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Video Purports to Show Grimes' Dislike of Coal. What Does It Really Say?

Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes isn’t being honest with voters about her support of Kentucky’s coal industry, according to a video released today by the conservative Project Veritas.The video by James O’Keefe—who was widely criticized for deceptively editing a video about ACORN in 2009—relies on hidden camera interviews with Kentucky Democratic officials about Grimes and coal, but ultimately doesn't prove much about where she truly stands on coal.The video was disseminated with a headline stating that it's Grimes' staff members who are talking.But O’Keefe fails to get either Alison Lundergan Grimes or any of her paid campaign staffers on video. What he gets instead are county Democratic Party officials—from Fayette and Warren counties—and a field organizer. All say something similar to what Juanita Rodriguez of Warren County says when asked if Grimes is lying about her support of coal:“Well, I don’t really think her heart is 100 percent in backing coal, but she has to say she is because she will not get a huge number of votes in this state if she doesn’t,” Rodriguez said.Stephen Voss, a political science professor at the University of Kentucky, said he’s not surprised that O’Keefe managed to capture the sentiments on video, but that they’re ultimately inconsequential.“If politicians are going to be judged by the attitudes of the stray people that float into their campaign, everyone’s going to be tarnished," Voss said. “If anything, I guess it surprises me people are making that much of a big deal that they could get campaign workers to say almost anything.”Instead, Voss said the video underscores the fact that the Democratic Party is divided on energy issues in Kentucky. And a common political phenomenon is people projecting their own views onto a candidate—especially one like Grimes without years in public service to comprise her record.“This isn’t just politicians,” he said. “At the end of my American Government class, I ask my students what they think my politics are. And the conservatives think I’m more conservative and the liberals think I’m more liberal. They project onto me.”Grimes’ campaign confirmed that none of the people who appeared in the video were paid employees of the campaign, and released a statement said:“The United Mine Workers of America endorsed Alison because of her unwavering commitment to Kentucky coal miners. She is the only candidate with a plan to save Kentucky coal jobs and protect the health and safety of our miners. The fact that Mitch McConnell's campaign relies on an extreme activist with a known history of deceptive projects -- one of which led to an FBI raid and federal criminal conviction -- is telling as McConnell attempts to make this race about anything but the loss of 25,000 coal jobs on his watch.”Also included in O’Keefe’s video is former auditor Crit Luallen, also a Grimes supporter.“And the reality is, the truth is, Obama’s regulatory policies have had the impact...totally restricting what coal can do and he’s basically shut down all the really terrible environmental places," Luallen said in the video. "So between the market forces and what he’s already done, this is not like a big hook hanging over our heads because it’s already going in the right direction. She’s just got to do what she’s got to do to get elected.”Voss said it’ll be interesting to see what effect, if any, that statement has on Luallen’s political future in Kentucky. The sentiment behind her statement—that coal has already begun a decline and won’t rebound—is supported by facts. But Republican gubernatorial candidate James Comer is already being attacked for similar statements he made last year.O'Keefe's reporting tactics have not only garnered criticism, but also court charges. He pleaded guilty in federal court in 2010 to a misdemeanor charge of entering federal property under a false pretense. He and three others posed as telephone repairmen in order to enter U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu's office and secretly record an interaction with staffers. 

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