Campaign Watchdog: Claim that Jack Conway allowed utility rate increase 'false'

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.

The statement: "(Jack) Conway made hundreds of thousands in dividends from a company linked to a utility Conway allowed to raise rates."

— Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, in a television ad against Attorney General Jack Conway, the Democratic U.S. Senate nominee.

The ruling: False.

FalseThe facts: This is a case of adding two and two to come up with five in suggesting Conway had a conflict of interest. It doesn't add up.

The issue concerns a rate increase for Atmos Energy Corp., which distributes natural gas to about 172,000 customers in Kentucky.

Atmos moves natural gas through a pipeline in Colorado owned by Kinder Morgan Energy. Conway owns stock in Kinder Morgan and reported getting $263,000 in dividends in 2009 and 2010.

In its Kentucky rate request, Atmos asked for $9.5 million. Conway's office, which has authority to intervene in utility rate cases to seek lower rates for consumers, negotiated a settlement of $5.95 million.

Aside from the weak link between Atmos and Kinder Morgan Energy, the key problem with the ad is that Conway's office does not approve utility rate decisions. That authority lies solely with the state Public Service Commission, which approved the settlement for Atmos in May, but which could have rejected it.

Andrew Melnykovych, spokesman for the PSC, said this about the claim that Conway allowed Atmos to raise rates: "That statement is just flat wrong."

Crossroads GPS is an advocacy group affiliated with longtime Republican insiders, including Karl Rove. It has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to defeat Conway in his race against Republican Rand Paul.

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