Allison Grimes Ethics: Do Parties, Candidates And Citizens Really Think Lying Is A Legitimate Campaign Strategy?

Alison Lundergan Grimes

This is hard for me. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky)is among my least favorite U.S. Senators, and conservative hit man James O’Keefe defines unethical journalism. But O’Keefe’s sneaky tactics, the smug candor of McConnell opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes’ staff and supporters, and her own blatantly misleading statements make it obvious that she and the Kentucky Democrats think that it is acceptable to lie outright about a crucial policy issue to win an election. It isn’t. Any candidate who thinks that way is unqualified for office. I’d love to see McConnell lose to an ethical candidate on his merits. or lack of them. Grimes, however, is a liar, and apparently her staff and supporters are fine with that.

O’Keefe-produced videos show five employees of the Grimes campaign, local Democratic Party affiliates and a key supporter opining that Grimes is faking her support for the coal industry out of political expediency, and will default to the national party’s anti-coal stance the second she hits Washington.

“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 the  deceptively complicit Project Veritas videographer….great name for an operation that lies to subjects in order to acquire their trust, by the way.

“I absolutely think she is,” responds Fayette County Democratic Party operative Gina Bess.

“She’s saying something positive about coal because she wants to be elected,” says 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.”

“She has to say that,” replies 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.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.””

Even more direct is New York City real estate mogul Niko Elmaleh, who has donated the maximum amount to  Grimes’ campaign. “She’s gonna fuck ‘em as soon as she gets elected,” he says.

To compound her deception, Grimes has had the  chutzpah to accuse McConnell of not being sufficiently pro-coal, and using ridiculous allegations to do it. This prompted a four Pinocchios rating from Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler.

Do Democrats really think this is how candidates for the U.S. Senate…or candidates for dogcatcher, for that matter…should get elected? Outright deception of the public? Do Republicans? Doesn’t integrity mean anything to the parties and the public? Isn’t it crucial to send the unequivocal message that this is intolerable for any candidate, of any party, ever?

It’s not a game. It’s democracy, and gaining power through lies undermines democracy, no matter how virtuous a candidate thinks her motives may be.

UPDATE: the best of the FactCheck operations, at the Annenberg Foundation, came to Grimes’ defense on this issue, primarily based on the argument that none of those caught on camera are paid Grimes staffers. Political campaigns rely heavily on volunteer staff, and presumably they work for candidates based on what they believe, and have been given reason to believe, the candidates stand for, and not because they get a paycheck. I don’t find the distinction as definitive as seems to think, or that it diminishes the likelihood that Grimes is misleading voters. While my post was about the disturbing fact that dedicated supporters of the Kentucky Senate candidate seem so certain she is lying about her position on coal, I also find it difficult to believe that staff, Democratic officials and a major donor believe this without good reason.

The tone of the is article troubling. The writers seem determined to defend Grimes at all cost, making the one weakly valid point about paid vs. unpaid staff, then stooping to ad hominem attacks on O’Keefe, claims that those interviewed may have been lying, and a suggestion that the tapes were doctored. Ethics Alarms has always marked this as the least biased of the fact checking groups (in sharp contrast to, for example, the partisan Politifact), but now I am not so sure.


Sources: Washington Post, Washington Free Beacon 1, 2



34 thoughts on “Allison Grimes Ethics: Do Parties, Candidates And Citizens Really Think Lying Is A Legitimate Campaign Strategy?

  1. Humiliating to those of us who still claim membership in the Democratic Party. No, lies are never acceptable. I’ve never had a high opinion of politicians — both sides — because I never thought it was safe to believe ANYthing that they promised. Independent is looking better every day, but can we believe any of the Independent candidates? Probably not. (Feeling like Eyeore…)

  2. I just finished watching Burns’ series on the Roosevelts. And Burns did not pull a single punch when analyzing FDR — he is shown to be a complete narcissist and a liar. Burns showed footage of FDR’s campaign promise when running for election to not sent Americans into war — even though he was overtly planning behind the scenes to do just that.

    Of course, we HAD to enter WWII but Americans were still reeling from losses in WWI and the Great Depression didn’t want to go. The Republican candidate was not for War and FDR knew that he would lose if he campaigned on the need to enter WWII. So he knowingly and emphatically lied.

