Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes' latest campaign ad attacks U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over lost coal jobs in Kentucky — a connection that the Kentucky Coal Association quickly labeled as unfair and inaccurate.
KCA president Bill Bissett said Tuesday morning that Grimes' new ad, which combines coal job losses with McConnell's remark to a newspaper about jobs, makes a false connection between what McConnell told The Beattyville Enterprise and the loss of coal jobs.
"It is unfair and untrue to blame U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell for the loss of coal jobs in Eastern Kentucky," Bissett said. "I can say with great confidence that Sen. McConnell and his staff have done everything they can to support Kentucky's coal miners and coal production, but these efforts have been stopped at every turn in the United States Senate by Sen. Harry Reid, who currently sets the Senate's agenda."
In response to the coal association, the Grimes campaign released a statement from state Sen. Ray Jones of Pikeville: "The staggering coal job loss we've seen in communities across Eastern Kentucky has been on Mitch McConnell's watch — not Alison's. Rather than re-electing someone who does not think it's his job to bring jobs to Kentucky, the Commonwealth deserves a Senator who will make it their number one priority — that's exactly what Alison will do."
But Bissett said it's "frustrating" to see Grimes tie McConnell to the more than 7,000 jobs lost since 2011. "I think it tries to draw a connection that's not there," Bissett said of the ad. "You need to look at who is to blame here."
Bissett said the fault lies with President Barack Obama and Reid.
Grimes' ad, the second in a series featuring voters who question her opponent, McConnell, has unemployed coal miner David Stanley asking McConnell about the comment the incumbent senator made to the Beattyville Enterprise. The newspaper had reported that McConnell said: "Economic development is a Frankfort issue. That is not my job. It is the primary responsibility of the state Commerce Cabinet."
"Mr. McConnell, in the last two years, we've lost almost half of our coal jobs in Eastern Kentucky," Stanley says to the camera. "Why'd you say it's not your job to bring jobs to Kentucky?"
After a pause, Grimes, Kentucky's secretary of state, says, "I couldn't believe he said that either. I approve this message because, Senator, that will be my number one job."
The first ad of the series, an attack on Medicare and McConnell's support for a 2011 budget resolution, was roundly savaged by fact-checkers as false.
McConnell's campaign said Tuesday morning that the second ad was destined for similar scrutiny with similar results.
"It says a lot about the character of a candidate when she bases her entire campaign on mischaracterizations and outright falsehoods," said Allison Moore, McConnell's spokeswoman. "We're one year into Alison Lundergan Grimes' candidacy and the only factual argument for her campaign is that she's Barack Obama's Kentucky candidate."
The McConnell camp said that previous charges by Grimes on this front were rated half-true by Politifact, and at the event where McConnell was asked about jobs — the senator said later he misunderstood and thought the question was about a specific public works project that would fall under the purview of state government — McConnell talked about protecting jobs.
The McConnell campaign also said that FactCheck.org stated last month that it "couldn't find any public statements from Grimes regarding coal prior to her announcing her Senate candidacy, nor did her campaign provide any when we asked."