Thursday, September 23, 2004

Union complains about Bunning ad

TV spot implies support of PACE

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - A union complained Wednesday that a campaign commercial promoting U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning gives the false impression that the union is backing the Republican incumbent.

The Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union (PACE) said it actually supports Bunning's opponent, Democrat Daniel Mongiardo, in the fall election.

The union said it is considering legal action against Bunning's campaign for displaying the union's logo in the television commercial without its permission.

"We feel the Bunning campaign stepped over the line and deliberately used our union to further his own political cause," said Gerald Johnston, a PACE vice president.

Bunning campaign manager David Young declined comment.

Meanwhile, the Mongiardo campaign pounced on the criticism.

"Given his abysmal record fighting for working families, it's not surprising Senator Bunning has to mislead voters in his ads," Mongiardo campaign manager Kim Geveden said.

The television spot features comments from Leon Owens, a former union local president at the uranium-enrichment plant in Paducah.

Owens touts Bunning's efforts on behalf of people who were exposed to cancer-causing agents while working at the Paducah plant.

The federal Energy Department has received about $95 million for the sick nuclear workers compensation program since Congress created it four years ago. However, just 31 out of about 25,000 workers who filed claims have received payments, according to department records.

The Energy Department and its contractor have been criticized during congressional hearings for their handling of the compensation program.

Johnston said the commercial reflected Owens' personal views and did not represent the union's.

Johnston said he wasn't disputing Bunning's efforts on behalf of the local union but criticized Bunning's labor record.

"When it comes to overall labor, he hasn't done anything for labor," Johnston said. "His voting record is one of the worst there is."

The union's membership includes than 5,500 workers in Kentucky.

Meanwhile, Mongiardo on Wednesday touted his health-care plan that he said would lower costs and expand insurance coverage.

Mongiardo, who is a surgeon from Hazard, proposed expanding Medicaid coverage to the "working poor." He also endorsed tax credits for small businesses to ease the cost of insuring employees.

Mongiardo said health care costs have risen, on average, by more than $4,000 a year for Kentucky families since Bunning entered the Senate.

Young, Bunning's campaign manager, called it "ludicrous" to blame the Republican senator for rising health-care costs.

Young also cited Bunning's support of a Medicare prescription-drug plan and other efforts to improve health care.

"Sen. Bunning has helped deliver more affordable and accessible health care by passing into law tax-free health savings accounts, $700 million for Kentucky's hospitals and financial assistance to over 675,000 Kentuckians for their prescription drug costs," Young said in a statement.

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