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Campaign Watchdog: Claim that Conway supports cap-and-trade plan ‘false’

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By Bill Estep- bestep@herald-leader.com

The statement: “Liberal Jack Conway supports Obama’s cap-and-trade plan which will cost Kentuckians jobs.”

Republican Party of Kentucky, in a mailing against Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Jack Conway

The ruling: False

The facts: Conway does not support a cap-and-trade bill pushed by the administration of President Barack Obama.

Cap and trade refers to a system aimed at reducing emissions blamed for global warming. It would put a cap on emissions coupled with a system to let producers trade credits to meet the limit.

The measure stalled in the U.S. Senate after the House approved the bill last year. Many analysts don’t believe Congress will consider a similar bill going forward.

Conway has said any cap-and-trade measure should include provisions to protect Kentucky’s electric rates and coal industry and keep other nations such as China from gaining a competitive advantage, among other things. The law the House passed did not meet that test, Conway said.

The mailing cites a July 2009 story in The Paducah Sun that said Conway did support the cap and trade bill, though he said it needed changes. Conway’s campaign said the story was wrong.

Voters can judge for themselves if Conway has flip-flopped on the issue, but it’s clear that Conway now opposes the cap-and-trade bill pushed by Obama.

Campaign Watchdog: Claim that Jack Conway allowed utility rate increase ‘false’

By Bill Estep – bestep@herald-leader.com

The statement: “(Jack) Conway made hundreds of thousands in dividends from a company linked to a utility Conway allowed to raise rates.”

— Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, in a television ad against Attorney General Jack Conway, the Democratic U.S. Senate nominee.

The ruling: False.

The facts: This is a case of adding two and two to come up with five in suggesting Conway had a conflict of interest. It doesn’t add up.

The issue concerns a rate increase for Atmos Energy Corp., which distributes natural gas to about 172,000 customers in Kentucky.

Atmos moves natural gas through a pipeline in Colorado owned by Kinder Morgan Energy. Conway owns stock in Kinder Morgan and reported getting $263,000 in dividends in 2009 and 2010.

In its Kentucky rate request, Atmos asked for $9.5 million. Conway’s office, which has authority to intervene in utility rate cases to seek lower rates for consumers, negotiated a settlement of $5.95 million.

Aside from the weak link between Atmos and Kinder Morgan Energy, the key problem with the ad is that Conway’s office does not approve utility rate decisions. That authority lies solely with the state Public Service Commission, which approved the settlement for Atmos in May, but could have rejected it.

Andrew Melnykovych, spokesman for the PSC, said this about the claim that Conway allowed Atmos to raise rates: “That statement is just flat wrong.”

Crossroads GPS is an advocacy group affiliated with longtime Republican insiders, including Karl Rove. It has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to defeat Conway in his race against Republican Rand Paul.

Campaign Watchdog: Jim Newberry’s ad attacking Jim Gray ‘mostly false’

By Andy Mead – amead@herald-leader.com

The statement: “(Jim) Gray’s attacking to hide the millions he made on government no-bid contracts and shady insider stock deals. Gray’s company even got caught employing illegal immigrants.”

— Mayor Jim Newberry, in a television ad criticizing Vice Mayor Jim Gray, his opponent in the Nov. 2 election

The ruling: Mostly false

The facts: This ad begins by talking about Gray’s negative ads. It shows people saying negative ads don’t work, then turns negative itself. But the charges don’t add up.

When Newberry’s campaign was asked to back up its claim that Gray made millions on “no-bid contracts,” it produced a 1998 Urban County Council resolution accepting the proposal of the James N. Gray Co. to oversee construction of a new Fayette County Detention Center for $1.25 million. There were no other bidders because the city was under pressure to quickly replace the overcrowded former jail.

The Newberry campaign also pointed to Fedspending.org, a Web site that tracks government contracts. That site showed only one “not competed” Gray contract, for $3,348.

