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James Comer’s first TV ad for governor to begin airing Wednesday

Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer

By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer will begin running his first ad in the Republican primary for governor on Wednesday, touting his record as commissioner and proclaiming himself “a blue-collar guy.”

The ad, shared first with the Herald-Leader, features video clips from Comer’s entrance into the race last September at an event in his hometown of Tompkinsville.

“I represent the farmers, the teachers, the factor workers, all the hard-working middle-class Kentuckians,” Comer says in the introductory ad.

He pledges to run state government efficiently, making reference to his decision to shut down the state-run fuel testing lab established by his predecessor, Richie Farmer.

“After conducting an efficiency audit, Comer found that a previously established fuel lab project was costing Kentucky taxpayers $900,000 per year,” Comer’s campaign said in a news release. “He immediately privatized the project, sold the testing equipment and returned $1.65 million back to Kentucky taxpayers.”

The newspaper headline “Comer returns $1.65 million to state” appears on the screen as Comer says people want leaders who will “actually achieve.”

“You can operate government more efficiently,” Comer says. “We’ve proven that at the department of agriculture.”

Comer’s first ad comes about a year after Republican Hal Heiner, a former Louisville councilman, aired his first introductory ad. Heiner returned to the airwaves several weeks ago with ads that tout him as a “Frankfort outsider” and blast career politicians, who Heiner says “don’t have a clue” about how to create jobs.

Two other GOP contenders, Louisville businessman Matt Bevin and former state Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott, have not yet begun airing ads ahead of the May 19th primary election.

Bevin says he would’ve beaten Grimes ‘more handily’ than McConnell

Matt BevinBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Former U.S. Senate candidate and gubernatorial hopeful Matt Bevin appeared on a conservative radio show Wednesday where he continued to needle U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and questioned U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s sincerity in endorsing McConnell.

Bevin, appearing on the Wednesday edition of Wilkow Majority, was asked by host Andrew Wilkow if he watched Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes campaign against McConnell, after the senator defeated Bevin in the primary, and wondered if he could’ve beat her.

“I kid you not — I’d have beaten her more handily,” Bevin said.

Throughout the interview, Bevin levied shots at a number of the state’s political figures, hitting Grimes (“She’s no Hillary Clinton.”), Attorney General Jack Conway (“The embodiment of everything that is wrong with the plastic career politicians in this country.”) and McConnell’s “buzz saw” campaign.

“I’ve been through the buzz saw indeed,” Bevin said. “And I’ll tell you something, I don’t begrudge any of that that went down. That is the nature sadly of what politics has become.”

Wilkow, who joined the group Freedom Works at a Bevin for Senate rally last spring, joked with Bevin about Grimes’ refusal to say whether she voted for President Barack Obama.

“They had clearly not pre-selected the sound-byte that she was to be provided, and it’s a shame,” Bevin said. “Unfortunately, as a result of that, Kentucky didn’t really have it’s best foot out forward perhaps on that side from the Democrats.”

Bevin also appeared to quibble with McConnell’s stewardship of the U.S. Senate since he became majority leader last month.

“The solutions to what is gonna fix America are not coming from the top down,” Bevin said. “You look already, we have majorities now in congress and in the Senate, and look we’re making some of the same excuses we made when we didn’t.”

Josh Holmes, the senior adviser to McConnell’s re-election campaign, said in an email Thursday afternoon that “at some point you have to start asking whether Matt Bevin should be medicated.”

“The guy has no grasp on reality whatsoever and his delusions of grandeur are simply breathtaking,” Holmes said.

Wilkow described Paul, who endorsed McConnell in his re-election effort, as someone who endorsed the establishment candidate but was torn in doing so, asking Bevin if it was “painful” that Paul did not endorse him.

Bevin said Paul reminded him of “the Violent Femmes song ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?'” Wilkow corrected Bevin, noting that it was The Clash who sang that song.

“I know Rand well,” Bevin said, calling Paul’s endorsement of McConnell a “conscientious decision.”

