Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin said Tuesday that his staff has uncovered questionable activities within the administration of former Gov. Steve Beshear.
Bevin said his team has uncovered potential coercion of state workers to make political donations to Democratic candidates.
The governor spoke of the case of Tim Longmeyer, the former head of Kentucky’s Personnel Cabinet who is accused of taking more than $200,000 in kickbacks while overseeing the state employee health plan. Earlier today, Longmeyer pleaded guilty to bribery in U.S. District Court in Lexington.
According to Bevin, public records show that state employees contributed at least $140,000 to the (Andy) Beshear for Attorney General campaign in 2014 and 2015.
Bevin said his administration heard from state employees that high-ranking officials demanded that the employees make contributions to Democratic candidates, including to Jack Conway’s gubernatorial campaign and Andy Beshear’s attorney general campaign. Employees said they complied with the demands because they feared losing their jobs, Bevin said.
“To the thousands of public employees who work in state government, thank you for your service. All I ask is that you do your best for Kentucky and take pride in your work. Your job does not require a political contribution,” Bevin said to state workers.
Bevin asked Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, the former governor’s son, to return “questionable contributions.”
Attorney General Beshear issued a statement Tuesday afternoon in response to the allegations:
Over the last three weeks, I have stood before the public and answered any and every question regarding Mr. Longmeyer. United States Attorney Kerry Harvey has definitively stated to the public and the press that there was no involvement by me or my office. The sworn affidavit in that case also found there was no knowledge by any campaign related to any contributions. My campaign is awaiting a routine audit by the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, and will then donate any remaining funds to Common Cause, a government watchdog organization.
During today’s press conference, Gov. Bevin also pointed to a last-minute no-bid $3 million contract awarded to the SAS Institute in North Carolina as improper. Bevin said the husband of Gov. Beshear’s Secretary of the Cabinet was a consultant for the firm and a former Governor’s Office official was a lobbyist.
In response, Attorney General Beshear said, “I agree that issues such as no-bid contracts should be carefully scrutinized, including the two no-bid contracts totaling $4 million awarded by the Bevin administration in its first three months.”
Bevin also raised questions on the propriety of the process to upgrade the IT system for Medicaid and irregularities in the Workers’ Compensation branch of the state personnel cabinet. He asked Finance Secretary Col. Bill Landrum to investigate further.
“A thorough, independent investigation like this can expose and cast light upon prior unsavory and perhaps illegal practices, but can also provide the public a degree of confidence in a fair and transparent governance,” Bevin said.
The attorney general, however, said the appropriate agency “for investigating the governor’s allegations is the Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission, an independent agency, and not a cabinet that answers to the governor. The governor is once again overstating his authority under state law (KRS chapter 45). Spending taxpayer money on an outside contract when such allegations should be sent to the commission is wasteful.”
Gov. Bevin said the FBI might also be looking into potential violations of federal law. “Any sign of corruption will be exposed and eliminated,” Bevin added.
Following the press conference, former Gov. Steve Beshear — Andy Beshear’s father — released the following statement:
“At some point, Matt Bevin has to realize there is a time to campaign and a time to govern. Attacking me in an effort to distract the public from his Benefind debacle and his plan to strip away healthcare from hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians will not work. Today’s accusations, which have absolutely no basis in truth, continue this pathetic spectacle. There was never any attempt to pressure employees to make political contributions, and we followed both the spirit and the letter of procurement laws. Furthermore, I made my tax returns public all eight years I was governor, something Gov. Bevin refuses to do even after promising to do so. Kentuckians deserve better.”