So, where does Alison Lundergan Grimes stand as she campaigns to unseat Sen. Mitch McConnell? As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, she seems to be channeling “Patches O’Houlihan” on the campaign trail. Last week, Grimes had an interview with Matt Jones on Kentucky Sports Radio, where she acknowledged that global warming exists and the gun show loophole should be closed. As for meatier issues, like Obamacare, she dodged…again.
As always, the McConnell campaign was watching like a hawk.
On marijuana legalization:
Matt Jones: But that’s still not an answer. If a bill came up lets say like in Colorado, which says, marijuana, to legalize marijuana would you vote for that or not. I appreciate the phrase let’s have a discussion, but that doesn’t get me anywhere.
Alison Lundergan Grimes: Do you know Mitch McConnell was at a fundraiser?
Jones: Let me ask you what you think about that.
Grimes: He was at a fundraiser recently and someone asked him what he thought about the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, he didn’t even realize it had been legalized. He didn’t even realize the economic benefits that have been seen in Colorado.
Jones: OK you realize it though so would you vote for it?
Grimes: I realize it. I would want to have the discussion and I think it’s worthwhile to bring the experts together and talk about the reclassification especially for medical purposes.
On the Second Amendment, Grimes avoided answering if she would support a ban on assault rifles. That isn’t a hard question, Ms. Grimes; unless you know that it won’t sit well with Kentucky voters.
Jones: Would you do anything, in the wake of the school shootings and stuff, is there any more gun control that you believe should be done?
Grimes: I believe that it is worth having a discussion to actually work to close the gun show loophole that we see, you shouldn’t have different standards when you go to a gun store versus gun shows.
Jones: So you would close the gun show loophole. Would you ban any assault weapons that exist right now?
Grimes: I’m a big supporter of the Second Amendment, and don’t think that banning weapons is the way to actually help to reduce the violence we see in the US. It’s working to make sure that we educate people and we enforce laws.
Jones: So all guns that are available now you’re fine with?
Grimes: I think, believe in the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms, and I hope perhaps before these next 40 days are up people will actually get to see that I can actually shoot a gun and debate Mitch McConnell at the same time. Wouldn’t that be something?
On whether Grimes would vote to repeal Obamacare, she prevaricated.
Jones: If a vote came up to repeal Obamacare, what would you vote?
Grimes: I’ve said that the Affordable Care Act in this state, KYnect, we have over half a million people that are getting insurance for the first time. It’s not perfect, we’ve got to work to fix it, but we need a Senator there that wants to fix it.
Jones: So you would not vote to repeal it?
Grimes: I would vote to continue to fix Kynect. We’ve seen our Governor’s courage help people to get insurance for the first time. To get check ups, get prescriptions filled, to actually go see a doctor before school starts.
Grimes: These are all good things. Mitch McConnell refuses to realize the lives that are at stake here in the state because he wants to put out over heated and inflamed political party rhetoric, and we can’t have any more of that.
Later in the interview, she rehashed a talking point from her August ad, which said that Sen. McConnell made millions as a sitting senator. Even left-leaning Politifact said this was “mostly false,” while the Washington Post gave it three Pinocchios [emphasis mine]:
McConnell is a 30-year veteran of the Senate, having first entered the chamber in 1985. A senator earned $75,100 in 1985, and it has risen to $174,000 as of 2009, Senate records show. (No pay raise has taken placed since then.)
As Republican leader of the Senate, McConnell earns an even higher salary–$193,400. However, his office has announced that he donates as much as $5,100 a year to an undisclosed charity because he does not want to accept the federal contribution to his health premiums associated with the Affordable Care Act.
The Grimes campaign points to two instances, in 2001 and 2003, when McConnell voted that an amendment halting an automatic pay raise of $4,900 was not germane and voted to block an amendment that would have delayed a $3,400 increase, respectively. (Neither vote directly increased pay.)
Lawmakers are required to file personal financial disclosure forms listing their assets within broad ranges (such as $5 million to $25 million), making it difficult to get a precise sense of a lawmaker’s wealth. Still, the Center for Responsive Politics ranks McConnell as the 10th richest senator, with a net worth of between $9.2 million and $36.5 million.
McConnell’s average wealth of $22.8 million puts him well above the Senate average. Oddly, however, before 2008 McConnell was well below the Senate average. In 2004, his average net worth was $3.1 million, compared to a Senate average of $14.5 million.
That’s almost a sevenfold increase in 10 years. McConnell has quadrupled his net worth since 2007, when it was $7.8 million.
So what happened in 2008?
Indeed, a McConnell spokesman confirms that this was an inheritance for McConnell’s wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, after her mother died in 2007. Chao, who married McConnell in 1993, earns significant income on her own, serving on corporate boards, and has at least $1 million in a Vanguard 500 Index Fund. (Since these shares are in her name, McConnell only needs to report they have a minimum value of $1 milllion.)
McConnell’s wealth may be fair game when trying to highlight his current opposition to Democrats’ efforts to boost the minimum wage.
But that does not give Grimes license to suggest that somehow the increase in his wealth came from being on a public payroll with pay raises that McConnell voted for—“on the backs of hardworking Kentuckians that can’t afford it.” Rather, this is money that his wife inherited, meaning it has nothing to do with his earnings as a U.S. Senator.
Right now, McConnell has a 4 point lead over Grimes, which he has maintained for most of the summer.