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Group seeks end of controversial campaign finance measure

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT –Five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court shook up the world of campaign finance by ruling that corporations and unions may spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns.

Since then, a very small part of the American public –0.01 percent — has donated 40 percent of all the contributions.

That needs to be stopped, said a small group in front of the Capitol Wednesday that offered the statistic to reporters.

They were in support for a 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution to do away with the 2010 high court ruling called “Citizens United.”

A tiny portion of this country is funding elections and, in effect, controlling their outcome, said Richard Beliles, a Louisville attorney who is chair of Common Cause of Kentucky.

The group is part of the national Common Cause organization that advocates open, honest and accessible state and local government.

Common Cause held rallies across the country Tuesday similar to the one at the Kentucky Capitol and urged members of Congress to join the efforts in curbing campaign spending.

Joining Beliles in Frankfort were Louisville retired attorney George Schuhmann with Public Citizen, a non-profit, consumer rights advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.; Amy Waters of Louisville with 350.org, a global climate movement; and Jan Christensen of Louisville with 350.org and the environmental group, Sierra Club.

Alvarado is pursuing defamation lawsuit against Palmer in state Senate race

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – Republican state Sen. Ralph Alvarado of Winchester is pursuing his defamation lawsuit against R.J. Palmer, the Democratic incumbent he ousted in last November’s election.

Alvarado’s attorney, Christopher Hunt, of Lexington, said Tuesday that even though Alvarado won the election, Alvarado wants to defend his reputation not only for himself and his family but to make sure others will not be discouraged from running for office who face similar tactics.

During the election campaign last October, Alvarado, a medical doctor, sued Palmer and Palmer’s campaign consultant, Dale Emmons, for defamation involving a campaign ad.

Alvardo also sought a restraining order to stop the television ad. However, a Scott circuit judge a few days before the election refused to grant the order.

Alvarado contends that the ad uses spliced courtroom footage to cast him as a drug dealer.

The ad implies that he unlawfully prescribed $3,000 worth of oxycodone to a criminal defendant, Alvarado said. Video from the court hearing is clear that the defendant had a valid prescription for OxyContin, Alvarado said.

Palmer, who had been the Senate minority leader, said Alvarado’s claims had no merit.

Baptist leader blasts Stumbo’s medical marijuana bill

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — The leader of the state’s largest religious organization voiced opposition Tuesday to a proposal in the state legislature that would make it legal for people to use marijuana in Kentucky for medical purposes.

“The very idea of thwarting the authority of the Food and Drug Administration and allowing Kentuckians to smoke marijuana under the guise that it is somehow medically beneficial is absurd,” said Paul Chitwood, executive director of the 750,000-member Kentucky Baptist Convention.

“Just because other states have taken this step doesn’t mean we should legalize another intoxicant, especially one that has been proven to be the first step toward abusing the hard drugs that are claiming so many lives through overdoes,” Chitwood said.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, filed a bill in this year’s legislative session that would allow trained doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients for 21 “debilitating medical conditions,” ranging from “severe” nausea to post traumatic stress disorder. The state would have a strict oversight system in place to make sure prescriptions were not abused, Stumbo said.

“I understand this is a learning process, but I hope people will listen to the debate before making up their minds,” Stumbo said Tuesday in an email. “This is not recreational marijuana; it is medical marijuana, and they should hear the stories from people who say it has benefitted them and their families. My bill is one of the strictest among the states, too; it does not allow smoking, nor does it let individuals grow their own.”

Ashley Judd tells Washington paper she might run for office ‘some day’

[caption id="attachment_22443" align="alignright" width="168"]Ashley Judd Ashley Judd[/caption]Actress and Kentucky native Ashely Judd said this week that she was “shocked and disappointed” that Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes lost to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, adding that she might run for office “some day.”

According to The Hill newspaper in Washington, Judd said she doesn’t know if she will run for office in the future after publicly debating in 2013 a run against McConnell.

“That particular moment in time was unique,” Judd said, according to The Hill. “I was prepared to run, I was very excited.”

The paper quoted Judd as saying that she “had bizarre thoughts in the morning like ‘It’s a great day to raise $20 million’ — not that I think that’s a good thing in American politics, because we need massive campaign finance reform! But it was all systems go.”

“It was a real leap of faith on my part because I am not ego-free,” Judd said. “I had my own self-centered fear: people might think that I was dabbling or that I was flaky.”

