Analysis: Question in Grimes coal jobs ad is questionable


by Joe Arnold

Posted on July 22, 2014 at 6:36 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- The second in a planned series of attack ads from the Alison Grimes U.S. Senate campaign underscores the importance of coal issues to the Senate campaigns.

After a retired coal miner was featured in Grimes' first attack ad, an unemployed coal miner appears alongside Grimes in the new ad.

"I'm Alison Lundergan Grimes and David Stanley lost his coal mining job in Letcher County," Grimes says in the commercial.  She and Stanley are seated side by side on folding chairs in front of the century old JD Maggard's General Store in Eolia, Kentucky.

Grimes lets Stanley make the attack for her.

"He has this question for Senator McConnell," Grimes says.

"Mr. McConnell, in the last two years, we've lost almost half of our coal jobs in Eastern Kentucky," Stanley says, "Why'd you say it's not your job to bring jobs to Kentucky?"

Like the Medicare question in Grimes' first ad, a long silence follows the coal jobs question.

And, like Grimes first ad, the question itself is questionable.

It's based on an April headline in the Beattyville Enterprise, "McConnell says not his job to bring jobs." 

Prior to McConnell's April speaking engagement in Lee County, the Beattyville Enterprise editor, Edmund Shelby, said he asked McConnell what he was going to do to bring jobs to Lee County.

"Economic development is a Frankfort issue," McConnell is quoted by the newspaper. "That is not my job. It is the primary responsibility of the state Commerce Cabinet."

Though the McConnell campaign has repeatedly said that the interview is presented out of context, Shelby has stood by its accuracy.

“I couldn’t believe he said that either," Grimes says at the end of the thirty second commercial.  "I approved this message because, Senator, that’ll be my number one job.”

During a May news conference, WHAS11 asked McConnell to explain the comment.

"I thought he was talking about specific industries in Lee County and that is obviously a job of the state commerce department," McConnell said.  "I believe had he stayed for the speech, and he said 'I can't stay I've got something else I've got to do,' he would have understood that my whole speech was about job creation."

When Grimes claimed in a June radio ad that McConnell says "It's not his job to bring jobs to Kentucky," the independent Politifact rated her claim as "half true." Politifact said Grimes is selectively quoting the newspaper and McConnell has made his job creation efforts clear.

As for connecting the newspaper headline with the loss of Kentucky coal jobs, Bill Bissett, the Kentucky Coal Association President said Tuesday it was "unfair and untrue" to blame McConnell for the loss of coal jobs in Eastern Kentucky.

“I can say with great confidence that Senator McConnell and his staff have done everything they can to support Kentucky's coal miners and coal production," Bissett said.  "But these efforts have been stopped at every turn in the United States Senate by Senator Harry Reid, who currently sets the Senate’s agenda."

The Grimes ad cites the Kentucky Quarterly Coal Report to show that between 2012 and 2014, Eastern Kentucky has lost approximately 45% of its coal jobs, from 13,214 in 2012 to 7,235 coal mining jobs in 2014.

The Grimes campaign said only she has put forth a comprehensive jobs plan, which includes a call to  diversify Kentucky's economy to attract more businesses.