“I’ve known him from the beginning,” Bevin said. “I was one of the people who supported him early on and maxed out when others didn’t.”

When asked if he thought either McConnell or Paul might endorse him in his race to be governor, Bevin said he had every indication both would stay neutral, calling that the “proper thing to do.”

While he largely spared his current Republican opponents, Bevin repeated that his life experience and “knowledge of issues” separates him from the three Republicans running against him.

“I would love to just have a debate at any moment in time with any of the candidates in this race,” Bevin said.

The candidate closed out the show by noting that while much of the audience doesn’t live in Kentucky, they should check out his website and contribute to his campaign.

Controversial McConnell mailer wins campaign awards

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

A direct mail piece that Mitch McConnell’s campaign sent to Eastern Kentuckians in the closing days of last year’s U.S. Senate race, prompting a lawsuit from Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes, won several campaign awards last week.

When Campaigns and Elections magazine handed out its annual Reed Awards in Las Vegas Friday night, McConnell’s “Fraud Alert” mailer, which Democrats decried as an attempt at voter suppression, won five awards, including “best direct mail piece for 2014.”

The outside of the mailer described it as an “Election Violation Notice,” and on the inside listed areas where the McConnell campaign said Grimes was trying to mislead voters.

Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst called the mailer “despicable,” and Grimes sought an injunction against distributing the mailer in Franklin County Circuit Court. A judge denied the request.

The mail piece, produced by the Lukens Company, also won for “best direct mail piece for Republican statewide candidate,” “best mail piece for a bare-knuckled street fight
victory,” “toughest direct mail piece” and “most daring and successful tactic.”

McConnell’s campaign also won for best website and “best use of social media targeting,” with credit going to GOP tech guru Vince Harris’s firm. Harris has since signed on with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.

McConnell beat Grimes by more than 15 percentage points.

Ashley Judd tells Washington paper she might run for office ‘some day’

[caption id="attachment_22443" align="alignright" width="168"]Ashley Judd Ashley Judd[/caption]Actress and Kentucky native Ashely Judd said this week that she was “shocked and disappointed” that Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes lost to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, adding that she might run for office “some day.”

According to The Hill newspaper in Washington, Judd said she doesn’t know if she will run for office in the future after publicly debating in 2013 a run against McConnell.

“That particular moment in time was unique,” Judd said, according to The Hill. “I was prepared to run, I was very excited.”

The paper quoted Judd as saying that she “had bizarre thoughts in the morning like ‘It’s a great day to raise $20 million’ — not that I think that’s a good thing in American politics, because we need massive campaign finance reform! But it was all systems go.”

“It was a real leap of faith on my part because I am not ego-free,” Judd said. “I had my own self-centered fear: people might think that I was dabbling or that I was flaky.”

Judd said she “couldn’t stop crying” as she considered a run against McConnell and talked to consultants, saying: “I was like, ‘What are you hearing me say?’ And they were very ego-less because they had a vested interest in my going forward. They said, ‘I’m hearing you say at this moment in your life, it’s too much, too soon.”

Grimes lost to McConnell by more than 15 percentage points, losing 110 of 120 counties as McConnell was swept into a sixth term in office and the role of majority leader of a new Republican-led Senate.

“Unfortunately, the commonwealth, in my opinion, didn’t make a change that’s going to help Congress emerge from gridlock, get things done, and enter into an era of transformation in American politics,” Judd said.

The Hill asked Judd if she had regrets about not running, to which Judd responded: “Of course I do.”

“I do believe I’m right where God wants me to be at this time,” the actress said.

Conway gets endorsement from key group in Western Kentucky

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway

By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Attorney General Jack Conway announced another coveted endorsement Thursday in his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, winning the support of the Kentucky Pipe Trades Association.

Though only one other Democrat, retired engineer and perennial candidate Geoff Young, has joined the race, Conway has worked hard in recent months to lock up critical endorsements of Democratic officials and organizations.

