Alison Grimes to keep $250 donation

Staffers alleging sexual harassment against former lawmaker say use it to fight for women’s rights

By Kevin Wheatley, Published:

Tuesday’s ethics ruling in three sexual harassment complaints by Legislative Research Commission staffers — and the accused former lawmaker’s $250 campaign donation to Alison Lundergan Grimes — have sparked a war of words on women’s issues in the U.S. Senate race.

Grimes’ campaign said late Wednesday that two of the three women involved in complaints against former Rep. John Arnold told the candidate to keep Arnold’s $250 contribution “and fight.”

Arnold, a Sturgis Democrat, avoided punishment Tuesday after motions to find him guilty of ethics violations failed in a 4-1 vote by the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission. The nine-member commission requires five votes to take action; three members were absent and one seat is vacant.

Grimes expressed disappointment in the commission’s decision in an earlier statement, but said she was glad Arnold resigned.

The women — Yolanda Costner, an adviser to House Majority Whip Tommy Thompson, D-Owensboro, and Cassaundra Cooper, an aide to House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook — told The State Journal Grimes offered to refund the donation, but they suggested she keep it.

“He (Arnold) didn’t have to pay the ethics commission, so maybe that $250 he paid to Alison Grimes can go toward fighting women’s rights,” Costner said. “If it’s going to help on women’s rights issues and that’s what she’s advocating for, we told her it was for the best for her to keep it.”

Cooper, who said she and Costner spoke with Grimes in a phone conversation Wednesday afternoon, called the three-figure sum “pennies in a bucket” in the grander scheme. Grimes had $3.3 million in her campaign coffers as of Dec. 31 while U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reported $10.9 million on hand.

“We just told her, ‘We don’t have a problem with you accepting money from him (Arnold); you need to fight against the wrongs that he’s been doing to people,’” Cooper said.

McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore had issued a statement before the women’s decision became public, charging that Grimes is “more interested in exploiting women for political gain than speaking out for victims in her own building who are being railroaded by an old boys club in her own party.” 

Moore also questioned donations totaling $5,200 from Lebanon attorney Elmer George, an appointee to the ethics commission by House Speaker Greg Stumbo.

George, who also donated $2,000 to her 2011 secretary of state campaign, was the lone dissenter in Tuesday’s vote, questioning the panel’s ability to punish a former legislator.

Charly Norton, Grimes’ campaign spokeswoman, alluded to a GOP filibuster in the U.S. Senate Wednesday that blocked debate on legislation that would curb wage discrimination against women. Grimes has continuously mentioned McConnell’s votes against such bills on the campaign trail and in press releases, including one issued Wednesday.

“It’s alarming that on the same day McConnell led his caucus to block Paycheck Fairness in the Senate, his campaign is taking advantage of female victims of sexual assault to boost his flailing re-election campaign,” Norton said in a statement.  “McConnell’s latest display is politics at its lowest, and there seems to be no depth Mitch McConnell is unwilling to sink to distract Kentuckians from his failed record of fighting for the Commonwealth’s women and families.”

McConnell’s camp wasted little time in firing a rebuttal.

“There is no permission slip for failing to speak out for women who were victimized in the workplace,” Moore said. “This isn’t a partisan question, this is a question about whether someone lacks the courage to speak out against her own party when they’ve clearly allowed an incredible injustice to move forward.”

Grimes’ campaign left George’s $5,200 contribution unaddressed. Costner and Cooper expressed concerns Tuesday that his vote was cast politically, an allegation George called “an insult” after the hearing.

Costner said ultimately, she had no opinion on George’s donation.

Tuesday’s verdict, though, was “another slap on the behind,” she said. She testified that Arnold had grabbed the back of her pants and underwear while walking behind her on the Capitol Annex steps in 2010.

“It’s just part of the game,” Costner told The State Journal when asked about George’s contribution. “That’s the way the game’s played.”

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  • I don't take meds...I don't have to call out misogynistic cheap shots when I see them.  You have never gotten under my skin, but keep trying with your cheap shots. 

    I think highly of Crit Luellen who is experienced and principled, but if she runs for governor we will see if her "handlers" (whatever the heck that means) issue press releases. What you are calling her "handlers" is actually her campaign advisors, where she has the final say on everything that is released to the press.  What campaign doesn't do that?  Name one...

    Alison Lundergan Grimes is very principled and experienced too, although she is younger than Ms. Luellen so her breadth isn't quiet that of Crit's (but who is?).  But she is a whole heck of a lot more principled than Biatch McConnell.  She is quite capable to be a US Senator, for sure. Being attractive is the reason that you can get away with saing stuff like, "I'm not a big McConnell fan,but could the Dems have possibly put forth an emptier dress ".  Get away with it with some people...not me.

    Prior to running for Secretary of State, Grimes was a practicing attorney in Lexington. She served as an associate at Stoll Keenon Ogden from 2004 to 2011, specializing in intellectual property and complex business litigation. Grimes credits a domestic abuse case she won as helping to inspire her to pursue a political career rather than attempting to become a partner at her firm.

