Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Being frank about criticism of Andy Barr's constituent outreach

The Official Media Partner of the Elisabeth Jensen for Congress Campaign -- also known as the Lexington Herald-Leader -- recently came out with a hit piece on Congressman Andy Barr, lashing out at his constituent communications, in particular being critical of his mailings to residents of his district through a process known as "franking."

Since this blog caters to the politically astute, there's no need to go into depth about Barr's history, or that of his predecessor. But a brief refresher is always good.

Republican Barr defeated incumbent U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler two years ago. Chandler is the grandson of A.B. "Happy" Chandler, one of the most revered political figures in Kentucky history. Happy Chandler never knew a stranger and was always accessible.

But when Ben Chandler cast a few votes in Congress that riled up his constituents, he went into hiding. At a time when members of Congress were being grilled over subjects like Obamacare and cap & trade at town hall meetings, Chandler started avoiding the public.

Even with the Kentucky General Assembly drawing a new district for him that appeared to be more friendly in terms of the number of Democrat voters, Chandler couldn't survive the public's wrath two years ago. Barr came close in a district more friendly to Republicans in 2010, but he put Chandler out of office two years later in a rematch.

One of Barr's campaign promises was to be more available and accessible to the voters. He's kept that promise, through written communications and in public events.

But we think we know the real reason the Herald-Leader was so critical of Barr's mailings.

While Barr has used the U.S. Postal Service for his written communications, Ben Chandler used to have the Herald-Leader distribute his newsletters as advertising supplements in their newspapers. The paid advertising was even distributed in counties outside the Sixth District. The loss of that revenue couldn't have set well with the crew at Main and Midland in downtown Lexington, hence the criticism of Barr mailing his newsletters rather than running them in the newspaper.

There's a big difference in the two types of communication. No real money is involved when an official "franks" a mailing. There's no real additional cost involved, since the mail is going to run anyway. There is an additional charge for newspaper inserts. It would be interesting to see a comparison between the real cost of a Barr mailing vs. a Chandler newspaper supplement.

It's no secret that the Herald-Leader is hostile to Barr and his campaign. We fully expect a Jensen endorsement as November approaches. But the newspaper should at least be transparent as to why it's being critical of Barr's outreach efforts.

Pachyderms have long memories. We remember Chandler's newsletters. And now you've been reminded too.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Back to the future

When Jamie Comer recently announced that he would be announcing that he'll be announcing his run for governor in next year's race, Ronnie Ellis' coverage of the pre-pre-announcement announcement mentioned something that haunted Kentucky's last Republican governor, and will no doubt be an elephant in the room should either Comer or Hal Heiner emerge victorious next November.

Ellis speculates that Comer will make his preliminary announcement at Fancy Farm and his formal announcement in his hometown of Tompkinsville, the seat of Monroe County in the heart of Kentucky's GOP-leaning Old 5th congressional district.

The columnist takes a trip down memory lane and mentions 2003 Republican nominee Ernie Fletcher getting questions while campaigning in Tompkinsville about why state government discriminated against Republicans in hiring for state civil service jobs, and what he would do about it.

In recalling that episode, Ellis mentions a fact the Democrats would prefer we forget. So much so that they have scrubbed all public references to a study commissioned during the Fletcher administration that confirmed how under previous Democrat governors, the state had favored Democrats over Republicans in hiring for jobs that are supposed to be free of political influence.

The story mentions that while voter registration runs 7.5-1 in favor of Republicans in Monroe County, employment at the local state highway garage favored Democrats by nearly twice that margin, 13-1. And as a report issued by a state-appointed commission revealed, that phenomenon was repeated in virtually every county with a GOP majority.

We don't need to recount what happened during the Fletcher administration. That's a matter of history, even if that history has been totally distorted by the Democrat sympathizers in the Kentucky press. It's a fact that Democrats played games with patronage hiring, yet cried foul when Republicans tried to end that process. It's a fact that hiring managers spoke in code, saying applicants had to be "the right religion" to be considered for a job, or their political operatives outright told Republicans that they'd have to change their registration if they hoped to be hired. It's a fact that mid-level managers in the state bureaucracy continued to run a patronage system in the Fletcher administration, basing their hiring decisions on the wishes of the local Democrat power brokers instead of appointees within their own departments.