Thursday’s announcement was the latest show of support, and while the association might not be a household name, it is a key endorsement for Democrats running statewide who hope to do well in Western Kentucky.

“Sannie Overly and I are honored to have the support of the Kentucky Pipe Trades Association,” Conway said, referring to his running mate. “We will continue to stand up for working families across our commonwealth to move Kentucky forward.”

Six local unions that make up the association all joined in the endorsement.

“We are proud to support the Conway-Overly ticket,” Kyle Henderson, business manager for the Local 184 said in a statement. “Jack and Sannie have an excellent record of fighting for working families and
we know they are the clear choice for governor and lieutenant governor.”

Former U.S. Sen. Wendell Ford, Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen and U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth have all endorsed Conway.

Washington Post says Mitch McConnell had the best year in Washington

mitch-mcconnellBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

As far as politics are concerned, incoming U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arguably had the best year of any Kentuckian.

According to The Washington Post, McConnell also had the best year of anybody in Washington.

The Post’s Chris Cilizza handed out his yearly awards over the weekend, and he gave McConnell the nod for best year “for getting the job of his dreams.”

McConnell’s landslide win over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes and his ascension to U.S. Senate Majority Leader after Republicans around the country joined him in victory on Election Night earned the senator the trophy.

“McConnell — like Harry Reid, whom he will replace in the Senate’s top job — is not a flashy politician who surged through the ranks in record time,” Cilizza wrote. “He is a plotter and a strategist of the highest order, a man who always has a plan and executes it relentlessly.”

Cilizza noted that while McConnell failed in making President Barack Obama a one-term president, “McConnell has the chance not only to lead and (try to) unite his party, but also to redefine for the broader public what it means to be a Republican.”

Not coincidentally, Cilizza named Obama winner of the worst year in Washington.

Washington Post fact-checker says ‘Grimes should be ashamed of herself’

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes is running what is “likely the worst ad of a nasty campaign year,” according to Glenn Kessler, The Washington Post’s fact-checker.

After dissecting a new ad from Grimes, in which she looks at the camera and blames U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for the shuttering of half of the Big Sandy power plant in Louisa, Kessler wrote that Grimes “should be ashamed of herself.”

“They are shutting down half the plant and laying off their workers because Mitch McConnell didn’t fight to get the scrubbers it needs to reduce coal emissions,” Grimes says in the ad. “Instead, Mitch and his wife pocketed $600,000 from enemies of coal, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.”

Kessler said the ad is “especially noteworthy” because Grimes repeats a claim that The Washington Post has already given Four Pinocchios, the equivalent of a false rating.

That is a reference to Grimes’ claim that McConnell’s wife, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, was paid $600,000 from enemies of coal.

“Citing a $600,000 number from ‘enemies of coal’ is especially silly, as it mostly involves money from a bank that continues to finance coal companies,” Kessler wrote.

He then goes on to give another Four Pinocchios rating to Grimes latest ad, calling Grimes’ claim that McConnell is to blame for the power plant’s woes “nonsense.”

“First, it’s unclear why a senator would be seeking to provide scrubbers to an investor-owned company,” Kessler wrote. “Second, going the scrubber route would have jacked up utility rates for what is already one of the poorest parts of the state.”

The McConnell campaign, which has also run afoul of the Post’s fact-checking unit, was quick to seize on the ad, said that Grimes’ decision to look into the camera and make debunked claims “raises serious character questions.”

Kessler concludes his fact-check with this: “We realize that the game of politics is sometimes played rough in Kentucky, but this ad is beyond the pale. Indeed, it is likely the worst ad of a nasty campaign year. Grimes should be ashamed of herself.”

Kessler has fact-checked two other ads in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race this month.

One is the previously-mentioned Four Pinocchio ruling on Grimes’ claim that “Mitch McConnell doesn’t want you to know is that he and his wife personally took $600,000 from anti-coal groups, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s anti-coal foundation.”

