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McConnell’s latest ad targets Obama, Grimes over coal

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled his latest re-election ad Friday morning, focusing his fire on President Barack Obama and Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes over coal.

The ad, titled “Different Direction,” features McConnell and a number of coal workers blasting Obama for the administration’s so-called “war on coal.”

“Mr. President, you said you wanted to change America,” McConnell says in the ad. “Well by golly, he has.”

While repeatedly assailing Obama as harmful to the state’s coal economy, the ad portrays McConnell as someone who is standing up to the president, using his seniority for leverage.

“Mitch McConnell does have the experience. You go up there with no experience, you go up there with nothing,” says Brandon Stamper, who was identified as a coal worker in the ad.

Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst responded by accusing McConnell of failing to save coal jobs for three decades.

“No matter how many ads Mitch McConnell runs, he can’t hide from the fact that he has failed to save a single coal job in his 30 years in Washington.”

In writing on the screen, McConnell’s ad claims that “Alison Lundergan Grimes supports Barack Obama’s anti-coal environmental platform.”

To support that claim, McConnell’s campaign relies on the fact that Grimes was a delegate who voted for Obama at the 2012 Democratic National Convention and said she supported his re-election platform.

However, Grimes has made clear in recent months that she objects to actions taken by the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon-dioxide pollution from new and existing power plants.

“When I’m in the U.S. Senate, I will fiercely oppose the president’s attack on Kentucky’s coal industry because protecting our jobs will be my number one priority,” Grimes said last month after the EPA issued new pollution regulations for existing power plants.

Although many Republicans blame Obama for the coal industry’s decline in Eastern Kentucky, where half of coal jobs have disappeared since 2011, industry analysts point to a number of factors.

Environmental policies have played a role, but so have competition from low-priced natural gas and from coal from other parts of the country; the depletion of easy-to-reach reserves in Eastern Kentucky after a century of mining; and higher mining costs in the region.

McConnell’s ad will air statewide, according to the McConnell campaign.

State fundraising records fall as Grimes bests McConnell in second-quarter dash for cash

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes and Republican Mitch McConnell shattered Kentucky fundraising records in the second quarter, leaving both campaigns with millions to spend during a critical stretch of the state’s U.S. Senate race.

Grimes, Kentucky’s secretary of state, outpaced McConnell and other Democratic Senate candidates from around the country, setting a new single-quarter record by raising more than $4 million. She eclipsed McConnell’s previous record of $2.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2008 by more than $1 million.

McConnell, the U.S. Senate minority leader, posted $3.1 million for the second quarter. That brings his total for the election cycle to more than $25 million, crushing his own record of $20 million raised for his 2008 re-election bid.

Grimes has raised a total of $11.3 million since entering the race more than a year ago.

While the broken records reflect the continued national interest in who represents the Bluegrass State in the Senate, the number most important with just more than 100 days left until Election Day is how much cash each candidate has to spend at a time when more voters begin to pay attention.

To that end, McConnell continues to enjoy a significant advantage, with $9.8 million in the bank compared to Grimes’ $6.2 million.

Grimes injects retirement age into back-and-forth over Medicare

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

In a new online video ad, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes accuses Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of wanting to raise the retirement age for Medicare benefits.

The web ad comes in response to a television ad McConnell released Tuesday morning. That ad was responding to Grimes’ first negative ad against McConnell, which came out Tuesday morning.

All the ads focus on Medicare.

Grimes’ latest salvo features MSNBC’s Ed Schultz saying that McConnell’s “wish list” includes raising the retirement age for Medicare benefits. He cites a Nov. 30, 2012 article in The Wall Street Journal.

In the article, McConnell says a deal on the federal budget might be possible if lawmakers could reach bipartisan agreement on higher Medicare premiums for the wealthy, an increase in the Medicare eligibility age and slowing cost-of-living increases for Social Security.

The Grimes campaign said it is spending “thousands” to distribute the video online.

In a statement, McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore belittled the video.

“I don’t think running out MSNBC’s Ed Shultz in a web video is going to extinguish the flames on her credibility,” Moore said. “The Obama handlers have to be burning the phone lines trying to get someone in the Grimes camp to just stop and call it a week.”

The main issue in this week’s exchange of fire over Medicare has been McConnell’s support for U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s 2011 budget, which would have privatized Medicare for future seniors.

In her television ad, Grimes sits next to retired coal miner Don Disney as he asks McConnell why the senator voted to cut his Medicare by $6,000.

The claim was dismissed as “shaky” in a fact-check article by the Associated Press.

“McConnell cast no such vote,” the AP wrote.

McConnell did vote in favor of the Senate considering Ryan’s Medicare plan, but it would not have directly impacted Disney. Instead, the bill stated that “current Medicare benefits are preserved for those in and near retirement.”

That led McConnell to swiftly release an ad of his own Wednesday morning that took Grimes to task as President Barack Obama’s “Kentucky candidate,” saying that Grimes “repeats the same falsehoods Obama does.”