We don't believe in quota systems, but we have no trouble seeing how something fishy was up, not only just in Monroe County but all across the Old 5th and in other Republican counties. As the persecution of the Fletcher administration dragged on, his Department of Personnel produced research showing how the registration of state employees was heavily skewed toward the Democrats even in counties where Republicans dominated the total voter registration rolls.

After Steve Beshear took over, all references to that Blue Ribbon Commission's report were scrubbed from Personnel's website and other state records. We'd bet that if you wrote the Personnel Cabinet today and made an open records request for those documents, you'd be told the state no longer is in possession of them.

Ending the political discrimination against hiring in state government was a major concern for Fletcher's constituency. Had he not addressed their desires, his term would have been even more hampered because of the support he would have lost from within his own party.

And that's something that Heiner and Comer need to take into consideration. Democrats are back to their old ways, playing politics with hiring in the Beshear administration. They talk a good game about how they're playing by the book, but the results pretty much speak for themselves. Any inroads the Fletcher people had made into reversing the political discrimination against Republicans have been lost.

If a Republican wins the governor's race next fall, which many believe to be very likely, there will be intense pressure once again to stop the Democrats' patronage system. If the governor does not respond, it will come at a price in political capital. Perhaps the governor's appointees will handle it better than did some of Fletcher's people -- never forget that Dan Druen was basically placed in his job by Mitch McConnell -- but a Republican governor will have to ensure that Democrats are no longer favored in state hiring decisions for merit system jobs.

When Ellis goes back to Tompkinsville, perhaps he can inquire again as to the percentage of Democrats to Republicans in the state highway "barn." And perhaps his brethren in the statewide press will ask how a county with vastly more Republicans than Democrats has so few Republicans who are qualified and capable to drive graders or flag traffic.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

EXCLUSIVE: Jamie Comer's growing problem with inaccurate gas pumps in Kentucky

When Jamie Comer runs for governor, he's going to do so primarily on his record as agriculture commissioner over the past three years.

His primary accomplishment was getting fellow Republican Richie Farmer thrown in prison, but among the other feats he'll tout, undoubtedly one of them will be the sale of the state's fuel testing laboratory.

It's interesting that something fuel-related will be listed among his positives, since there's an emerging situation regarding fuel sales in Kentucky that could turn out to be a real negative where Comer's political aspirations are concerned.

One of the responsibilities of the Department of Agriculture is to inspect gasoline pumps at filling stations across Kentucky. We're getting reports from several sources that there's a growing problem with the accuracy of gas pumps in the state.

At some retailers, gas pumps are recording sales of gasoline that actually do not occur. The pump starts running and recording gallons and cents before any fuel is dispensed. Videos showing this happening are starting to pop up on the Web and on social media.

We first heard of this happening in the southeastern Kentucky mountains, in the Hazard area. As soon as the customer swiped a card at the pump and removed the nozzle, a few cents ticked off before the first drop of gas was pumped. We then started hearing about other instances of this occurring in that area, and even saw proof on a Facebook video.

Yet another instance took place in the northern Kentucky area, near Florence. The customer shot video as the pump slowly ran up from 7 to 10 cents while the nozzle was resting on the back of the truck, with no one touching it.

Gas prices are a sensitive subject as it is, and this won't help matters. And it certainly won't help Comer, whose name is in big letters on those state inspection stickers that adorn every gas pump in the commonwealth.

We know that the stickers proclaim that testing and maintenance to ensure accuracy is the responsibility of the owner, but we also know that when people feel like they're being cheated, they often turn to the government for help. And when the name of a prominent elected official who is seeking the state's top position adorns the machine that cheated them, they'll likely assign blame to him instead of calling out to him to fix the problem. It's quite likely that they'll ask Attorney General Jack Conway, who's running for governor himself, to intervene. And Conway will waste no time laying this scandal at Comer's feet as he attempts to ingratiate himself with voters who have already seen through his pathetic attempts to control the rampant price-fixing among gas station owners.