In the other, Kessler gives Three Pinocchios, the equivalent of a mostly-false rating, to McConnell’s claim that Kynect, Kentucky’s health insurance exchange, is just a website that could continue if the federal health law were repealed.

McConnell’s statements on the subject are “a bit slick and misleading,” Kessler wrote. “If he wants to rip out Obamacare ‘root and branch,’ then he has to explain what he would plant in the health-insurance garden instead. Otherwise his assurances on the future have little credibility.”

The question Alison Lundergan Grimes refuses to answer

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes has refused seven times in the past seven days to say whether or not she voted for President Barack Obama for president.

Grimes was asked three times by a Herald-Leader reporter after an event on Oct. 2 if she voted for Obama, ignoring the question and turning her back on the reporter asking it.

On Thursday, Grimes refused four times to tell The Courier-Journal’s editorial board if she voted for Obama.

“You know, this election, it isn’t about the president,” Grimes said when first asked if she voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.

After being asked the third time, Grimes responded: “I was actually a delegate for Hillary Clinton, and I think that Kentuckians know I’m a Clinton Democrat through and through. I respect the sanctity of the ballot box, and I know that the members of this editorial board do as well.”

At that point, a member of the newspaper’s editorial board said: “So you’re not going to answer?”

Fact-checkers find fault with several claims made in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race

McConnellGrimesFact-checkers at The Washington Post and PolitiFact, a project of the Tampa Bay Times, have been busy researching the claims made by Kentucky’s U.S. Senate candidates (Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes) and their surrogates during the first 17 days of September. Here’s what they found.

Immigration:

A television ad aired by the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, which the Washington Post described as “an independent group with connections to Republican strategist Karl Rove,” earned three Pinocchios (the equivalent of mostly false) from Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler on Sept. 17. The ad claimed Grimes is a “proud supporter of Obama’s amnesty plan.” But Kessler says this:

Grimes certainly supports a bill that would prove a pathway to citizenship for undocumented aliens, as does Obama. Whether this is “amnesty” is in the eye of the beholder. But this was not a bill crafted by either Obama or Grimes, but a coalition of Republicans and Democrats–an unusual example of bipartisan cooperation in this period of intense partisanship.

Moreover, the bill that emerged from the Senate set tough rules for that pathway — including denying access to virtually all federal means-tested benefits. In doing so, the bill largely met criteria set by donors and supporters of the very organization that is now blasting Grimes on this issue. It is bizarre and hypocritical for this group to now falsely attack Grimes for supporting a middle ground approach that its supporters once championed.

Free trade:

A spot aired by Senate Majority PAC, which the Washing Post said is “affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.,” also earned three Pinocchios from Kessler on Sept. 9. The ad claims that “Mitch McConnell has been tragically wrong about foreign trade deals. They have cost Americans over half a million jobs. Kentucky is still losing jobs, and McConnell is still voting to give companies tax deductions for outsourcing. Mitch said it is not his job to create jobs. The least he could do is stop sending them away.” But Kessler says this:

The under-the-radar nature of this ad suggests that Senate Majority PAC hoped to slip this political stiletto past the media and the fact checkers — or that the organization is somehow embarrassed by its own message. But the fact remains that NAFTA was championed by both Democrats and Republicans, and objective studies have found its overall impact to be modest. Kentucky has both gained and lost jobs because of globalization — and there is no evidence McConnell is trying to “send them away.”

McConnell’s voting record:

An ad by the Grimes campaign that makes several claims about McConnell’s voting record and personal wealth also got three Pinocchios from the Post on Sept. 5. Here’s what Kessler concluded:

This ad, on balance, just narrowly avoids getting Four Pinocchios. While it is correct that McConnell has often voted against boosting the minimum wage, for philosophical reasons, most of the other claims is the ad are false, misleading or lacking important context.

