First Amendment Alliance's Dishonest Meth Lab Attack On Conway

October 06, 2010 5:54 pm ET

The First Amendment Alliance, a right-wing soft-money group whose funding is unknowable until their third-quarter IRS filings come in just before the election, is running an ad against Senate candidate Jack Conway (D-KY) that's so dishonest one TV station has already pulled it off the airwaves. Titled "No Thanks Jack," the ad suggests that Conway dragged his feet in setting up a statewide drug task force, and is therefore responsible for doubling the number of meth labs in the state. The ad ignores data that shows meth lab busts were unusually low when Conway took office, and suggests — absurdly — that more meth lab busts under Conway's tenure prove he's failing to tackle the state's drug problem. In fact, a 2005 law that made methamphetamine ingredients harder to access caused a temporary decline in lab busts, and police attribute the statistical jump to tougher enforcement and a better-educated public.

First Amendment Alliance: "No Thanks Jack"

This dot represents the number of days Jack Conway promised us it would take him to start a drug task force when elected Attorney General. This is how many days it actually took him. And in that time, the number of illegal methamphetamine labs in Kentucky have more than doubled. Now, as a reward for his broken promises and poor performance, Jack wants to be our senator? On November second, let's show Jack how things work in the real world. The First Amendment Alliance is responsible for the content of this advertising.

Louisville TV Station Refusing To Run Ad

TV Station Pulled First Amendment Alliance Ad Because "They Weren't Able To Verify" Its Claims. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal: "WDRB-41 in Louisville pulled an ad by a conservative political action group, saying it could not substantiate some claims it made. Bill Lamb, president and general manager of the station, said in an interview, 'We're not saying they were deliberately misleading, we're just saying that we and they weren't able to verify them.' The group is the First Amendment Alliance and is a so-called '527' organization because it was formed under chapter 527 of the Internal Revenue Service code. Lamb said the group is looking at the ad to determine if changes can be made to get it back on the air. The ad claims that, despite a promise by Conway to form a drug task force on his first day in office as attorney general, it took him 560 days to do so while Kentucky's methamphetamine problem increased. In a letter to stations around the state Tuesday, the Conway campaign said he began working on forming the task force on his first day in office but didn't announce it until nearly midway through his term. It said the increase in methamphetamine busts reflects greater success in finding the labs as opposed to an increase in their number." [Louisville Courier-Journal, 10/5/10, emphasis added]

First Amendment Alliance Distorts Meth Lab Statistics

State Police: After 2005 Law Made Meth Production Harder, Meth Labs Moved Into Cities. In a press release on meth lab statistics, the Kentucky State Police wrote: "Kentucky State Police (KSP) released the 2009 methamphetamine lab statistics today and the numbers are soaring. KSP reports that there were 716 meth labs in the Commonwealth last year which is an all time high for the state, increasing sixty percent over the 2008 totals. The last record was set in 2004, when 600 labs were discovered. The production of meth in Kentucky dropped after a 2005 law went into effect requiring that purchases of pseudoephedrine (PSE) tablets be made at pharmacy counters. This 'pharmacy log' statute (KRS 218A.1446) had an immediate effect by substantially reducing meth labs in the state by fifty percent over a three-year period... One notion that may be partially to blame for the spike in labs is the development of a quicker, more efficient method for producing meth, called the 'one-pot' or 'shake-and-bake' method. This method leads to a great deal of pressure inside the container and can easily cause an explosion. The mixture of toxic ingredients in this process results in a chemical reaction which changes the pseudoephedrine into methamphetamine. Trend analysis in Kentucky and other states show that meth labs are moving into urban areas because of the ease of the one-step method." [KentuckyStatePolice.org, 1/21/10, emphasis added]

The First Amendment Alliance ad leaves the high 2004 numbers out of its chart, giving the dishonest appearance that meth labs were not a big problem until recently.

