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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.

Ethics commission: Former wildlife official mistreated women employees

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — A former official of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources created an oppressive work environment for women by telling them what clothes to wear and asking one to show her breasts, according to an ethics settlement released Monday.

In a settlement approved by the Executive Branch Ethics Commission Monday, Kenneth “Scott” King of Frankfort did not contest charges that he violated state ethics laws by using his position as the department’s assistant administrative services director to “create an oppressive and hostile atmosphere in his division to suit his own prurient, personal interests.”

The agreement said King told subordinate employees to wear certain articles of clothing he favored and to wear short skirts and high heels to meetings, and on one occasion told an employee to allow him to see her breasts in exchange for favorable treatment at work.

Also, during staff meetings, King would tell women employees which of their body parts he and other male supervisors preferred.

In the agreement, King also admitted using the department’s John Deere tractor for personal use.

‘Comment’ will discuss Comer’s bid for governor

State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer’s announcement this week that he is an official candidate for governor will be one of the topics on this weekend’s “Comment on Kentucky,” a public affairs show of the Kentucky Educational Television Network.

Joining interim host Bill Bryant of Lexington’s WKYT-TV, will be Adam Beam of the Associated Press, Lawrence Smith of Louisville’s WDRB-TV AND Scott Wartman of The Kentucky Enquirer.

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

“Kentucky Tonight’ on KET will be preempted on Monday, Sept. 15, by “Roosevelts: An Intimate History.”

–Jack Brammer

Funeral arrangements set for Charlann Harting Carroll

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU Visitation and funeral arrangements for Charlann Harting Carroll, the wife of former Gov. Julian Carroll who died Wednesday at the age of 81, have been set. Both visitation and the funeral will be held at the Forks of Elkhorn Baptist Church at 495 Duckers Road off U.S. Highway 421 near Frankfort and […]

State General Fund gains while Road Fund dips a bit in August

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – The state’s General Fund, which pays for most state programs, improved in August while the state Road Fund dipped ever so slightly.

State budget director Jane C. Driskell said Wednesday that General Fund receipts increased 1.2 percent in August compared to the same month last year.

Total revenues for the month were $671.9 million, compared to $663.7 million during August 2013.

So far this fiscal year 2015 that began July 1, General Fund receipts have increased 1.7 percent.

The official revenue estimate for the fiscal year calls for revenue to increase 3.6 percent compared to last year’s actual receipts.

Based on August results, General Fund revenues need to grow 3.9 percent for the remainder of the fiscal year to meet the official estimate.

Despite the low rate of growth, there were some encouraging undertones reflected in the monthly numbers.

Driskell said she was “pleased to see two solid performances from our largest revenue sources, the individual income tax and year-to-date sales tax revenues.”

On the income tax side, growth in withholding payments (payroll taxes) grew 9.7 percent, following growth of 6.5 percent in July.

The growth rate on sales tax receipts was only 1.1 percent for the month, but 4.4 percent year to date.

Driskell said potential weakness in the corporate income tax continues to be a concern.

“September corporate income receipts will be a more appropriate barometer, as it is the first month in fiscal year 2015 where estimated quarterly payments are due. We’ll be in a better position to reexamine the fiscal year projections once the first quarter is complete.”

Among the major General Fund accounts:

● Individual income taxes increased 9 percent almost entirely due to withholding

● Sales tax revenues rose 1.1 percent and have increased 4.4 percent through the first two months.

● Corporation income tax collections declined $11.4 million as both declarations and net

payments. Collections year-to-date are up 7.5 percent.

● Cigarette taxes fell 0.3 percent but have grown 0.9 percent for the year.

● Property taxes grew 30.3 percent (timing issues) but have decreased 7.0 for the fiscal

● Coal severance tax collections increased 5.9 percent in August but are down 4.9 percent

● Lottery revenues grew 6.3 percent on the basis of a $17.0 million dividend payment.

Receipts for the Road Fund fell 0.1 percent in August with revenues of $141.1 million.

The official Road Fund revenue estimate calls for a 0.9 percent decline in receipts for the entire fiscal year

Based on year-to-date collections, revenues can decrease 1.5 percent for the remainder of the fiscal year and still meet the estimate.

