Kentucky Republicans want Alison Lundergan Grimes to choose between the liberal donors she met with in Chicago this week and the state's coal industry that she has campaigned on supporting.
The Democratic challenger to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attended a meeting of the country's biggest Democratic donors at the Democracy Alliance meeting this week, but never spoke to the man who has pledged to spend millions for Democrats in the midterm elections--environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer. The Kentucky Coal Association had already cautioned the pro-coal Grimes that accepting money from Steyer would position her against the industry.
Grimes walks a thin line between her environmentalist supporters (which does not currently include Steyer) and the energy industry in her state, which she has supported throughout her campaign. After declining to take a position for much of her campaign, she belatedly came out in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline last week. Republicans insist she can't have it both ways, and they think the coal industry's timely warning has given them the fuel they need to take it to the voters.
"If Alison Lundergan Grimes accepts aid and financial support from Tom Steyer, or any anti-coal group, Republicans will absolutely use any and all means to educate our fellow citizens about her hypocrisy," said Kentucky Republican spokeswoman Kelsey Cooper.
Some Republicans in the state say they plan to hold her accountable not only for any money she might accept from him, but any indirect involvement in the state by his PAC, and money from the DSCC, which Steyer helped raise. And they'll take to the air to do it.
Asked whether Grimes would be accepting money from Steyer, her spokeswoman Charly Norton demurred, saying "we will continue to rely on the 45,000 grassroots contributors that make up the heart of our campaign."
Grimes's campaign also points out that McConnell has received more than $100,000 from NextEra Energy, a coal-competing renewable energy company.
It's certainly not Republicans' first attempt to tie Grimes to her donors – they've hit her on Hollywood donations, and donations from state lawmakers who were accused of sexual harassment – but in Steyer they think she's guilty of blatant guilt by association.
Republicans across the country are eager to compare the liberal billionaire to the Koch brothers, and tie Democrats who receive his money to being anti-coal or oil. In Colorado, the conservative group American Commitment has run ads accusing Sen. Mark Udall (D) of being bought off by Steyer and his climate change agenda. Kentucky's Republican Party is threatening a similar fate for Grimes if she accepts his money.
Grimes hasn't had any trouble fundraising. She brought in a $2.7 million haul this quarter and outraised McConnell in two of the last three fundraising quarters.
CORRECTION: Lundergan Grimes outraised McConnell in two of the last three fundraising quarters, not the last two quarters.