    I’m starting to wonder if politicians and ethics can ever mix. Roosevelt lied to trick Americans into voting for him — which is horrible. But we had to enter WWII, and this is not a moral luck question because Roosevelt knew it at the time. So, did he do the right thing? The world map would be significantly different and many more millions of people would have died but for that lie.

    • “But we had to enter WWII, and this is not a moral luck question because Roosevelt knew it at the time. So, did he do the right thing? The world map would be significantly different and many more millions of people would have died but for that lie.”

      I don’t think that can be substantiated one iota. If Roosevelt campaigned on NOT ENTERING the War, and Pearl Harbor still pulled us in, then the Republican campaigning on NOT ENTERING the War would, with 99.99% certainty, have also been pulled into the war.

      A real, non-partisan leader, would have campaigned on the inevitable likelihood of entering the war, while seeking to avoid war accept as utter necessity, while reminding the people that that necessity had for all intents and purposes probably arrived. Then *possibly* losing the election on that stance would have turned right around and offered his services wholeheartedly to help the winning candidate when war was compelled on the people.

      • But the Republican candidate showed himself to be an ineffective leader by not understanding the need to enter the War — or willing to be lead by public opinion instead of shaping it.

        As an aside, the US should have entered the War well before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Roosevelt just couldn’t get widespread support for it. But for Hitler declaring War on us, we might have just fought a War in the Pacific, at least for another year or so.

        For me, these questions often come down to the intelligence of the American people. If we were smarter and more informed then we would attract candidates with integrity. Until that happens, we will continue to have dishonest panderers running for office. This is a cart/horse analysis for me.

        • “But the Republican candidate showed himself to be an ineffective leader by not understanding the need to enter the War — or willing to be lead by public opinion instead of shaping it.”

          I don’t know if that can be substantiated either. If Roosevelt was appealing to the mob by claiming to be anti-war while knowing war was inevitable, can you show me that the Republican candidate wasn’t doing the same while also knowing the war was inevitable? Come now, your objections are self-defeating.

          You’ll have to be a little more forgiving also of the American population at the time. Only two decades prior we’d just arrived to bail out Europe once again, only to see it NOT FIX EUROPE’S PROBLEMS. It had only been a generation prior that America stepped onto the world stage… The current generation was about to prove that America would be the determiner of Global stability so that doesn’t even factor it to this question.

          The generation of Americans you decry as not being smarter or more informed was actually making a relatively intelligent decision given Europe’s inability to fix itself (something we still see today)… and if technology hadn’t been rapidly closing the distance of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the likelihood of any European hegemon arising from the European conflict affecting America in any strategic way would have been negligible or nonexistent.

    • I would say there’s a bit of moral luck because it happened to work out well for us. If it hadn’t, FDR would be remembered much differently today, outcome of the war or not.

      No, it’s not right for politicians to lie, even if it means they aren’t elected. The fact that the American people may be too short-sighted to understand or appreciate the reality of a particular situation shouldn’t cause a person to resort to unethical tactics to get them to do the right thing.

    • Hey Beth, I just want to pin this down. Did you just provide anecdotal evidence to explain why you think lying to the electorate is unethical, but an absolute necessity? Or did you just want to make Jack’s point, and show that it’s not a new thing?

      • I am raising a philosophical question only.

        Without question, FDR was one of our greatest presidents. He also was a narcissistic liar — one who had several mistresses to boot. Should he have lied about his intentions to enter WWII? That’s a question for the class. For me, it is just additional confirmation why I would never succeed in politics. Because I would have told the truth — and I would never have been elected.

        • Believe me, that statement is not without question. He was certainly popular, and served during a major crisis, but that’s not the same as actually making good decisions. It may seem that way to you because you support the policies he put in motion and probably don’t remember the ones which were demonstrably bad. My grandfather hated the man after seeing federal agents destroying crops while people he knew were struggling to feed themselves. A stronger example a politician embracing the broken windows fallacy is hard to find.

          You may want to consider how hard it actually is to prove that we had to enter WW2. “Had to” is a very strong phrase. It’s not clear if Germany and Japan would have ever attacked us without Roosevelt’s direct provocations, such as having the Greer broadcast information on the location of a German submarine to British forces.