Among the accounts:

• Motor fuels fell 0.7 percent in August but have increased 0.9 percent for the year.

• Motor vehicle usage collections decreased 0.9 percent for the month but have grown

0.2 percent for the first two months of the fiscal year.

• License and privilege tax fell 4.4 percent.

• Nont-tax receipts increased $2.4 million and are up $2.1 million for the fiscal year.

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.

Senate President seeks legal opinion on ‘right-to-work’ option for counties

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Senate President Robert Stivers asked for an attorney general’s opinion Monday on whether Kentucky counties can adopt so-called ‘right-to-work’ provisions that let employees work in unionized businesses without joining the union or paying dues.

Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said in a news release that he is seeking the opinion from Attorney General Jack Conway because Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell recently opined that the Louisville Metro Government has the authority to require a higher minimum wage than the minimum wage established by federal or state law.

“Using Mr. O’Connell’s analysis, a county should also be able to establish itself as a right-to-work county,” said Stivers.

The Senate leader noted that he sought the request as legislators prepare for the 2015 General Assembly that begins in January. Republicans in the state Senate have pushed the issue for years, but House Democrats oppose the measure.

Many Republicans say such a state law is needed to spur economic development while many Democrats argue it would lower wages by weakening unions.

A recent Bluegrass Poll found that 55 percent of Kentuckians favor changing state laws to allow people to work in businesses that have unions without joining the union or paying union dues. Twenty-eight percent of those polled were opposed.

Stivers said the issue “will be of continuing interest to localities that are looking for innovative ways to attract new businesses.”

He noted that 24 states have enacted “right-to-work” laws that are not pre-empted by federal law.

Stivers was not immediately available to take questions about his request. O’Connell, a Democrat, was not immediately available for comment.

Conway spokeswoman Allison Gardner Martin, said the attorney general’s office will review Stivers’ request.

Oct. 6 is deadline to register to vote in fall elections

Alison Lundergan Grimes

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT — Oct. 6 is the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 4 general election, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes reminded eligible Kentuckians Monday.

County clerks’ offices throughout Kentucky will accept voter registration cards until the close of business on that date, she said in a statement. Mail-in voter registration applications must be postmarked by Oct. 6.

Under the Military Heroes Voting Initiative, new legislation proposed by Grimes, qualified military and overseas voters may now register to vote and update their registration information electronically through the State Board of Elections’ new Federal Post Card Application Wizard.

The application, along with other resources for military and overseas voters, is available at www.elect.ky.gov. Applications submitted electronically must be received by the county clerk by close of business on Oct. 6.

“Military voters often move from place to place, which can make it hard for them to maintain accurate voter registration records,” said Grimes. “I’m excited that, for the first time in Kentucky, they can complete essential voter registration functions electronically. This initiative provides them valuable tools that will help ensure they have a meaningful opportunity to participate in elections back home.”

To be eligible to vote, you must meet the following criteria: be a U.S. citizen; be a Kentucky resident for at least 28 days before Election day; be at least 18 years old by the date of the next general election; not be a convicted felon, or if convicted of a felony offense, must have obtained a restoration of civil rights; not have been adjudged “mentally incompetent;” and not claim the right to vote anywhere outside Kentucky.

Voters who have recently moved need to update their voter registration information no later than Oct. 6.

Persons who move from one county to another county while the voter registration books are open and fail to update their registration information before the voter registration books close are not permitted to vote in the election.

Victims of domestic violence and sexual assault can register and update their registration while keeping their names and addresses out of publicly available voter records.

“The future of Kentucky and our nation depend on all eligible voters participating in the process,” said Grimes. “Registering to vote is the first step in being a part of the 2014 elections, and I hope that as many Kentuckians as are able will make their voices heard.”

You can check your current registration status on the Voter Information Center, https://cdcbp.ky.gov/VICWeb/index.jsp.

To obtain a registration card or for more information about registering to vote, visit www.elect.ky.gov or contact your county clerk or the State Board of Elections at (502) 573-7100.

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.