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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.

Lexington attorney Luke Morgan considering GOP bid for attorney general

By Jack Brammer jbrammer@herald-leader.com FRANKFORT – Luke Morgan, a Lexington attorney with experience in trial court and state administrative hearings, is considering a possible run as a Republican for state attorney general in 2015. Morgan, 51, said Tuesday he has not yet made a decision on whether to run to be the state’s chief law-enforcement […]

Judge denies Grimes’ request to stop GOP mailers

McConnellGrimesBy Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — A judge denied a request Monday from Alison Lundergan Grimes’ U.S. Senate campaign to stop mailers from the Republican Party of Kentucky that Grimes said intimidated voters.

Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd turned down the Grimes campaign’s request for a temporary injunction against the mailers, which were distributed last week on behalf of the re-election campaign of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Kelsey Cooper, a spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Kentucky, said Grimes’ “sloppy lawsuit may go down in history as one of the worst publicity stunts of all time.”

Grimes campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton said the campaign “is exploring options.”

“It’s reprehensible that Mitch McConnell is celebrating lying, intimidating, and bullying Kentucky voters from exercising their right to vote,” Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst said in a statement. “There’s no low too low for Mitch McConnell in his personal quest for power.”

Grimes and McConnell face each other in Tuesday’s biggest election in the state.

In a lawsuit filed Friday, the Grimes campaign said the mailer is false and misleading in that it implies to voters that they have violated Kentucky election laws.

The mailer is emblazoned with “Election Violation Notice” and states that “you are at risk of acting on fraudulent information that has been targeted for citizens living in” the recipient’s county.

A one-page letter inside lists what it calls “blatant lies” told by Grimes, saying “Grimes should be ashamed of herself.”

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?”

Memorial service set for Larry Van Hoose, aide to GOP leaders

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

A memorial service in Lexington has been scheduled for Larry Van Hoose, a gubernatorial press secretary, aide to congressmen and director of the state Republican Party who died last month in Cape Coral, Fla. He was 76.

The service will be Nov. 1 at Kerr Brothers Funeral Home at 3421 Harrodsburg Road.

Visitation will begin at 9:30 a.m. and a memorial program will start at 10:30 a.m.

Van Hoose, after working as a stringer for Sports Illustrated, was press secretary and aide for Republican Louie B. Nunn, who was governor from 1967 to 1971.

After working in the Nunn administration, Van Hoose was executive director of the Kentucky Republican Party before becoming chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Larry Hopkins of Lexington. He later worked for other Republican congressmen, including Ed Whitfield of Kentucky, Martin Hoke of Ohio and J.D. Hayworth of Arizona.

Van Hoose was preceded in death by his wife Martelle. He is survived by two sons, Todd and Howard, and two grandchildren.

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.

McConnell tries to put Mill Springs Battlefield in national park system

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced legislation Tuesday to support making Mill Springs Battlefield in Southern Kentucky part of the National Park System.

McConnell’s legislation directs the U.S. Secretary of Interior to evaluate including the Civil War battlefield as a national park. Such a feasibility study makes a final national park designation easier to achieve.

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, successfully introduced and backed identical legislation earlier this year in the U.S. House.

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.

Poll shows McConnell opening up clear lead over Grimes in Kentucky

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

A new poll released Sunday morning shows U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell opening up a clear lead over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race.

An NBC News/Marist poll shows McConnell’s strongest positioning yet. His 8-point lead among likely voters, 47 percent to 39 percent, is outside the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points. Libertarian candidate David Patterson pulled 8 percent.

Chuck Todd, moderating his first episode of “Meet the Press” on Sunday, noted the success Grimes has had fundraising when he announced
the new numbers.

“In red-state Kentucky, Alison Grimes, a Democrat, tons of money, she’s behind eight,” Todd said. “Not looking very good for her.”

McConnell’s advantage is up significantly from the deadlocked race the same poll found in May when McConnell and Grimes were essentially tied with McConnell nominally leading 46 percent to 45 percent among registered voters.

The most recent poll was conducted between Sept. 2-4, indicating that recent stumbles like the resignation of his campaign manager and the
release of a secret recording of McConnell speaking to a Koch brothers retreat have not yet had a detrimental effect on the senator’s re-election efforts.

There also is evidence to suggest that Grimes’ national party identification, combined with a relentless effort by McConnell and his
allies to tie Grimes to President Barack Obama, has taken its toll on the Democratic challenger.

The poll found that Obama’s approval rating in Kentucky is a woeful 31 percent.

Meanwhile, an online poll released by CBS News/New York Times/YouGov shows McConnell leading Grimes 47 percent to 42 percent.

Two other polls released in the last week also show McConnell with a small lead. A Bluegrass Poll showed McConnell leading Grimes, who is Kentucky’s secretary of state, 46 percent to 42 percent.

A CNN/ORC poll showed McConnell leading Grimes 50 percent to 46 percent.

The RealClearPolitics average of polls now shows McConnell with a +5.2 percentage point advantage.