Campaign Watchdog: Claim that Rand Paul supports $2,000 Medicare deductible ‘mostly true’

By Halimah Abdullah – habdullah@herald-leader.com

The statement: Voters have a choice “between someone who’s going to stand up and protect Medicare and someone who says in Medicare we need a $2,000 deductible.”

— Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jack Conway in an October 3, 2010, debate criticizing Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul

The ruling: Mostly true

The facts: On several occasions, including a speech in June of last year to the conservative Center-Right Coalition in Lexington, Paul asserted that Medicare would best be run under a “market-based system.”

“And the real answer to Medicare would be a $2,000 deductible, but try selling that one in an election,” Paul said at the time.

He took a similar, but more clearly defined, stance following the Oct. 3 debate on Fox News during an appearance on that station’s Your World with Neil Cavuto show. In that interview, Paul made clear that he was not advocating a change for people already on Medicare or Social Security.

“I’m not talking about changing the deductible on anyone who gets Medicare currently,” Paul said on the show. “But I am saying younger people — probably 55 and under.”

Campaign Watchdog: Jim Newberry’s claim about council member ‘false’

MORE: Read previous Campaign Watchdog stories

By Andy Mead – amead@herald-leader.com

The statement: “Last week (Jim) Gray’s former campaign manager and close friend Diane Lawless admitted to withholding documents from the fraud investigation in an attempt to embarrass Mayor Newberry and his administration.”

— Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry in a Tuesday e-mail to supporters.

The ruling: False

The facts: A six-month controversy sparked by allegations of fraud made by a city employee has taken many twists and turns, including the revelation by State Auditor Crit Luallen last week that an unnamed member of the Urban County Council had copies of the fraud allegations well before an investigative committee of the council spent considerable time and effort trying to acquire them.

Luallen’s report found that no fraud had occurred, but it sparked a pointed discussion at last week’s council work session in which Lawless admitted she was the council member who had copies of the fraud allegations. Lawless, however, did not admit to knowingly withholding the documents from the council committee and said nothing about a plot to embarrass Newberry.

Instead, Lawless said she did not realize she had copies of the documents and did not know they were among the documents she showed to Luallen.

Lawless did manage Vice Mayor Jim Gray’s 2006 campaign and supports his bid to unseat Newberry in November.

Ironically, the false statement in the Newberry e-mail is followed by a sentence touting a Herald-Leader Campaign Watchdog article that pointed out a false statement in a television ad by Gray.

Campaign Watchdog: Claim that Rand Paul pushes abolishing disabilities act ‘false’

The statement: “Do you want someone who understands what our disabled vets need, or do you want Rand Paul, who says he’d do away with the Americans with Disabilities Act?”

— Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Jack Conway, at an Oct. 11, 2010 debate in Northern Kentucky.

The ruling: False

The facts: Paul, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, has not said he would do away with the ADA, which creates rules for accommodating people with disabilities.

However, Paul has suggested that the law goes too far, incorrectly describing what it requires for many businesses.

This is what Paul said in a May interview on National Public Radio: “I think if you have a two-story office and you hire someone who’s handicapped, it might be reasonable to let him have an office on the first floor rather than the government saying you have to have a $100,000 elevator.”

However, elevators “are not required in facilities that are less than three stories or have fewer than 3,000 square feet per story, unless the building is a shopping center or mall; the professional office of a health care provider; a public transit station; or an airport passenger terminal,” according to the Web site of the U.S. Justice Department, which enforces the law.

The law only requires that public facilities, such as stores, banks, hotels and restaurants, “remove architectural barriers in existing facilities when it is ‘readily achievable,’ i.e., it can be done ‘without much difficulty or expense,’” according to the Justice Department.

Yahoo! News reported soon after Paul’s May statement that the Justice Department and legal experts could not cite any instance of a private employer being successfully sued to install an elevator.

Campaign Watchdog: Barr ad on stimulus ‘mostly false’

By John Cheves – jcheves@herald-leader.com

The statement: “Chandler voted for the trillion dollar stimulus package that failed to create jobs in Kentucky. Reports now reveal that Chandler’s vote allowed tax breaks for foreign companies to create jobs in China. Jobs for China – and we pay the bill.”