More Meth Lab Busts Are Not Evidence Of Poor Enforcement

Kentucky Law Enforcement Officer: We're Finding More Meth Labs Than Before Because Public Is Educated. In a 2009 editorial in the Louisville Courier-Journal, David Hawpe wrote: "Louisville has been a meth-making center. The city has 200-plus pharmacies, as contrasted against fewer than 10 in surrounding counties. So there are lots of places here to buy the ingredients for cooking the stuff, even though drug stores now keep such materials behind the counter, log their sale and connect those logs to a computerized database that police monitor. While the rest of the state was seeing that downturn in meth busts a couple of years ago, the numbers in Louisville were going up. But that's both good and bad. The good news is that Louisville received a $450,000 federal drug-fighting grant in 2007, most of which was to be used for educating folks about the meth business, including telltale signs that suggest the presence of a meth lab in the neighborhood. About 80 percent of the funds have been spent on awareness efforts, including public service announcements and billboards. Special emphasis has been placed on educating first responders and others who have reason to be out in the community. As a result, says Louisville Metro Police drug specialist Sgt. Stan Salyards, 'We're identifying more meth labs, due to the public's help. The last three years we've been No. 1 in the state in meth labs found and cleaned up, and we will be No. 1 again this year.' He's proud of that progress. 'I'd love to get rid of them all,' he says, 'but at least we're finding them and doing something about them.'" [Louisville Courier-Journal, 6/3/09 via Nexis, emphasis added]

KY Sheriff: Increase In Meth Lab Activity "Isn't Jack Conway's Fault." According to the Glasgow Daily Times: "Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton says law enforcement 'would be lost' in the war on drugs if it weren't for federal help, funding assistance opposed by Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul... Paul's campaign issued a press release this week contending the number of meth labs have increased since Conway became attorney general, but Eaton said that's not Conway's doing. 'This isn't Jack Conway's fault, it's not the president's fault, it's not Chris Eaton's fault,' he said. He agrees meth labs are again on the rise after a decline following a law which tracked and limited purchase of such necessary ingredients as suphedrine. The problem, Eaton said, is that many meth manufacturers who were convicted five and six years ago have now been released from jail and are back on the street, and 'unfortunately, they're back to their old ways.'" [Glasgow Daily Times, 9/1/10]

MO Sheriff's Deputy: High Meth Bust Statistics Are Evidence Of Aggressive Enforcement. According to the Associated Press: "Police on the front lines in Missouri are sensitive to claims that the state is the 'meth capital.' They say the Highway Patrol and many communities are simply proactive in addressing what is considered the region's most serious drug problem. 'Our numbers lead the nation and that's attributed to our aggressive stance,' said Lt. Dave Marshak of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department near St. Louis. Jefferson County is annually among the nation's leading counties in meth lab incidents and had 227 last year, the most in Missouri and more than all but 10 states. 'We train schools and educators, we even train trash haulers to keep an eye out for what they pick up, and to alert us if they see anything.'" [Associated Press, 2/3/10 via Columbia Missourian]

Conway's Office Involved In Largest Drug Bust In Kentucky History Shortly After Task Force Was Announced

Conway Announced Drug Task Force In August 2009. According to Conway's biography on the Kentucky Attorney General's website: "In August of 2009, Conway announced the formation of Kentucky's first statewide prescription drug task force. The task force will coordinate efforts with law enforcement officers throughout the Commonwealth to keep prescription pills out of the hands of our children and out of our communities." [AG.KY.gov, accessed 10/5/10]

October 2009: Conway's Office Participated In Biggest Drug Bust In Kentucky History. According to the Lexington Herald Leader: "The largest drug roundup in state history continued Thursday as police aimed to cut the supply of pills flooding into Kentucky from other states. By mid-afternoon, officers had arrested more than 300 people in 34 counties. Police obtained warrants for 518 people, so more arrests are coming. Most are from Eastern Kentucky and face state charges of selling drugs, but 36 are charged in federal court on drug and money-laundering charges, officials said.... Officials said there was an unprecedented level of coordination among various agencies in the investigation. State police and Operation UNITE, which investigates drug dealing in Eastern Kentucky, had most of the cases. But the FBI, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Attorney General Jack Conway's office and the Rockcastle County Sheriff's Office also had cases, according to a list provided by state police." [Lexington Herald-Leader, 10/30/09]

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