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Grimes gives McConnell ammunition with Michelle Obama fundraiser

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

It was exactly what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had been hoping for.

Except instead of President Barack Obama discussing gun control and his health care law at a New York fundraiser for female Senate candidates, it was First Lady Michelle Obama.

Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes was among the female candidates who gathered Monday with the First Lady for a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser, where Michelle Obama spoke of the need to elect more Democratic senators to further the president’s agenda.

The First Lady, talking about how narrowly “Obamacare” passed and the slim margin by which gun control legislation was defeated, said that “it is critical that we elect Michelle Nunn, Alison Grimes, Natalie Tennant.”

“It is critical that we get them to the Senate,” the First Lady said. “And it is just as critical that we elect — reelect Senators Mary Kay Hagan, Mary Landrieu, Jeanne Shaheen — it is critical, because we all know that it’s not enough to elect Barack Obama President if we don’t give him a Congress that will help him keep moving this country forward. We know that now. We’ve seen it. We’ve experienced it.”

Grimes, who has been reluctant to embrace any ties to the Obama White House as she squares off against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, has gone to great lengths to avoid using the president’s name, referring to him as “Washington politicians” in a recent interview with WKYT’s “Kentucky Newsmakers.”

Mitch McConnell criticized for taking money from firm tied to health website

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellBy John Cheves
jcheves@herald-leader.com

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is a vocal critic of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act and its glitch-stricken website, HealthCare.gov, repeatedly calling for repeal of the law “root and branch.”

“At this point, senators from both parties can agree: HealthCare.gov is a rolling disaster. Every day seems to bring more, newer comic calamity,” McConnell, R-Ky., said Oct. 29 in a Senate floor speech. “The only thing the website seems to be good for right now is creating punch lines for late-night comedians.”

However, since 2011, McConnell has accepted more than $75,000 in political donations from health care giant UnitedHealth Group, which owns the technology company that helped build and launch HealthCare.gov for a reported $155 million and now is responsible for fixing it.

The donations came from UnitedHealth’s political action committee and five of its top executives; they went to McConnell’s 2014 re-election campaign and two fundraising committees that he oversees, the Bluegrass Committee and the McConnell-Cornyn Leadership Victory Committee.

UnitedHealth also co-hosted a $1,000-per-person fundraising dinner for McConnell’s campaign last December in Washington, D.C. And the company, based in Minnetonka, Minn., retains former McConnell chief of staff Billy Piper as a Washington lobbyist to work on its behalf in Congress on implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Senate records show.

UnitedHealth, which tends to favor incumbent Democrats and Republicans as it gives more than $1 million in political donations during a typical two-year election cycle, has expressed optimism about the health care law.

“UnitedHealth Group strongly supports making high-quality health care accessible and affordable for everyone,” it stated in a news release last year.

Josh Holmes, a McConnell aide on loan to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Thursday there is no indication that UnitedHealth’s donations have weakened McConnell’s opposition to the health law.

Two conservative groups, however, said UnitedHealth’s support of McConnell is further evidence that his only true ideology is power. They already have criticized McConnell for not fully supporting Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and others who fight to defund the health care law, which they call “Obamacare.”

Mitch McConnell predicts Alison Lundergan Grimes will ‘run away’ from health law

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

LOUISVILLE — Calling the nation’s new health care law “a monstrosity,” U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes will follow other “red state” Democrats in trying to distance themselves from the law.

McConnell, addressing reporters at his campaign headquarters, again called for the full repeal of “Obamacare” and accused his opponent of following other Democrats in calling for tinkering with a law that he said has caused “chaos.”

“The panic has set in,” McConnell said. “The troops are restless. And on a daily basis, you will see some Democrat in some red state come up with a new way to try to distance themselves from Obamacare.”

Tuesday’s news conference represented a new chapter in McConnell’s re-election effort, as the senator and his campaign seek to draw out Grimes as a supporter of the new health care law and other issues backed by national Democrats.

