Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear launched his bid for governor Monday, but his candidacy is already shrouded in controversy for his decision to hold onto “tainted” campaign contributions two years after he pledged to donate the ill-gotten funds to a nonprofit organization.
Months after Beshear, a Democrat, took office as Kentucky’s attorney general in early 2016, his deputy attorney general, Tim Longmeyer, was charged with bribery for partaking in a kickback scheme when he served as the personnel cabinet secretary under former Gov. Steve Beshear, Andy Beshear’s father. Longmeyer used his position to direct state-administered insurance companies to hire a consulting firm, which earned about $2 million from the arrangement. Longmeyer and a Democratic lobbyist received roughly $1 million in kickback funds from the consulting firm in exchange for setting up the arrangement, according to court records.
Longmeyer used much of his earnings through the scheme to funnel illegal “straw” campaign donations to Kentucky Democrats, one of which was Beshear’s 2015 campaign for attorney general. Longmeyer is currently serving a 70-month prison sentence for his role in the scheme.
Federal prosecutors found no evidence that Beshear or his father ever knew about Longmeyer’s illegal kickback arrangement, and Beshear pledged he would donate the dirty money he received from the scandal to the nonprofit group Common Cause. (RELATED: Former Kentucky Gov. Delivers Dem Response To Trump: ‘He Is Eroding Our Democracy’)
Beshear’s 2015 campaign committees for attorney general still have possession of Longmeyer’s fraudulent contributions, two years after he pledged to get rid of them.
“We don’t want tainted dollars, never wanted tainted dollars, and so we want to make sure we do the right thing,” Beshear said at a press conference in June, reported the Courier-Journal.
Beshear says he will donate all leftover campaign funds from his attorney general campaign following the completion of an audit of his campaign by the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, which is expected to conclude in October.
“All I’m awaiting is them allowing me to close the campaign, and then we’ll provide every dollar that’s left over to Common Cause,” Beshear said.
Republican Party of Kentucky spokesman Tres Watson claimed in 2017 there is no law preventing Beshear from donating his leftover campaign funds before the conclusion of the audit. Terry Sebastian, the spokesman for Kentucky’s attorney general’s office, disagreed and said the audit must be finished before Beshear’s 2015 campaign can close its books.
Either way, Beshear’s campaign may not have enough leftover funds from his 2015 to cover the “tainted” contributions it received, according to an investigation by the Courier-Journal.
Beshear’s 2015 primary and general campaign is currently sitting on a combined $26,624, but records from the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance reviewed by the Courier-Journal reveal that Beshear received up to $28,500 in illegal “straw” contributions from Longmeyer and his associates.
When pressed by the Courier-Journal whether the amount of “tainted” contributions could be larger than what’s currently held in his campaign’s coffers, he responded: “We have no idea, and we can’t speculate. The best and maximum amount of money that I can provide is everything left in the campaign.”
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