Campaign Watchdog: DNC statement on Rand Paul's civil rights position 'mostly false'

Each week, the Herald-Leader will fact-check statements made by candidates and their surrogates in the campaigns for Lexington mayor, the 6th Congressional District and U.S. Senate.

U.S. Senate

The statement: "Rand Paul declined to say whether he would have supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964, taking issue with a key piece that prohibits private businesses from refusing to serve people based on their race."

-- Democratic National Committee in an Aug. 16, 2010, news release

The ruling: Mostly false

The facts: In a CNN interview on May 20, two days after a big win in the Republican primary, Paul said he would have voted for the landmark Civil Rights Act if he had been in office in 1964.

"I would have voted yes," Paul said.

However, that statement came after media interviews the day before that muddied the water.

Paul set off a storm of criticism May 19 with comments that suggested he thought the Civil Rights Act infringed on private property rights by outlawing segregation at businesses such as lunch counters.

Paul said in an interview that day on MSNBC that he abhors racism, calling the history of segregation in the South a "stain" on the country, and saying he was "absolutely in favor" of the parts of the Civil Rights Act that bar discrimination by government entities.

But he went on to say that one part of the act "deals with private institutions, and had I been around, I would've tried to modify that."

The host, Rachel Maddow, did not ask Paul directly whether he would have voted for the act but pressed him on the question of whether private businesses should be allowed to not serve African-Americans or others.

Paul did not say yes or no, instead responding with an analogy about free speech.

"Should we limit racists from speaking? I don't want to be associated with those people, but I also don't want to limit their speech in any way, in the sense that we tolerate boorish and uncivilized behavior because that's one of the things freedom requires ... ."

Later, he told an interviewer that his statements on MSNBC weren't as clear as they could have been. "We don't always explain what we mean very well," he said.

-- Bill Estep

Lexington Mayor

The statement: Mayor Jim Newberry "wants his friends at the foreign-owned water company to get a fair return on their investment."

-- Jim Gray in a July 29, 2010, news release

The ruling: False

The facts: RWE AG, a German utility conglomerate, bought American Water, which is Kentucky American Water's parent company, in 2002, but sold the last of the company in November 2009. American Water is based in New Jersey and is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Jamie Emmons, Gray's campaign manager, defended the statement first by saying that a Norwegian bank owned more than 3 million shares of American Water, which has about 175 million shares of stock outstanding.

Later, Emmons told the Herald-Leader that the statement was made because Kentucky American was foreign-owned at the time a new water treatment plant was conceived.

The plant is the driving force behind the water company's recent request for a nearly 38 percent rate increase. Gray is blaming Newberry for the rate increase because the mayor supported building the treatment plant over an alternative proposal to build a pipeline from Louisville, which Gray favored.

-- Andy Mead

6th Congressional District

The statement: "The stimulus you (U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles) supported allowed Wall Street executives to receive millions in bonuses after receiving federal assistance."

-- Andy Barr in an Aug. 19, 2010, Bluegrass Politics Debate

The ruling: True

The facts: Chandler voted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the $787 billion economic stimulus package.

Among many other things, the bill included a provision to preclude bonus payments at companies that received bailout funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, commonly known as the bank-bailout bill.

However, in final negotiations over differences between the House and Senate versions of the stimulus bill, Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn., added a sentence that protected bonuses at bailout recipients such as AIG if they were included in employment contracts before Feb. 11, 2009. Chandler voted to accept the final compromise version of the bill on Feb. 13, 2009.

Dodd's loophole was not disclosed to the public or even most lawmakers until after Congress approved the stimulus bill. Seeking to protect her members from a backlash, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., blamed the Senate.

-- John Cheves

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