Of course, it's in the stations' best interests to fix the faulty pumps immediately, lest they start losing customers as word spreads about which businesses are charging people for gasoline they don't actually purchase. Public pressure will no doubt force their hands.

We haven't seen any media coverage of this situation yet, although as the "shares" continue to grow on social media, they can't ignore it for long. Neither can Comer, who needs to get out in front of this problem as soon as possible lest it come back to haunt his gubernatorial aspirations and cast a pall on what has otherwise been considered by many, even a hostile press, as an effective tenure in statewide elective office.

Hal Heiner's campaign might want to start scouring the Internet for these videos for future use if Comer continues to allow these inaccurate pumps to stay in operation.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Another reason we'll never understand Democrats (or, the delusions of Ed Marksberry)

We've followed the quixotic U.S. Senate campaign of Ed Marksberry, from the day he announced his candidacy to his withdrawal from the Democrat primary amid allegations that Alison Lundergan Grimes' people tried to buy him out of the race, and finally to this week's announcement that he's abandoning his attempt to get on the ballot as an independent.

Marksberry is even more liberal than Lundergan Grimes, and he makes no bones about it. His chief complaint about Lundergan Grimes is that she's too conservative, and that she's pandering to Kentuckians in an attempt to unseat Mitch McConnell.

He declared that he has no plans to support Lundergan Grimes in the November election.

Marksberry says his health is one reason that he's been unable to get enough signatures on his petition to appear on the ballot, but we have to wonder if his problem is mental, rather than physical.

Does he really think that if elected, Lundergan Grimes will vote as a conservative? Is he really crazy enough to believe that she will promote a pro-coal, pro-growth, pro-family agenda in the Senate?

Lundergan Grimes comes from a political family. She knows that no matter her true beliefs, there are certain things she has to say in order to get elected in Kentucky. Marksberry never had a change to win because he holds so many anti-Kentucky positions, and he voices his opinions. Lundergan Grimes will certainly be no champion for the Bluegrass State, but at least she knows she can't say so publicly. She has a real shot to win, but only if she masks her real intentions. If she does win, she will do whatever President Obama and Harry Reid want her to do, regardless of whether or not it hurts Kentucky and its residents.

Marksberry doesn't understand that. He seems proud to hold positions at odds from the majority of the state's inhabitants. It's one thing to believe that, but it's another thing to try to get elected on those beliefs. There's not a dime's worth of difference in Lundergan Grimes and Marksberry.

We have to admit, it would have been entertaining to see Marksberry on the same stage as Lundergan Grimes, accusing her of being too conservative. At least she knows she can't win if she embraces the Obama agenda. Marksberry would probably run up and give him a big wet kiss if he showed up in Kentucky.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sen. Brandon Smith couldn't see what he was saying

It's probably fitting that the first time we ever heard the phrase,"He had his tongue wrapped around his eyeteeth so he couldn't see what he was saying," it was uttered by a native of Perry County.

Because something similar happened a couple of weeks ago to State Sen. Brandon Smith, a Republican from Hazard, that earned him national ridicule and scorn from liberals who don't know any better.

Smith was speaking to an interim General Assembly committee meeting on the Obama administration's war on coal. We're not going to repeat his comment here; it's easy enough to find by looking at practically any liberal blog or news source.

As usual, the libs focused on the words that were used and not the intent behind them. While we agree that Smith probably could have made his point a little better, we know what he was trying to say: That the temperature on Mars is subject to similar fluctuations as what have been noted on Earth, but Mars doesn't have a human population to cause the changes the way the liberal "climate change" disciples claim we do. He was saying that Mars experiences the same thing that happens here, so it's a totally natural phenomenon.

Liberals are funny creatures. Well, they would be funny if they weren't ruining our nation. They change the language to fit their beliefs. For years, they preached "global warming" but when people began to see through that, the mantra became "climate change." As more meteorologists and climatologists start questioning the global warming gospel, defenders of the faith become more rabid in their defense. Liberal-leaning newspapers refuse to publish letters to the editor questioning the absolute truth that the planet is getting hotter and people are causing it. Never mind that much of the "research" was faked; just Google "East Anglia" + "climate change" for proof.

