaning position on drug interdiction was quickly rejected as unrealistic by some officials on the front line of the fight against drugs in Eastern Kentucky.

The drug problem in the region is severe, and cities and counties that are already hard-pressed to pay for other services could not afford additional costs to fight drugs and treat addicts, officials said.

“It is a problem that is so big that we don’t have the resources to deal with it locally,” said Magoffin County Judge-Executive Charles Hardin.

The issue came up in a question about Operation UNITE, which stands for Unlawful Narcotics Investigation, Treatment and Education. The federally-funded task force does drug investigations and pays for treatment for addicts and education programs in 29 Eastern and Southern Kentucky counties.

After Paul spoke in Louisville Thursday at a meeting of local officials about the pressing need to cut federal spending, Hardin asked Paul if he supported UNITE.

Paul did not answer the question directly, but did say that “I think issues like drug use and abuse are best dealt with at the local level.”

If elected, Paul said he would vote to keep Kentuckians’ tax dollars at home to deal with issues instead of sending the money to Washington, D.C.

When tax money flows to the nation’s capitol, half stays there, half is wasted and half of it goes to political cronyism, Paul said.

“And so I think I would rather see drug abuse and dependency treated and paid for at the local level,” he said.

On Friday, Paul’s campaign manager, Jesse Benton, said that as a physician and father, Paul is deeply concerned about drug abuse.

“As he does with many issues, he favors local solutions over federal control and would prefer to cut taxes and federal spending so we can have more money in Kentucky to fund important programs like Project UNITE without first sending that money through the leaky bucket of the Washington bureaucracy,” Benton said.

Kentucky gets back between $1.51 and $1.82 in federal spending, depending on which study is consulted, for every dollar it sends to Washington in federal taxes. Other states — mostly in the Northeast and Midwest — subsidize Kentucky by paying more in taxes than they get in return.

After Paul’s appearance in Louisville, Hardin said it’s not clear that the Bowling Green eye surgeon understands the region’s drug problem.

There are some issues so big that the federal government has to be involved, Hardin said.

Karen Engle, director of Operation UNITE, said Paul’s position is unrealistic.

“Where’s the Knott County Fiscal Court going to get money to send people to treatment?” said Engle. “It’s an expensive problem.”

The magnitude of the drug problem in Eastern Kentucky dwarfs the capabilities of many small city police departments and county sheriff’s offices, Engle said.

Local officials reported there were 114 overdose deaths in 21 counties in January and February of this year, an indication of how widespread drug abuse is, Engle said.

“The problem is overwhelming, and the locals are not equipped to deal with it,” she said.

Clay County Sheriff Kevin Johnson, who has seven officers to patrol 500 square miles, said it would be impossible to carry out some drug investigations without federal help.

Last year, for example, his officers took part in a drug investigation that required $12,000 for undercover pill purchases — money his department didn’t have.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration provided the money, Johnson said.

“There’s certain things I cannot financially do,” he said. “Should the federal government step in and help? In my opinion, yes.”

Paul’s Democratic opponent, Attorney General Jack Conway, issued a news release Friday saying that Paul’s answer Thursday about UNITE shows he is out of touch with the needs of Kentuckians.

UNITE is just one of the programs that would suffer from Paul’s ideas, the Conway campaign said.

“We simply cannot afford his outside-the-mainstream ideas, like doing away with federal money for vital projects and programs like Operation UNITE,” Allison Haley, Conway’s spokeswoman, said in the release.

Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers started the task force in 2003 to deal with the debilitating drug problem in his district, one of the poorest in the nation.

Since then, UNITE officers have arrested more than 3,200 people, and the program has paid for drug treatment for more than 1,800 people, Engle said.

More than 52,000 young people have taken part in UNITE programs, which also provide money for drug counselors in 12 schools.

In a statement issued by his spokeswoman Friday, Rogers said he formed UNITE because an epidemic of drug abuse was overwhelming communities.

“Both the local and state authorities lacked the resources and manpower necessary to address this problem and communities were literally crying out for help,” Rogers said. “I went to work to find solutions, and the federal government is a vital component to ensuring Operation UNITE’s success.”

The program has involved thousands of volunteers in helping tackle the drug epidemic, Rogers said.

The People Encouraging People Coalition in Lee County has used funding from UNITE for youth programs such as fishing and archery, aimed at giving them an alternative to drug abuse.

Federal funding from UNITE and other agencies has helped make in-roads against drugs, said Chuck Caudill, program director at the coalition.

“I absolutely believe it makes a difference,” he said of UNITE.

Last year, UNITE got $6.7 million from two federal agencies and $2 million from a severance tax on coal mined in Eastern Kentucky, Engle said.

