U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes is lying about her support for the state’s coal industry according to Kentucky Democrats, including members of her campaign team, who were captured on a hidden camera video.
The video, produced by conservative filmmaker James O’Keefe, shows five employees of the Grimes campaign and local Democratic Party affiliates speculating that the Democratic challenger to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) is only professing her support for the industry out of political expediency.
"If we can get her elected do you think she is going to do the right thing and she’s gonna try to wipe out that coal industry and go for better resources?" asks an undercover videographer in one segment of the video.
"I absolutely think she is," responds Fayette County Democratic Party operative Gina Bess.
The video’s release comes as Grimes works to salvage a campaign that has consistently trailed in public polling and which, according to Nate Silver's election model, has just a 12 percent chance of victory in November.
"Let me set it straight for you Mitch McConnell. I am the pro-coal candidate in this race," Grimes declared at a recent campaign event with former President Bill Clinton.
Grimes has used that type of rhetoric in attempts to distance herself from President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency, which has enacted regulations on coal-fired power plants that coal companies and supporters say are taking a heavy toll on the industry.
Support for such regulations is a political albatross in coal-heavy Kentucky, and Grimes campaign staffers featured in O’Keefe’s video recognize that fact.
"She’s saying something positive about coal because she wants to be elected," said Ros Hines, a staffer in Grimes’ Lexington campaign office. "And in the state of Kentucky, if you are anti-coal, you will not get elected, period, end of conversation."
Some Grimes supporters captured in the hidden-camera video likewise suggest that Grimes is lying about her support for the industry in order to get elected.
"She has to say that," remarked Juanita Rodriguez of the Warren County Democratic Party. "But you know what? Politics is a game. You do what you have to do to get [elected]. … It’s a lying game unfortunately."
Rodriguez speculated that Grimes does not in fact support the industry to the extent that she has declared publicly.
"I really don’t think her heart is 100 percent in backing coal. But she has to say she is because she will not get a high number of votes in this state if she doesn’t. But she’s got to get in there first and she’s gonna say whatever she has to say or do. And that’s the way the political game is played."
Like Grimes, McConnell routinely criticizes the EPA’s attempts to crack down on the coal industry. McConnell has also introduced legislation to stymie those efforts. However, Senate Democrats have stymied McConnell’s efforts.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) blocked action this summer on a McConnell bill that would block EPA power plant regulations unless the agency certified that it would not eliminate jobs or increase electricity prices.
McConnell’s staff seized on O’Keefe’s video to blast Grimes’ purported dishonesty on the coal issue.
"It is absolutely shocking that Alison Lundergan Grimes' own staff now admits that she has no intention of protecting the coal industry," campaign spokeswomen Allison Moore wrote in an emailed statement. "The level of deception that Alison Grimes and her campaign engages in to appear pro-coal despite virulent opposition is both disturbing and dangerous."
Neither Grimes’ campaign nor the Kentucky Democratic Party returned requests for comment.
O’Keefe’s video is the first from an offshoot of his group called Project Veritas Action. He says that the Grimes video "is the beginning of a nationwide undercover investigation into the upcoming elections."
The original group has recently used O'Keefe's trademark undercover video techniques to uncover controversial activities by other Democrats and allied groups.
In February, Veritas videographers caught activists with the Democratic group Battleground Texas using information from voter registration drives to bolster their database of voter information in an apparent violation of Texas law.
O’Keefe rose to prominence in 2009 after the first of his "sting" videos revealed employees of the now-defunct Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) offering to assist his (non-existent) underage prostitution ring.