Corporate tax breaks for outsourcing:

On Sept. 12, PolitFact gave a “mostly false” ruling to a claim in the same Grimes ad that McConnell voted “three times for corporate tax breaks that send Kentucky jobs overseas.” PolitiFact concluded:

The ad makes it seem like McConnell voted to approve corporate tax breaks that incentivize outsourcing. Actually, he voted “no” on legislation that would have eliminated the standard business expense deductions — which exist for all businesses — for costs associated with outsourcing. (Current law includes no provision that specifically addresses insourcing or outsourcing.) These bills had little chance of passing, and they were largely symbolic.

AFL-CIO brings ‘Koch Sisters’ to Lexington airwaves for minimum wage push

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

As U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell returns to Washington after the August recess, a union working overtime to deny
McConnell a sixth term is trying to bring some heat to him back home in Kentucky.

The AFL-CIO will unveil a new ad, part of its “Koch sisters” campaign, in the Lexington market beginning Monday just as McConnell and the rest of the Senate return for an abbreviated session in which Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is expected to introduce a measure that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Though a spate of recent polls suggest that McConnell has established a small but steady lead over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, they also show overwhelming support for raising the minimum wage, a central tenet of Grimes’ campaign.

McConnell’s troubles with the issue were exacerbated when a secret recording emerged recently of the senator telling a gathering of wealthy donors hosted by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch that if he becomes majority leader, the Senate won’t debate “gosh darn proposals” like raising the wage.

Portraying Republicans as beholden to wealthy special interests and donors, specifically the Koch brothers, has been a key part of Democratic efforts to retain the U.S. Senate this year.

The new ad is the second in a series called “Koch sisters,” the first of which was unveiled last weekend by the union. They feature Karen and Joyce, two women “who share the same last name, but not the same values as the Koch Brothers,” the group said when it first announced them.

“The Koch Sisters will bring the issues most Americans care about – from fair wages to protecting Social Security – to the forefront of the political debate,” an AFL-CIO release said.

In the latest ad, called “Almost Evil” and timed to coincide with Reid’s introduction of a minimum wage proposal, the two women blame Republican opposition to raising the minimum wage on the Koch brothers.

“I think it’s deplorable that the Koch brothers would want to take away minimum wage,” Joyce Koch says in the ad, provided to the Herald-Leader Sunday.

She adds in the end: “That’s a misuse of wealth and power and I really think it’s almost evil.”

To support its claim that the Koch brothers want to eliminate the minimum wage, the AFL-CIO cites a July 2013 article from The Whichita Eagle, in which Charles Koch said he wants to help the disadvantaged by eliminating a “culture of dependency.”

“We want to do a better job of raising up the disadvantaged and the poorest in this country, rather than saying ‘Oh, we’re just fine now.’ We’re not saying that at all,” Charles Koch said. “What we’re saying is, we need to analyze all these additional policies, these subsidies, this cronyism, this avalanche of regulations, all these things that are creating a culture of dependency. And like permitting, to start a business, in many cities, to drive a taxicab, to become a hairdresser. Anything that people with limited capital can do to raise themselves up, they keep throwing obstacles in their way. And so we’ve got to clear those out. Or the minimum wage. Or anything that reduces the mobility of labor.”

The most recent Bluegrass Poll found that registered voters in Kentucky favor raising the minimum wage by an 18-point margin, 55 percent to 37 percent.

Under fire from the Grimes campaign for his recorded remarks at the Koch brothers’ retreat, McConnell said last week that raising the wage would be a “job killer,” citing a Congressional Budget Office report that estimated raising the wage could cost as many as 500,000 jobs.

“This is the exact wrong thing to do when you are having such slow growth,” McConnell said, according to WHAS-TV in Louisville. “There are circumstances under which you have a better economy that raising the minimum wage might make sense.”

Grimes and other Democrats have argued that raising the minimum wage is necessary to make it a “living wage,” pointing to examples of people struggling to make ends meet despite working full-time at $7.25 an hour, the current minimum wage.