Rogers earmarked the federal money for the program.

Paul has said he believes Congressional earmarks should be banned and has pledged to not use them if elected.

However, Paul could still seek money for Kentucky programs and projects through the regular budget process instead of special earmarks, he said.

Filed Under: ElectionsJack ConwayRand PaulUS Senate Race

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  1. Republiclowns says:

    Last year Runt wanted to legalize most drugs…it is flip flop season…

  2. rustyboater says:

    Since most of our drug problems are tied to pharmaceuticals, we should be throwing an excise tax on pharmaceutical companies to help pay for treatment.

    And marijuana should be legalized and taxed. Legal marijuana would reduce the demand for pharmaceuticals and the tax could then be used for drug treatment issues.

  3. GarySisco says:

    Well, for once, I can agree with him, because, if nothing else, it would put an end to the ridiculous war on drugs, which has itself become a form of drug money. Police departments and the enormous prison industry have huge vested interests in the drug war and hence also in the drugs.

    I favor ending ending prohibition, though, as the only sensible response. It would take the crime and most of the money out of it.

    Drug prohibition has worked even less well than alcohol Prohibition did.

    Where there is demand, there will be supply, and no law or government will ever change that.

  4. Don says:

    OK this guy has flipped. He has no clue what is going on in his community. Yea we need this clown in DC. I hate Conway as well but he is clearly the lesser of the two evils. Choices-choices#:(

  5. RICHARD V HALL says:


  6. hugoo says:

    Read what he said, not the hl headlines. If we don’t take care of these problems ourselves, then they won’t be taken care of. It is our children that are the problem. Admit it and take care of it. Locals could handle it if they were willing to try and not mind arresting the Sheriff’s kid. Unite’s pr firm is second to none.

  7. Ted says:

    A lot of people here make a lot of sense, but Rand Paul you are just like your dad. You can’t open your mouth without one of your feet trying to jump in. Go Home to daddy.

  8. GarySisco says:

    The hell with the taxes. They have more than enough taxes already and waste the huge bulk of them, as it is.

    Why not just legalize the weed and leave people who aren’t bothering anyone else alone for a change. Leave the government out of it altogether, the price would radically drop because people could grow their own, and there’d be nothing criminal involved. It practically grows itself.

    As for the other drugs, the crime and the money can be taken out of them overnight, if legalized. They’re only expensive because illegal.

  9. Mike says:

    and Paul doesn’t believe in anything but sticking it to the working man and putting poor whites and minorities back in their “place”

    Read more:

  10. Prof. Gilligan says:

    Have you ever wondered why there are no “sanctuary cities” for drugs??

    Yeah. Me neither.

  11. Buck Feshear says:

    I love how everyone’s talking about legalizing pot, when the big problem in eastern Kentucky now is prescription drug abuse.

    And as far as the Senate race goes: The choices that we are presented with at the ballot box make me want to go hang out with Melvin Turpin. Neither are worthy of the title “senator.”

  12. Randy says:

    I could not help but laugh when reading Mr. Paul’s comments. Besides demonstrating what the problem with him would be, I believe he may have hit on the problem with a lot of politicians in Washington, especially those who supported war spending and tax cuts that turned the Clinton surplus into the Bush deficit. The problem is they and Mr. Paul do not understand math. Why do I say that? Here are Mr. Paul’s own words:

    When tax money flows to the nation’s capitol, half stays there, half is wasted and half of it goes to political cronyism.

    I do not know know about anyone else, but I understood early on that spending 150 percent of 100 percent leaves you in a hole. Apparently, Mr. Paul missed that lesson.

  13. Big Ben 4 liberty says:

    Thanks Randy for demonstrating your knowledge of Democrat propaganda and your complete lack of understanding of basic economics.

    While both Democrat and Republican politicians spent like drunken sailors under Bush just as they are doing even more so under Obama,the Bush tax cuts (just like the Kennedey and Reagan tax cuts) grew the economy and thus provided more taxable income. The so-called Clinton surplus was the result of economic growth that occurred in the 90s in spite of the ill-advised Clinton tax increases (that we are about to face aga in only this time in much worse economic conditions) as well as Clinton raiding the so-called Social Security lockbox. The FICA taxes at the time were providing a surplus over the payouts to recipients, so he took those funds and applied them to the general fund to create a phony “surplus”.

  14. The General says:

    Big Ben, you have no idea what you are talking about. Reagan raised taxes three times. The housing bubble led to the job growth under Bush. Btw, did you know government spending ended the Great Depression. What do you call all that spending during WWII?

  15. undecided says:

    What a great idea this is. If you want to be as backwards community and prosecute people with health problems then YOU foot the bill. Stop making city people pay for country backwards thinking!