But in her new web ab, Grimes blasts McConnell for wanting to destroy the entitlement program.

The ad opens with McConnell on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” telling David Gregory that he voted for the Ryan budget. It also includes footage of The Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman, appearing on MSNBC, and Schultz explaining why Ryan’s plan would raise costs for seniors.

“The Ryan budget would have destroyed Medicare,” the ad says.

McConnell agrees to attend Kentucky Farm Bureau candidate forum

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Wednesday that he will participate in the Kentucky Farm Bureau candidate forum Aug. 20, challenging Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes to debate him there.

“Sen. McConnell never misses an opportunity to discuss the issues with Kentucky farmers,” said Allison Moore, McConnell’s spokeswoman. “He proudly accepts the invitation from the Kentucky Farm Bureau to appear at their candidate forum in August and hopes Alison Lundergan Grimes will do the same.”

It remains unclear whether Grimes will join McConnell at the forum.

“We continue to stand ready to debate and await Mitch McConnell’s long-delayed decision to accept our offer to attend the KET debate,” Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst said Wednesday. “As our debate response letter outlined, we would welcome the opportunity to debate in all corners of the commonwealth. Unfortunately, McConnell thinks he owns this Senate seat and hasn’t found the time to respond to our letter or sit down and negotiate with our campaign.”

McConnell challenged Grimes to debate the day after the May 20 primary, calling for televised Lincoln-Douglas style debates where the candidates question each other. He requested no audience and that the debates be concluded before Labor Day.

McConnell then immediately agreed to a debate proposed by WDRB-TV in Louisville. WDRB’s president has endorsed McConnell, and that debate, scheduled for late June, never happened.

Since then, the two camps have quibbled over the basics of how, where and when to debate, with Grimes saying in early June she would participate in an Oct. 13 debate on Kentucky Educational Television.

McConnell responds to Grimes’ ad on Medicare with one of his own

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

About 24 hours after Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes unveiled her first attack ad against U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the senator fired back with his own spot that rips Grimes’ ad as “shaky” and “laughable.”

McConnell’s latest television ad relies in part on an analysis of Grimes’ ad by the Associated Press, which said the spot made “shaky claims” about Medicare.

McConnell sought to use the misstep to further his strategic goal of tying Grimes to President Barack Obama, who made similar claims about Medicare in his 2012 re-election bid.

“As Barack Obama’s Kentucky candidate, Alison Grimes repeats the same falsehoods Obama does,” the narrator says.

Grimes’ ad featured her sitting beside retired coal miner Don Disney, who asked McConnell why he voted to raise his Medicare costs by $6,000.

The problems for Grimes, as the AP stated, is that “McConnell cast no such vote.”

At issue is U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s 2011 budget proposal, which would have privatized Medicare for future seniors. McConnell did vote in favor of the Senate considering Ryan’s Medicare plan, but it would not have directly impacted Disney. Instead, the bill stated that “current Medicare benefits are preserved for those in and near retirement.”

The Grimes camp disputed that point Tuesday afternoon, citing studies that said out-of-pocket expenses for current Medicare recipients might rise under the Paul proposal as younger, healthier recipients abandon the plan for a private option.

In its return volley, the McConnell ad also makes questionable claims.

“Grimes supports Obamacare, which cuts $700 billion from seniors’ Medicare,” the ad says before declaring that “Obama and Grimes will pay for Obamacare on the backs of Kentucky seniors.”

However, the $700 billion in Medicare cuts included in the federal Affordable Care Act do not cut benefits for seniors. Instead, the cuts come from reduced payments to providers over a 10 year period.

Those cuts were also included in Ryan’s 2011 budget plan, which McConnell supported during a procedural vote that would have allowed the bill to be debated on the Senate floor.

In addition, Grimes has refused to say whether she would have voted for or against the federal health care law had she been in the Senate at the time. Instead, she has called for fixing unspecified portions of the law and criticized McConnell for seeking to repeal it.

Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst accused the McConnell campaign of telling “egregious falsehoods” and saying “whatever it takes to deceive Kentuckians to hide his vote in support of the reckless Ryan budget that would end Medicare as we know it.”

Grimes releases first TV ad focusing on McConnell

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes released a new television ad Tuesday morning, her first criticizing U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

In a throwback to the 2012 presidential campaign, Grimes, the Democratic nominee running against McConnell, takes her opponent to task over proposed changes to Medicare that were included in U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s 2011 budget proposal.

The ad, “Question from Don,” features Grimes sitting next to retired coal miner Don Disney of Cloverlick.

“Senator, I’m a retired coal miner,” Disney says in the ad. “I want to know how you could’ve voted to raise my Medicare costs by six thousand dollars. How are my wife and I supposed to afford that?”

