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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.

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.

Jesse Benton’s full statement regarding his resignation from McConnell campaign

BentonMcConnellHere is Jesse Benton’s full statement to the Herald-Leader regarding his resignation as campaign manager for U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell:

There is no more important cause for both Kentucky, my new home I have come to love, and our country than electing Mitch McConnell Majority Leader of the United States Senate. I believe this deep in my bones, and I would never allow anything or anyone to get in the way.

That includes myself.

Recently, there have been inaccurate press accounts and unsubstantiated media rumors about me and my role in past campaigns that are politically motivated, unfair and, most importantly, untrue. I hope those who know me recognize that I strive to be a man of integrity.

The press accounts and rumors are particularly hurtful because they are false.

However, what is most troubling to me is that they risk unfairly undermining and becoming a distraction to this reelection campaign.

Working for Mitch McConnell is one of the great honors of my life. He is a friend, a mentor and a great man this commonwealth desperately needs. I cannot, and will not, allow any possibility that my circumstances will effect the voters’ ability to hear his message and assess his record. This election is far too important and the stakes way too high.

With a heavy heart, I offered Sen. McConnell my resignation this afternoon and he reluctantly accepted. Effective Saturday, August 30th, I will no longer be the “Team Mitch” campaign manager.

The good news is that most of my work has been done. We have built a top flight team of incredible people that are working tirelessly to ensure Mitch’s re-election. They are a finely oiled machine and will not skip a beat without me.

This decision breaks my heart, but I know it is the right thing for Mitch, for Kentucky and for the country.

James 16:33
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Centre College drops efforts to host U.S. Senate debate

McConnellGrimes
By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

Centre College has hosted two vice presidential debates this century but could not get the U.S. Senate campaigns of Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes to agree over details for a debate between them this year on the Danville campus.

Centre College President John A. Roush said there did not appear any willingness by any campaign to come to an agreement.

Centre College’s website announced Monday that the liberal arts college has canceled efforts for a U.S. Senate debate on Sept. 3.

The decision came after weeks of planning and several conversations with the two candidates’ campaign officials following a July 17 announcement by AARP, WAVE3 News in Louisville and Centre proposing a debate on the same stage as the 2000 and 2012 vice presidential debates.

Centre originally requested that the candidates respond to the invitation by Aug.1, but college officials discussed and met with campaign representatives after that date in an effort to come to agreement over details regarding format and structure.

“My disappointment runs deep for the citizens of Kentucky, who deserve to make an informed decision on election day,” said Centre President Roush. “We had every indication early on that agreement could be reached, but as time wore on, compromise on the part of both campaigns simply didn’t occur.”

“Campaigns have differences and the stakes in any race are high,” Roush said. “However, at the end of the day, I am more inclined to believe that there was really no willingness on the part of either campaign to come to agreement.”

The final attempt to receive a “yes” or “no” took the form of an open letter by Roush on Aug. 20 to “Fellow Kentuckians,” asking for support via social media.

In his letter, Roush expressed an interest in putting “in place a format for a civilized, meaningful discussion between the candidates to learn more about them and their aspirations for serving the Commonwealth and to get past the carefully rehearsed, contrived, and sometimes mean-spirited advertising that increasingly characterizes political campaigns these days.”

While this did prompt a few last-minute conversations over the weekend with campaign officials, none were substantive enough to prevent cancellation, Roush said.

The two candidates appeared on the same stage earlier this month at the Fancy Farm picnic in Graves County and at a forum last week at the Kentucky Farm Bureau headquarters in Louisville.

Their only remaining scheduled joint appearance is Oct. 13 on the Kentucky Educational Television network.

‘Comment’ focuses on U.S. Senate race; ‘KY Tonight’ will discuss energy

The latest in the U.S. Senate race in Kentucky between Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes will be discussed on this weekend’s “Comment on Kentucky,” a public affairs show on the Kentucky Educational Television network.

Joining interim host Bill Bryant of Lexington’s WKYT-TV will be three journalists — Phillip M. Bailey of WFPL in Louisville, Amanda Van Benschoten of The Kentucky Enquirer and Sam Youngman of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The show will air live at 8 p.m. Friday on KET.

On the Monday, Aug. 25, edition of “Kentucky Tonight” at 8 p.m. on KET and at KET.org/live, host Bill Goodman and guests will discuss energy policy.

Scheduled guests are Tom FitzGerald, director of the Kentucky Resources Council;
Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association; Sarah Lynn Cunningham, an environmental engineer and educator and director of the Louisville Climate Action Network; and Steve Gardner, president and CEO of ECSI and president-elect of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration.