          The possibility that he allowed Pearl Harbor when he knew it was coming is more persuasive than any of the similar arguments about 9/11. Granted that’s a pretty low bar to clear.

          I’m perfectly open to arguments that making war on them was ethical for various reasons, but it’s quite possible we could have sat out that war if we’d actually been at all neutral with the countries involved. Even the holocaust could have been at least lessened if we’d allowed German Jews to immigrate as refugees instead of turning them away.

            • Don’t confuse moral luck with math please. Bringing in a huge ground force — along w/ a powerful navy and airforce — is what defeated Hitler.

              But I agree with your strategic analysis below. You’re just a faster typer.

                • An ineffective leader wouldn’t have been prepared. Roosevelt did a lot before declaring War that insured that we were prepared.

                  • Again, you’d have to show how Roosevelt’s opponent in that instance would have undermined preparedness. Come now, you know full well that most Presidents can do scant little to change things established by previous Presidents in regards to things like this. Roosevelt’s successor (were he to have lost) would have inherited all preparations and in the case of Willkie (his opponent who actually DID have an internationalist outlook and only swung “anti-war” for the votes) would likely have perpetuated the preparations.

                    I simply don’t see your comment as an effective comment to my rebuttal that most of Roosevelt’s “greatness” was the moral luck of being the President during a war we won.

                    If Willkie had been President, we probably would claim “how great he was”… well probably not as much with the Media-Democrat complex around…

                • To piggyback on Beth’s statement about “being prepared,” I think that her point is that FDR (through Lend-Lease, reintroducing the draft, and other measures) attempted to get America back on a war footing before Pearl Harbor. While fortuitous circumstances allowed FDR to show his mettle as a war leader, other situations show what disasters American Presidents can create in a wartime situation. In 1860, lame-duck President Buchanan all but abandoned rebellious areas, making Lincoln’s job in March 1861 all the tougher. A less dough-faced leader (Andrew Jackson comes to mind) would have never tolerated such treason and sedition. Thus, Buchanan is almost universally considered to be the worst American president. Similarly, Madison declared war on Britain (with Congressional approval), and suffered the indignity of allowing a foreign army to sack Washington DC. Clinton pissed away U.S. homogeny in allowing a bunch of Mujahedeen to blow up two U.S. embassies with only a few cruise missiles blowing up caves and Sudan pharmaceutical plants. Thus, while “luck” might provide crises that need Presidential leadership, not all presidents rise equally to the challenge.

                  As for FDR’s mistresses, I think that such issues should have stayed between Eleanor and FDR. Considering the fact that a politician with FDR’s inability to walk would almost certainly be thrashed today, his extracurricular activities were not his top “Elephant in the Room”.

                  • “Considering the fact that a politician with FDR’s inability to walk would almost certainly be thrashed today”

                    Nonsense. Unless shenanigans occur, wheel-chair bound Greg Abbott should clean Wendy “Windy” Davis’s clock in Texas.

                    • I meant to mention this too. Watch the Ken Burns film. FDR, even by today’s standards, had the most impressive package of election-ready tools of any politician in US history. That head! That jaw! That smile! That voice! The head toss! Charisma and presence plus, as well as obvious intelligence and charm. He makes JFK look like a troll.

                      FDR would be elected if he were a head and torso in a box.

          • But we didn’t enter WW2 for ethical reasons (well, not for immediately apparent ethical reasons). We entered it for perfectly acceptable strategic reasons. As long as a balance of power existed in Europe, our hegemony over North America & Northern South America was secure. The only times in history when the USA did not have that security was when 1 European power was unchecked in Europe and could impact the globe far and wide.

            After the deflation of the English Empire and Europe returned to a relative balance of power, we were comfortable. We had to enter WW2 because Germany was on the brink of consolidating a hegemony over Europe, which in turn would inevitably bring pressure on ours here in North America.

            So we had to enter on the side of balance of power (the Allies). The same logic applies for the Pacific conflict.

          • Of course Roosevelt had policies that failed — and others that were declared unconstitutional. But even taking that into account — Roosevelt still was a great president. He succeeded in pulling Americans together during the Great Depression and creating unity where there was none. Only a great leader can do that.