Alison Lundergan Grimes offers limited defense of Obama, health care law

Alison Lundergan GrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes offered a limited defense Friday of President Barack Obama’s health care law without ever saying the president’s name.

In her first sit-down interview with a Kentucky-based journalist since entering the U.S. Senate race in July, Grimes told WKYT-TV’s Bill Bryant that “Washington politicians made promises, not just to Kentuckians but to all Americans, that if you like your insurance plan, if you like your doctor, you should be able to keep it.”

“And it’s time for all Washington politicians to keep their word,” Grimes said.

Bryant’s full interview with Grimes will air this weekend on his “Kentucky Newsmakers” program.

Clearly cognizant of efforts by Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to tie her to a president unpopular in the commonwealth, Grimes did not fully endorse the Affordable Care Act, saying she thought the president’s apology this week to those whose current insurance plan will no longer be offered was appropriate.

“I echo and do believe the apology was due and deserved that the president gave to Americans last night, but now it’s time to follow that up with action,” Grimes said.

While Grimes has been tough to pin down on the polarizing law, she repeated her belief that it was correct for Obama to delay the employer mandate — a requirement that companies with 50 or more employees offer insurance to employees or pay penalties — for a year.

She told Bryant that people whose insurance policies will no longer be offered — 280,000 Kentuckians, according to the Associated Press — should be “grandfathered in” for a period of time.

While Grimes never said the president’s name, she did extend a limited defense of the law.

“Instead of finger-pointing, instead of blaming, instead of attacking the presidential branch, let’s actually — or the executive branch — let’s actually attack the problem that exists here in the commonwealth and find a way for 640,000” to get health insurance, Grimes said.

Under the law, an additional 308,000 Kentuckians are eligible for Medicaid. Another 332,000 uninsured Kentuckians must buy insurance or face tax penalties. Significant premium subsidies are available to many of those 332,000.

As of Friday, Gov. Steve Beshear said 40,572 Kentuckians have enrolled in new health insurance using the state’s online system, including 33,561 on Medicaid and 7,011 in a qualified health plan.

The Democratic Secretary of State indicated that she thought efforts to repeal the law were a waste of time.

“Instead of saying that we need to kick our youngsters off of their parents’ insurance or denying those with pre-existing conditions coverage, let’s make sure that we are stream-lining the regulatory requirements that are found in the Affordable Care Act so that we are easing the burden on the small businesses,” Grimes said. “I think instead of Washington finger-pointing, it’s time that we actually fix what has gone through both chambers of Congress, what has gone all the way up to the Supreme Court, which was re-litigated through an entire election cycle, it’s time that we put Kentuckians first.”

Kentucky Newsmakers airs Sunday at 6 a.m. on WKYT and 10 a.m. on The CW Lexington.

Barr, McConnell indicate no change in shutdown strategy

WASHINGTON — The stalemate between Republicans and Democrats over health care and the budget showed no signs of ending Tuesday as Kentucky Republicans insisted nothing will change until President Barack Obama is willing to compromise.

As Obama made clear through the day that he will not negotiate over the looming debt limit or any budget talks that include changes to his health care law, Republicans like U.S. Rep. Andy Barr warned that nothing will change until Obama changes his tune.

“Nothing will happen if the president refuses to negotiate,” Barr told the Herald-Leader Tuesday.

John Yarmuth: Alison Lundergan Grimes wise to say little about health law

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville

By Sam Youngman — syoungman@herald-leader.com

WASHINGTON — The last Kentucky Democrat in Washington said Wednesday that Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes has been politically smart to avoid taking a firm stance on President Barack Obama’s health care law.

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, said Grimes can wait until Kentuckians decide if they like the new law, major portions of which went into effect in Kentucky on Tuesday, and not give Republican allies of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell a chance to tie her to Obama.