Kentucky is suffering greatly from the war on coal. Between tightening of EPA regulations and restrictions on mining permits, the coal business and supporting industries are struggling. Coal's enemies are quick to blame inexpensive natural gas as the reason for coal's decline, but that's disingenuous. Besides, fracking has enemies, too, and sooner or later the natural gas market will collapse as the government clamps down on its production.

Bluegrass politicians of both parties generally defend the coal business, to varying degrees, but as usual, the Democrats speak with forked tongue. Greg Stumbo recently made headlines and drew the wrath of national party bigwigs when he made reference to the Obama administration's "dumb-assed" policies. But someone needs to tell the deadbeat dad who lives in Lexington but still claims to reside in Floyd County that it's his party that's leading the war on coal.

And who is Stumbo supporting in the U.S. Senate race? Fellow Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, of course. Does anyone believe she will be a voice for Kentucky's coal miners and coal industry if she's elected? She will vote exactly as Harry Reid and President Obama direct. She will get permission to vote against their agenda only if they already have enough votes and can afford to let her represent her home state instead of the Washington elites and the radicals on both coasts. Stumbo may talk a good game, but he's not fooling anybody with any sense. If he really cared about coal miners and the coal industry and the economy of the mountains, he wouldn't be a Democrat.

But back to Smith. As far as we know, no media outlet ever reached out to him to allow him to explain or clarify his comments. He did tweet out a clarification of his statement, but it got very little play except to be ridiculed by one of those woeful Kentucky liberal bloggers that makes us want to vomit. The libs in the press were perfectly happy to let his words stand for themselves, without any context. A few pundits were able to interpret what he meant, us included, but the vast majority were happy to have a verbal gaffe from a Republican to use as an example of how clueless conservatives are about "climate change" and what a real threat it represents.

When two-thirds of the people in the mountains of Kentucky are unemployed and destitute, and when electricity rates are so high that we're driven back technologically to the turn of the 20th Century, none of this will matter. Liberals will have won their war on coal, but the real victims will be the people of the Old 7th District who still remain loyal to the party of Carl D. Perkins, even though that party left their interests behind decades ago.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Shoeless Steve Beshear

Say it ain't so.

The text of yesterday's federal court ruling by Judge John Heyburn in striking down Kentucky's state constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage gives credence to a theory we've heard mentioned that Gov. Steve Beshear only went through the motions in appealing the ruling, and did not put a true effort into the appeal.

Many were amused when the state's private lawyers offered up the laughable argument that same-sex marriage needed to be banned because only opposite-sex couples can have children and thus keep up the state's birth rate and economy.

"These arguments are not those of serious people," Heyburn's ruling stated.

If you need a refresher course, here's a brief one. When Heyburn ruled several months ago that the state could not refuse to accept same-sex marriages performed in other states, Attorney General Jack Conway refused to appeal the ruling. In short, he failed to do his sworn duty. Beshear, however, pushed forward an appeal by the state using private counsel, doing his required duty.

No one really believes that Beshear is opposed to same-sex marriage. Many suspected that although Beshear was going through the motions in pursing the appeal, his heart really wasn't in it. He is a Democrat, after all, and Democrats in general support same-sex marriage. That suspicion got stronger when the attorneys put forth that procreation argument. And that argument was what the judge referenced his ruling yesterday on the question of Kentucky performing gay marriages on its own.

To sum it up, Beshear deliberately threw the appeal. He did his duty as required, but he did not make a serious effort. If this was baseball, he'd be Shoeless Joe Jackson and his legal team would be the Chicago Black Sox.

Although Beshear has announced that the state will appeal yesterday's ruling as well, we don't expect a serious or sincere effort. There are all sorts of arguments that could be made in opposition to the redefinition of marriage -- which is the prism through which we view this issue -- or to the state's regulation of who can and cannot engage in certain types of conduct or activities. (You can legally marry without parental permission at age 18, but you have to be 21 to drink a beer to celebrate that marriage?)

Liberals and those who want to redefine marriage to suit their desires are aghast at the state's appeal, saying it's a waste of taxpayer money in what will ultimately be a losing effort. And they're partly right. If the state's contracted attorneys continue to make laughable arguments, it is a waste of money. Not so if they do it earnestly and correctly.

Say it ain't so, indeed.