  16. randpaul2010(Dott)com says:

    Hey duffus, pay attention to this lesson: We ARE in the hole! 150% is a generously low estimate of the wasteful spending that occurs. At this point, if u are arguing to keep sending money to Washington, you are either delusional or profitting from it yourself.
    Surplus? You want to see real changes and a real surplus, put Ron in the oval office.
    End the drug war, period

  17. Hisbrain'sondrugs says:

    Does Rand Paul truly understand what he says?
    Following this logic, illegal immigration is a local issue, too.
    Ah, that’s right, he did tell me a year ago, “I didn’t know we had a problem with illegal immigration.”
    Could be he really doesn’t know we have a drug problem in KY either!

  18. Rebecca says:

    I agree 100% with you. In Amsterdam, where drug enforcemnet laws are not pushed, there is less addiction per capita than the United States. How interesting!!!!!

  19. Rebecca says:

    My agreeing 100% is with Gary Sisco’s Comments. I just want to make that clear.

  20. Hisbrain'sondrugs says:

    Regardless of who you were agreeing with, you are wrong. Addiction & crime skyrocketted in Holland after legalization.
    Were you high when you wrote your misdirected comments?

  21. FormerDemocrat says:

    I don’t support the federal War on Drugs and it was one of the reasons I remained a democrat for so long. The Republicans started this useless, wasteful War on Drugs. It hasn’t worked and it isn’t going to work.

    If you can’t stop yourself from making bad choices, how in the hell do we expect “the State” to do it? With or without federal money!

    Jack Conway is out-of-touch with Kentucky voters. We aren’t worried about a few meth-heads, we are worried about being taxed to death to pay for all this reckless spending!

  22. Rand is Crazy says:

    People who live in east ky know the value of Unite in helping with treatment, doing law enforcement and in working with local communities to build anti-drug coalitions. Its hard to think of another more pro-local organization. Rand Paul is simply ignorant of the facts.

  23. pat says:

    Number one this article has nothing to do with marijuana. Rand Paul has never said that he is for ending the War on Drugs nor marijuana legalization. Just because daddy said it doesn’t mean Rand said it. Sometimes people forget who they are voting for here in KY. BTW how much has Ron accomplished with his decades in Washington, still wars even on drugs. Most of the time he’s just the single no vote on most legislation. Now that’s something to be proud of Dr. NO.

    I want a senator that has real solutions, not just bumper sticker slogans or just another no vote. The anarchists love the no votes because they want to dismantle and defund the government into some figurehead like the Queen. It is also amusing how Rand wants to keep KY’s money in KY when not only do we keep KY money we take other states money too. We get up to 1.80 back for every dollar we send to DC. Ironically most red states are welfare states. And those Bush tax cuts resulted in nothing more than a straw house, an exploding housing bubble, and no real job gains. It was the first time in decades that median income actually declined and poverty increased 20%.

  24. pat says:

    We aren’t worried about a few meth-heads, we are worried about being taxed to death to pay for all this reckless spending!

    So most important to you is that you get to keep your money. You won’t mind when the meth head steals your stuff, you’ll have more money to buy more stuff. That definitely keeps the capitalism racket going. But I don’t how that’s going to help if one of those meth heads shoot you in the back. How about when they dump their on-the-go meth labs in our water system? But you got yours so that’s all the matters. How funny that the “deficits don’t matter crowd” is all of sudden the “deficits are the only thing that matters” crowd.

  25. Rand'safool says:

    Rand Paul is Ron Paul and vice versa. Rand has said as much PLUS a considerable number of his supporters ARE libertarian anarchists. He’s just plaing to his base.
    He’s no Republican folks.

  26. kybball says:

    BF – why do you need to drag the good name of Mr. Turpin into this. May he rest in peace.

    He’ll see his friends where he’s gone, and I’m sure you’ll see yours (and some of your fellow posters here), where you are going.

    Its just not the same place.

  27. Michelle says:

    I love Paul, but his math is bad. Kentuckians get back more from DC than we send there.

    I agree with making drug abuse a local issue, if and only if we are allowed to make drug laws a local issue. Smaller federal govt.

  28. BarryNBG says:

    Cool, UNITE is set up to help with prescription drugs yet, many arrests are for weed.

    Also, for the moron who can’t read…. Holland has lowered their addiction rate since legalization.

    For those who who need help, take Judge Gray’s advice “The government has as much a right to control what I put in my body as I put in my mind, it’s non of their business”:

  29. Buck Feshear says:

    kybball, why do you think Turpin is going to hell to spend eternity?

  30. kybball says:

    bf – man you are a miserable excuse for a human being.