“I think it is probably smart politics,” Yarmuth told the Lexington Herald-Leader. “She didn’t vote for it because she didn’t have to vote for or against it. I think just from a very pragmatic political perspective, I think she has the opportunity to wait and see how it’s received. When she starts to say positive things about it, the climate will be better for her to do that.”

When pressed by reporters, Grimes has previously said she is troubled by some parts of the Affordable Care Act and would push to “fix” some of its mandates on businesses, but not repeal the entire law.

Beshear orders flags lowered in honor of Navy Yard shooting victims

Gov. Steve Beshear has directed that flags at all state office buildings be lowered to half-staff until sundown on Sept. 20, 2013, in honor of the victims of Monday’s Washington Navy Yard shooting tragedy.

Beshear’s order follows a proclamation from President Barack Obama ordering flags to be flown at half-staff at the White House and other federal buildings to honor the victims.

“The Washington Navy Yard shooting was a senseless, unwarranted and sordid act of violence,” said Beshear. “Kentuckians and all Americans stand with the Washington community as we grieve and pray for the victims, their friends and families.”

Beshear encouraged individuals, businesses, organizations and government agencies to join in the tribute.

Flag status information is available at http://governor.ky.gov/Pages/flagstatus.aspx.

–Jack Brammer

Grimes calls on her granny to attract grannies to Senate campaign

Alison Lundergan Grimes, center, with her grandmother, Elsie Case, and her mother, Charlotte Lundergan.

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes is making the most of her grandmother in her campaign.

The Grimes campaign launched Wednesday “Grannies for Grimes,” an initiative to mobilize seniors across the state. Wednesday marks the 78th anniversary of Social Security.

Led by Grimes’ 83-year-old maternal grandmother, Elsie Case, of Maysville, “Grannies for Grimes” will equip grassroots volunteers with resources and tools needed to organize in the community.

The grandmother, who has been featured in Grimes’ ads for U.S. Senate and in her 2011 ads for secretary of state, will be providing updates from the campaign trail on her personal Twitter and the “Grannies for Grimes” Facebook as well as sharing information on how seniors across Kentucky can get involved with the campaign.

Bevin airs ad rebutting McConnell’s claims about him

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – Republican U.S. Senate candidate Matt Bevin fired back Wednesday in a new TV ad at GOP incumbent Mitch McConnell’s ad earlier this week that claimed Bevin is a tax cheat.

The new Bevin TV ad will run statewide on broadcast and cable television, the Bevin campaign said in a release.

Entitled, “Finest,” the ad focuses on McConnell’s “track record of using character assassinations and lies to avoid running on his own record,” said the Bevin campaign.

It highlights criticism of McConnell’s ads that labeled his opponent as “Bailout Bevin” for, among other things, accepting a federal grant to restore a bell-manufacturing company he owns in Connecticut.

The ad also notes “McConnell’s hypocrisy given the fact that he voted for multiple bailouts and even called the Wall Street bailout the ‘Senate at its finest.’”

“After 30 years in Washington voting for one bailout after another, slinging mud is all Senator McConnell has left,” the 30-second ad says.

McConnell’s campaign manager, Jesse Benton, said in an email, “Matt ‘Bailout’ Bevin is wasting his money making misleading and false attacks on Mitch McConnell’s strong pro-Kentucky record but he doesn’t want anyone to hear about his own record of bailouts and tax delinquency.

“He can hide behind Obama Democrats who eagerly promote his candidacy, but the reality is that Bailout Bevin is no Kentucky conservative.”

Senate Democratic PAC launches new ad against McConnell


By Jack Brammer

jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – A new TV ad by the Senate Majority PAC tries to portray U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell as the “guardian of gridlock” and an obstructionist whose political tactics have hurt Kentuckians.

The 30-second ad titled “Guardian” started running across the state Tuesday at a cost of about $270,000. It is part of the independent political action committee’s “30 Years is Too Long Campaign” against McConnell that started last month.

It uses footage of McConnell and media reports in claiming that it’s time to oust McConnell from the Senate. It contends he has lost respect among those in his own party.