Viewers with questions and comments may send e-mail to kytonight@ket.org or use the message form at KET.org/kytonight. Viewers may also submit questions on Twitter @BillKET or on KET’s Facebook page, facebook.com/KET. All messages should include first and last name and town or county. The phone number for viewer calls during the program is 1-800-494-7605.

“Kentucky Tonight” programs are available online at KET.org and are rebroadcast on KET, KET KY, and radio.

“Kentucky Tonight” is a weekly KET production, produced by Deidre Clark. Goodman is host and managing editor.

–Jack Brammer

Alison Lundergan Grimes shifts into attack mode in latest television ad

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes has set aside her folksy, light-hearted television ad series “Questions for Mitch” in favor of a traditional attack ad as recent polls show her losing ground in a tight race with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“What can happen in 30 years?” asks a narrator in the ad, which was airing in Lexington on Thursday. “A senator can become a multi-millionaire in public office while voting 17 times against raising the minimum wage, three times for corporate tax breaks that send Kentucky jobs overseas and 12 times against extending unemployment benefits for laid off workers.”

The ad concludes: “And when asked about it, just laughed. Thirty years of Mitch McConnell is long enough.”

McConnell’s campaign labeled the ad an attack on the senator’s wife, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, although the ad never makes a direct reference to Chao.

Because the ad mentions McConnell’s personal wealth, the majority of which was inherited from Chao’s family, the McConnell campaign countered that it represented another attack on Chao, who has become a flash point in the campaign in recent days.

“The latest attack ad from Alison Lundergan Grimes is nothing short of despicable,” McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore said. “Apparently, Grimes’ entire candidacy has been reduced to attacking Mitch McConnell’s wife at every turn in the hopes she can distract Kentuckians from her profound inexperience and steadfast commitment to the Obama agenda.”

Grimes campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton responded by noting that McConnell criticized Grimes’ father, former Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Lundergan, from the stage at last year’s Fancy Farm picnic. She also pointed to supporting material for the ad that said McConnell has earned at least $4 million in government salary since 1985.

Earlier this month, Democratic strategist Kathy Groob posted on Twitter that it was “fair game” to criticize Chao’s Asian ethnicity, prompting a denouncement from the Kentucky Democratic Party. That was followed by a McConnell ad early last week that featured Chao defending her husband’s record on women’s issues. (The fact-checking news service PolitiFact rated the ad “mostly false.”) By the end of last week, a firestorm had erupted when Yahoo! News reported that Chao served on a philanthropical board that, among other things, aims to eliminate coal-fired power plants.

The bulk of McConnell’s wealth comes from a gift Chao’s father, an immigrant-turned-shipping-magnate, gave the couple and an inheritance she received after her mother died in 2007.

On Friday, the McConnell campaign noted previous fact-check articles have taken issue with Grimes’ efforts to tie McConnell’s immense wealth to his votes to raise the pay of congressional members.

In May, The Washington Post’s Fact Checker wrote that “virtually all of the increase in McConnell’s increase in net worth comes from his wife’s money, not his congressional work.”

The accusation that McConnell laughed when asked about extending unemployment benefits is a reference to a radio interview McConnell did with conservative talk show host Lars Larson in early January.

At the end of the interview, as Larson wished McConnell well, the host added that he hoped McConnell would vote against extending unemployment benefits. McConnell chuckled in response and thanked Larson for the interview.

Earlier in his exchange with Larson, which ran about eight minutes, McConnell outlined his counter-offer to Democrats, saying that “if you’re going to do an unemployment extension, we certainly ought to pay for it.”

PolitiFact: McConnell ad about violence against women ‘mostly false’

McConnellGrimesBy Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign ad that says he supported a “stronger” Violence Against Women Act than President Obama is “mostly false,” a fact-checking news agency said Wednesday.

The ad, released Aug. 5, features McConnell’s wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

“Have you ever noticed how some liberals feel entitled to speak on behalf of all women? As if every woman agrees with Barack Obama,” Chao says.

A narrator then adds: “Mitch McConnell co-sponsored the original Violence Against Women Act – he’s always supported its purpose. Mitch voted for even stronger protections than Obama’s agenda will allow.”

PolitiFact, a project of the Tampa Bay Times, said the ad is mostly false.

“Perhaps McConnell could argue that the mandatory minimum sentences Republicans required in their alternative made for a ‘stronger’ bill, but advocates of domestic abuse awareness opposed this measure as unnecessary,” PolitiFact wrote. “And the Republican measure was absent several protections for certain groups that were included in the bill Obama signed. McConnell is within his right to oppose those provisions, but it makes it hard for him to prove that he supported ‘stronger’ legislation.”

PolitiFact recently gave a “half true” rating to an ad by McConnell’s Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes, that said McConnell voted “two times against the Violence against Women Act.”

Politifact cited McConnell’s history of voting in favor of the law at times, but against it at others.