The ad refers to a procedural vote that McConnell took in 2011 in favor of considering Ryan’s budget bill, which the liberal-leaning Center on Budget Policy and Priorities estimated would increase the out-of-pocket expenses for the average Medicare recipient from about $6,000 to $12,000 by 2022. Other groups have estimated that the bill would have produced a much smaller cost increase.

The bill, which failed in the Senate, would have exempted people who were already at or near retirement age from its changes.

The Grimes campaign said it was spending “six figures” to air the ad statewide. It is the first in a series that will feature Kentuckians asking critical questions of McConnell, the campaign said in a news release.

“Unlike Mitch McConnell, Alison Lundergan Grimes is running to protect and strengthen key programs for our seniors,” the campaign said. “Alison believes in keeping our promises to our nation’s seniors while preserving these programs for our children and grandchildren.”

Republicans responded by saying that Grimes has voiced support for the federal health care law pushed by President Barack Obama, which cuts about $700 billion from Medicare over 10 years by tweaking payment formulas for health care providers.

“It says a lot about the candidacy of Alison Lundergan Grimes that she’s a full four months away from the election and she already hit the panic button by resorting to the oldest, most cynical attack in the Obama playbook to scare Kentucky seniors,” said Allison Moore, McConnell’s spokeswoman. “The simple reality is that Sen. McConnell has fought to protect Medicare, while Alison Lundergan Grimes and her political benefactors have raided it by $700 billion to pay for Obamacare.”

Pro-McConnell group unveils ad that asks ‘Who is Alison Grimes?’

By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

A fundraising group supporting U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s re-election will begin running a new ad Tuesday that accuses Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes of “dodging the tough questions.”

The Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, a 501(c)4 non-profit supporting McConnell, said it will spend $715,000 to run the ad from Tuesday through July 16. That figure is part of the $5.2 million that it and Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, a pro-McConnell super PAC, announced it would spend this summer.

The latest ad asks “Who is Alison Grimes?” using press reports to accuse Grimes of refusing to answer questions and being a candidate who “waffles on the issues.”

Rand Paul will speak at Fancy Farm picnic

Rand Paul spoke Oct. 23, 2013, in Morehead. Kentucky's junior senator made 15 stops at restaurants and small rallies in the state during the week. Photo by John Flavell.By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul will be among the politicians speaking at the annual Fancy Farm picnic this year in far Western Kentucky.

Paul, who is considering a presidential run in 2016, will speak at the event for the fourth time. The picnic — attended by thousands seeking barbeque pork, bingo and old-fashioned political speaking — will be held on the grounds of St. Jerome Catholic Church on Aug. 2.

“Sen. Paul is looking forward to being at Fancy Farm again and helping united Kentucky Republicans press for victory this fall,” said Dan Bayens, Paul’s spokesman.

On Grimes’ behalf, Elizabeth Warren takes aim at McConnell

By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

LOUISVILLE — U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said she was delighted but “surprised” to be campaigning in Louisville Sunday morning.

Given that Warren’s stances on guns, coal and health care align closely with those of President Barack Obama, Republican allies of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also were surprised but delighted when Warren announced she was coming to the Bluegrass State to campaign for Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.

But Warren’s surprise wasn’t rooted in Red State vs. Blue State dogma. Instead, Warren said she was surprised to be standing in Kentucky as a United States senator, given her hard-scrabble upbringing in Oklahoma.

“I’m a little surprised because this is sure not where I started,” Warren told a crowd of Grimes’ supporters at the University of Louisville. She added: “I am the daughter of a janitor, and I ended up in the United States Senate.”

Calling Grimes “the next senator from the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” Warren blasted McConnell’s leadership of Republicans in the Senate, specifically targeting McConnell’s effort to block her proposal to allow refinancing of older student loans and temporarily lower the interest rate on a federal Stafford loan.

“That’s what this race is all about,” Warren said. “It’s about a man who stood up and filibustered the student loan bill. Think about that.”

Hillary Clinton says Rand Paul will be ‘fair game’

RandPaulFelonVotingBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Former Secretary of State and potential 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said Monday night that U.S. Sen. Rand Paul can bring up the affair President Bill Clinton had with Monica Lewinsky, but she warned that Paul will also be scrutinized if he runs for the White House.

In an interview with ABC News anchor Dianne Sawyer, Clinton was asked about Paul’s remarks this year about the former president’s affair. Paul has leaned into criticisms of the former first couple, accusing Bill Clinton of “predatory behavior.”

Sawyer noted in her interview with Clinton that Paul “said it’s fair game to talk about Monica Lewisnky, said it’s fair game to talk about how bosses treat people.”

“You know, he can talk about whatever he wants to talk about,” Clinton said. “And if he decides to run, he’ll be fair game too for everybody.”

At least one top Democratic operative seemed eager to get in on that game.

Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, tweeted Tuesday morning: “I’m even more excited for World Cup kickoff than I am thinking @SenRandPaul being the R ’16 nominee! Both are great!”