As U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell returns to Washington after the August recess, a union working overtime to deny him a sixth term is trying to bring some heat home in Kentucky.
The AFL-CIO will unveil a new ad, part of its "Koch Sisters" campaign, in the Lexington market on 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 to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
A recent poll suggests that McConnell has established a small but steady lead over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, but it also shows 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 became majority leader, the Senate won't debate "gosh darn proposals" such as raising the minimum 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 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, "who share the same last name but not the same values as the Koch Brothers," the group said when it announced them.
In the latest ad, titled "Almost Evil" and timed to coincide with Reid's introduction of a minimum-wage proposal, the women blame the Koch brothers for Republican opposition to raising the minimum wage. "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 Wichita Eagle, in which Charles Koch said he wanted to help the disadvantaged by eliminating a "culture of dependency." Among other things, he mentioned the minimum wage as "something we've go to clear ... out" to remove obstacles in the way of "raising up the disadvantaged and the poorest in this country."
The most recent Bluegrass Poll found that registered voters in Kentucky favor raising the minimum wage. A higher minimum wage is favored 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 estimating that it 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."