After County Judge-Executives grumbled about Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul's lack of support for Operation UNITE, a drug task force in eastern Kentucky supported by federal dollars, Paul both defended his ideological stance to keep tax dollars closer to home while also acknowledging that he does not have an opinion on the UNITE program.
"I think your solutions need to come from local people, and local programs not the federal level," Paul said during the County Judge-Executive Association forum on Thursday in Louisville, "I will always vote to keep more money in Kentucky to deal with problems and send less to Washington."
Yet, to Magoffin County Judge-Executive Dr. Charles Hardin (D) it "sounded like he was just saying 'you deal with it.'"
"We have a very small county with a limited budget and we have a large problem with drug addiction," Hardin said in an interview after the forum where he asked Paul whether he supported UNITE. "I think that it is a federal problem because it crosses state lines."
In an interview after the forum, Paul reasserted his position.
"If they are good programs, let's keep the program local. Let's not send the money to Washington. The whole problem with sending money to Washington is, it gets wasted in the bureaucracy," Paul said, "Keep it local. Keep it where the programs are targeted, but let's not let it grow into a program that can somehow then be dispensed for political favoritism."
When pressed further, however, Paul appeared to waver.
"I don't have a specific opinion on UNITE, to tell you the truth," Paul admitted, "other than to say that, in general, that programs should be more local than federal." But, Paul added, he does have the opinion that the whole budget should be reviewed.
Conway, meanwhile, said what most county judges wanted to hear.
"Judge," Conway said to the forum, "you have my steadfast commitment to support Operation UNITE."
"While it's easy to say you want to deal with it on the local level, it's really an all hands on deck situation," Conway added.
The Conway campaign has sent out two news releases concerning the UNITE funding question; it is clear the campaign believes it has found the Achilles' heel of Paul's fiscal conservatism message, that local communities crave federal dollars.
News Releases from Conway Campaign
Paul Declares War on Kentucky Programs
Identifies Republican Congressman's successful drug aversion program as target for cuts
LOUISVILLE - In an appearance Thursday before the Kentucky County Judge Executives and Magistrates Summer Convention, Rand Paul once again showed how out of touch he is with the needs of Kentuckians by declaring he would not support funding for Operation Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education (UNITE).
The successful substance abuse aversion program started by Congressman Hal Rogers (R-KY) in 2003 works with local officials in 29 Eastern Kentucky counties to reduce the occurrence of substance abuse and lessen the negative impact of drugs on individual communities.
UNITE is just one of many casualties that would result from Paul's refusal to accept federal funds for Kentucky projects, including bridges, infrastructure and other programs beneficial to communities across the Commonwealth.
In less than a decade of existence, UNITE has resulted in 3,434 arrests, $9 million worth of illegal drugs seized, over $5 million in treatment program vouchers given to low-income families, and nearly 60,000 students' participation in UNITE drug education programs, and these are merely a few of the program's accomplishments.
Dr. Paul's declarations against funding programs like UNITE at Thursday's forum come on the heels of his proposals to eliminate the Departments of Education and Agriculture, which provide scholarships for our children, help farmers, and protect our nation's food supply.
"While Rand Paul is working to be the leader of a national movement, he clearly doesn't understand the needs of Kentucky. We simply cannot afford his outside the mainstream ideas, like doing away with federal money for vital projects and programs like operation UNITE. We deserve a Senator like Jack Conway who, as Attorney General, has built a positive record of getting results for our state, including participating in Operation Flamingo Road, the largest drug bust in the history of Kentucky," said Conway spokesperson Allison Haley.
Paul isn't Committed to Combating Drugs
LOUISVILLE - The Lexington Herald-Leader reported Saturday on Rand Paul's declaration to strip funding for law enforcement efforts combating drug abuse in Eastern Kentucky, a policy that has county officials questioning once again whether Paul understands Kentucky's needs and his commitment to fighting drug related crimes.
"Paul's Libertarian-leaning position on drug interdiction was quickly rejected as unrealistic by some officials on the front line of the fight against drugs in Eastern Kentucky," wrote the Herald."The drug problem in the region is severe, and cities and counties that are already hard-pressed to pay for other services could not afford additional costs to fight drugs and treat addicts, officials said."
Operation UNITE was started by Congressman Hal Rogers (R-KY) in 2003 and works with local officials in 29 Eastern Kentucky counties to reduce the occurrence of substance abuse and lessen the negative impact of drugs on individual communities.
Paul's attempt to spin his policy further proved how little he knows about the Commonwealth. Paul claimed for each dollar Kentucky sends to D.C., "half stays there, half is wasted and half of it goes to political cronyism." But the Herald, one of the state's largest newspapers, discredited Paul's claim:
"Kentucky gets back between $1.51 and $1.82 in federal spending, depending on which study is consulted, for every dollar it sends to Washington in federal taxes."
"UNITE is just one of many casualties that would result from Paul's refusal to accept federal funds for Kentucky projects, including bridges, infrastructure and other programs beneficial to communities across the Commonwealth. Paul has said he will also do away with scholarships for our children, help for our farmers and nearly every other government-funded program." said Conway spokesperson Allison Haley.
In his first meeting as attorney general, Conway sat down Congressman Hal Rogers about beefing up the prescription drug division. He also immediately began forming the task force by meeting with prosecutors, law enforcement officials. He also assigned an investigator to work with Operation Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education (UNITE). The "unprecedented coordination" between local, state and federal law enforcement officials-known as Operation Flamingo Road-became Commonwealth's largest drug round-up and resulted in more than 500 indictments. Since taking office, the Office of Attorney general has opened 277 drug investigations, seized 9,810 pills worth $20,250 and made 100 arrests on 219 counts.