–- Television commercial for Andy Barr, Republican candidate for Congress, attacking his opponent, U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles

The facts: Barr loses on his first claim because the stimulus package – also known as the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – created jobs in Kentucky.

Exactly how many jobs is a matter of fair debate. The federal government estimates 13,145 jobs in Kentucky as of the second quarter of this year, based on reports from recipients of stimulus money, including the state government, local school districts and private employers.

Campaign Watchdog: Claim on Barr’s police record ‘true’

MORE: Read previous Campaign Watchdog reports

By John Cheves – jcheves@herald-leader.com

The statement: “Barr lied twice on state job applications, failing to disclose an arrest and guilty plea for false identification.”

— U.S. Rep. Ben Chander, D-Versailles, attacking his Republican challenger, Andy Barr, in a commercial now running on Lexington television stations.

The ruling: True.

The facts: In 1993, as a 19-year-old college student vacationing in Key West, Fla., Barr was charged by police with possession of a fake Mississippi driver’s license. He pleaded guilty and was ordered to provide eight hours of community service, according to court records.

A decade later, when Barr applied for state jobs under Gov. Ernie Fletcher, he checked “No” on the sections asking if he had “ever been convicted of violating any law” other than “minor traffic violations.”

Barr said earlier this year that he believed his Florida conviction was “minor” and therefore did not merit disclosure on the applications.

Campaign Watchdog: Open records claim about Barr ‘mostly false’

MORE: Read previous Campaign Watchdog reports

By John Cheves – jcheves@herald-leader.com

The statement: “Prosecutors said when Barr was counsel to Fletcher, critical documents mysteriously disappeared. And the attorney general officially cited Barr, calling his actions a subversion of the state’s open records law.”

— U.S. Rep. Ben Chander, D-Versailles, attacking his Republican challenger, Andy Barr, in a commercial now running on Lexington television stations.

The ruling: Mostly false.

The facts: The “prosecutors” cited in the first sentence actually is just one man, Pierce Whites, an aide to Democratic state House Speaker Greg Stumbo. Whites also worked for Stumbo five years ago when Stumbo was the attorney general investigating Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher.

In July, Whites — a Democratic appointee who gives money to Democratic causes — told a newspaper that “critical documents mysteriously disappeared” in Frankfort while Fletcher was governor and Barr was one of his staff lawyers. This is the interview from which Chandler’s ad quotes.

The only example provided to support Whites’ statement is a 2007 opinion from the attorney general’s office, which Stumbo and Whites led, chiding the Fletcher administration for “its apparent failure to implement a program for ensuring preservation of records.” The second part of Chandler’s claim refers to this attorney general’s opinion.

Campaign Watchdog: Tax claims about Ben Chandler ‘mostly false’

MORE: Read previous Campaign Watchdog reports

By John Cheves – jcheves@herald-leader.com

The statement: “Chandler took a pledge to vote against tax increases, but then broke it by voting over and over again to raise your taxes.”

– Americans for Tax Reform, criticizing U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles, in a commercial running this week on Lexington television stations

The ruling: Mostly false

The facts: Americans for Tax Reform, a Washington non-profit led by former corporate lobbyist and Republican Party activist Grover Norquist, has booked more than $170,000 worth of air time to attack Chandler, who stands for re-election Nov. 2 against Republican lawyer Andy Barr of Lexington.

In its current ad, the group tells Central Kentuckians that Chandler voted “over and over again to raise your taxes.” It cites five House votes from 2007 and 2008 as evidence.

Voting to raise taxes — as those bills did — violated Chandler’s pledge with the group to not raise taxes on any individuals or businesses. Chandler signed the pledge on Dec. 18, 2003, during his first run for Congress.

But the votes did not “over and over again” raise the taxes of Central Kentuckians, as the ad alleges, unless they were an oil or natural gas company, the U.S. subsidiary of a foreign parent company or made more than $500,000 a year.