            We had a moral obligation to enter WWII. Strategically, I think we needed to as well. Recall Hitler’s naval fleet and the fact that he was very close to a nuke. He had worldwide ambitions — they were not just limited to Europe, Asia, and Africa.

        • FDR was more or less a sociopath. He was also a pragmatist, despite being an ideologue up to a point. I think he would have been happy to make himself President for like, a dictator, and I can’t forgive him for that, or surrendering so much of Europe to Stalin and plenty of other stuff. But was he a great President? Of course he was, and a greater leader.

          • I’m not at all sure how anyone in FDR’S shoes could have prevented the Iron Curtain going up, short of placing nuke-loaded B-29s in England and threatening to level Moscow unless Poles, Czechs, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Romanians, Germans, et. al (who were perfectly content with quasi-Fascist governments pre-WWII) had democratic elections for the first time. The Red Army was a well-oiled (literally and figuratively) machine in 1945, and even a man as stubborn as Churchill (my type of fellow) acknowledged that Stalin would swallow up Eastern Europe.

            As for FDR’S tyrannical tendencies, I completely agree. For all intents and purposes, FDR did become a President-for-life. Not in the Titoist sense of the word, but the man DID win four terms in rather unique national circumstances.

  3. This is just one of many examples that demonstrate why the 17th Amendment (allowing for the popular election of Senators) was one of the most damaging amendments to the Constitution. If coal is so important to the State, you can be sure that members of the Kentucky legislature would not be fooled by such lies.

  4. I have a soft spot for James O’Keefe and his undercover investigative journalism. Lying in order to get the truth out of someone that they’d rather keep hidden is not the sort of lie I will ever be bothered by. Undercover video stings seem like a perfect example of legitimate investigative journalism. The willingness of the employees of Acorn to go along with certain things, even temporarily, had signature significance. The selective edting was unnecessary and inappropriate. It undercut his work, by giving Acorn’s left wing defenders an opportunity to pretend that everything bad in the videos was just an illusion.

    I seem to recall that he did a few other things I considered a step or 4 too far, but he doesn’t seem like any more of an unethical journalist than, for example, Ezra Klein of journolist fame and all of the memers of it, or any of the journalists that explicitly embrace playing the race card at every opportunity. Or the ones that pretend that everything is fine with Obamacare.

    • I’m going to walk that back a bit. Sometimes it would bother me. Revealing the true nature of a public figure or organization doesn’t qualify. I draw a line at police entrapment. Being able to get someone to do something bad after falsely earning their trust is an example of signature significance that they shouldn’t be trusted, but it’s wrong to hold them solely accountable for an act that someone else got them to do. I’m sure other examples could be created with a little effort.

      For O’keefe, I’d be more upset if he pretended to be a non-partisan journalist. As much as I dislike the effect Romney’s 47% remark, that has more to do with the general public’s denial of reality and the way it was loudly twisted by the media than it does with how the remark was obtained.

  5. As for this topic – if every issue hadn’t been nationalized and the guilty Party did believe that one size-fits all solutions were the only way to go, then candidates like Grimes COULD support Coal whether or not her ally in California hates Coal (for California). Instead, because every Issue has been nationalized, and one of the current Crusades is against Coal, then local politicians who agree with the national party also agree with the Crusade and therefore have to lie to advance the Crusade.

    It’s almost like the concept of Taqiyya

  6. As much as I hate it, some horse trading, diplomacy, and stretching or bouncing the truth seems to have been in the arsenal of every good leader too. Part of that is the public’s fault, that they don’t want to hear that another war is on the horizon or that we can’t save the world all by ourselves (sometimes the same situation. Part is from the real-politek that americans do not necessarily play well at the international level. (Current actions regarding Russia are good examples) No one who is effective will have complete support.

    The best leaders keep these games to minimal levels, so low that the assumptions is that they don’t play those games and don’t lie. Look how long it took for Washington’s master spy network to be discovered. Of lateit’snot just that presidents have been lying and misleading the public, its that they have been so TOTALLY inept at keeping a lid on it and keeping us someehat satisfied in the rest of their performance.

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