    Grimes served as president of the Fayette County Women Lawyers' Association, and was awarded the 2010 Outstanding Young Lawyer Award by the Fayette County Bar Association. She was also a precinct officer for the 75th Legislative District in Kentucky as well as a member of the 2008 Democratic National Committee rules committee.

  • Wow Bruno...miss your meds again? Condescending and misogynistic! "Shame on Ms.Grimes" from Pandora. "And instead of calling the so-called verdict what it is Ms. Grimes takes a check from the guy.  Wow." from 38166. I'm just glad that I'm the only one who can get under your (extremely thin) skin. Why are you here instead of over on a heroin thread preaching for legalization of all drugs anyway?

    To answer your question, I think highly of Crit Luellen. She's experienced and principled. I really doubt that she would have waited for her handlers to help her prepare a statement. She can stand on her own two feet and speak her piece.

  • user_38106, April 10, 2014 2:06PM

    "I'm not a big McConnell fan,but could the Dems have possibly put forth an emptier dress (suit..not to offend based on gender)? It's like her handlers are controlling her every move, and keeping reporters away from her lest she say something that is not a prepared statment. She ignored a chance to respond on this same issue the day before when asked by reporters, but her campaign churns out the prepared statements like crazy."

    You may or may not be "a big McConnell fan" (so then why have you voted for him umpteen times?), but you are a condescending and misogynistic in spite of your lame disclaimer "not to offend based on gender".  What woman could the Democrats have put forward that you would not have said that she was an empty dress. skirt, or whatever your sexest brain could fathom?

  • @user_38166, I'm not a dude; I'm a female Baby Boomer who grew up and attended school with Arnold in Union County. He managed to become the proverbial big fish in a little pond where locals still say, "Oh, that's just John," whenever he hugs a female in a too close for comfort manner or whenever he behaves in an inappropriate manner with females young enough to be his daughters. There are lots of men who behave like Arnold with the 3 state female employees, they have a feeling of entitlement or superiority when dealing with younger rank-and-file female employees; on the other hand, sleazy politicians like Arnold never, ever mess around with older and wealthier white females. I know that for a fact! He and his ilk do not scare us. The Ethics Committee dumped on these 3 Commonwealth of KY employees, big time. Shame on the entire bunch of enablers. Shame on Ms Grimes, an educated wealthy white female, who did not slam the Ethics Committee's decision. 

  • I admit I'm a dude, but I'm really scratching my head about how this could possibly come off as positive information for Ms. Grimes in the minds of any prospective female voter.  The Ethics Commission's verdict was "...another slap on the behind...." as Ms. Costner put it - as opposed to a slap in the face, I guess.  And instead of calling the so-called verdict what it is Ms. Grimes takes a check from the guy.  Wow.

  • Shame on Ms Grimes for lacking the innate 'backbone' to address this Ethics Committee decision immediately and on the spot. Much better to ruffle the feathers of the ol' boy conclave immediately than issue a lame, but approved party statement, a day late. The Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission has painted John Arnold as an incompetent, senile, and demented elderly man whose wife, Sandy, must attempt to explain the 'good news' of his exoneration to him. C'mon, guys, this a really, really bad joke. I attended Sturgis High School with John Arnold and Sandy. He was a 'touchy feely' type dude when he was in high school, his choice of chiropractics simply gave him a quasi-legitimate reason to continue being a 'touchy feely' type dude in his career before politics, and upon his entering the political arena in Frankfort, he discovered a free rein to expand his 'touchy feely' tendencies under the guise of being an elected official, a true Son of the South, an honest to goodness 'hands-on' politician. The last time I personally visited in Sandy and John Arnold's house in Sturgis was about 15 or 16 years ago, and I was disgusted by the 12" diameter pasta bowl in the dead center of the kitchen table that literally was overflowing with cigarette butts. John was sullen and disinterested in any conversation simply because, I suspect, I no longer lived in his District. He no longer had a reason to exercise the slaps on the back, the big hearty hand shakes, and his 'too close for comfort' hugs. I'm so sorry for the ladies in Frankfort who've endured his inappropriate behaviors for years and years. Shame on this bogus ethics committee's announcement. Shame on Stumbo, shame on the Ethics Committee, shame on Jack Conway whose roots are deep in Union County, and shame on Charlie Moore and Brucie Moore from Arnold's home county for turning their heads to this Democrat Party blatant slap in the face of female workers, especially to females of color employed by the Commonwealth of KY. And, more especially shame on Ms Grimes for running away from this issue and awaiting on party directions. 

  • I'm not a big McConnell fan,but could the Dems have possibly put forth an emptier dress (suit..not to offend based on gender)? It's like her handlers are controlling her every move, and keeping reporters away from her lest she say something that is not a prepared statment. She ignored a chance to respond on this same issue the day before when asked by reporters, but her campaign churns out the prepared statements like crazy.