Judd said she “couldn’t stop crying” as she considered a run against McConnell and talked to consultants, saying: “I was like, ‘What are you hearing me say?’ And they were very ego-less because they had a vested interest in my going forward. They said, ‘I’m hearing you say at this moment in your life, it’s too much, too soon.”

Grimes lost to McConnell by more than 15 percentage points, losing 110 of 120 counties as McConnell was swept into a sixth term in office and the role of majority leader of a new Republican-led Senate.

“Unfortunately, the commonwealth, in my opinion, didn’t make a change that’s going to help Congress emerge from gridlock, get things done, and enter into an era of transformation in American politics,” Judd said.

The Hill asked Judd if she had regrets about not running, to which Judd responded: “Of course I do.”

“I do believe I’m right where God wants me to be at this time,” the actress said.

Senate panel approves bill to curb governor’s use of administrative regulations

FRANKFORT – State legislators would have more authority over the governor’s administrative regulations under a bill a Senate panel approved Thursday on a partisan vote.

Senate Bill 2, sponsored by Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, is the same as a measure that the Senate approved last year but the House let die.

It would amend the state Constitution to specify that an administrative regulation disapproved by lawmakers would be void and unenforceable and could not be reissued in the same or similar language for at least a year.

Some legislators complain that they have no power over administrative regulations when the General Assembly is not in session. They can only address them now when in session.

Such regulations allow the executive branch to deal with emergencies and to implement policies when the legislature is not in session.

The bill would allow the General Assembly to set up a review panel to rule on administrative regulations between sessions of the legislature.

Tom FitzGerald, director of the Kentucky Resources Council, told the committee the bill was not needed and that it would delegate power to a special agency created by the legislature.

Sen. Dorsey Ridley, D-Henderson, said the bill would lead to year-round legislative action.

The panel’s vote was 8-3, with Republicans in the majority. The legislation now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

Constitutional amendments require approval by the House and the Senate and by voters in statewide polls.

–Jack Brammer

Candidates for state offices urged to file before Jan. 27 deadline

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT — Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes reminded Monday that persons interested in running for state office this year have until Jan. 27 to file.

But she suggested filing earlier than that in case filing papers need to be corrected.

Kentucky law does not provide an opportunity to correct or re-file paperwork after the filing deadline of 4 p.m. Jan. 27, said Grimes, the state’s chief election official.

The offices of governor and lieutenant Governor, secretary of state, attorney general, auditor of public accounts, state treasure and commissioner of agriculture are on the ballot in Kentucky in 2015.

Candidates may access the filing forms required at http://app.sos.ky.gov/ElectionsDYC/.

–Jack Brammer

State Democratic Party mails out first family’s Christmas cards

By Jack Brammer jbrammer@herald-leader.com FRANKFORT — The Kentucky Democratic Party has mailed out about 1,200 Christmas cards that feature Gov. Steve Beshear and his family. For this year’s Christmas cards, all Beshear family members are decked out in casual attire. “Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season,” say the cards that the state Democratic Party has […]

Conway gets endorsement from key group in Western Kentucky

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway

By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Attorney General Jack Conway announced another coveted endorsement Thursday in his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, winning the support of the Kentucky Pipe Trades Association.

Though only one other Democrat, retired engineer and perennial candidate Geoff Young, has joined the race, Conway has worked hard in recent months to lock up critical endorsements of Democratic officials and organizations.

Thursday’s announcement was the latest show of support, and while the association might not be a household name, it is a key endorsement for Democrats running statewide who hope to do well in Western Kentucky.

“Sannie Overly and I are honored to have the support of the Kentucky Pipe Trades Association,” Conway said, referring to his running mate. “We will continue to stand up for working families across our commonwealth to move Kentucky forward.”

Six local unions that make up the association all joined in the endorsement.

“We are proud to support the Conway-Overly ticket,” Kyle Henderson, business manager for the Local 184 said in a statement. “Jack and Sannie have an excellent record of fighting for working families and
we know they are the clear choice for governor and lieutenant governor.”

Former U.S. Sen. Wendell Ford, Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen and U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth have all endorsed Conway.

Washington Post says Mitch McConnell had the best year in Washington

mitch-mcconnellBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

As far as politics are concerned, incoming U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arguably had the best year of any Kentuckian.

According to The Washington Post, McConnell also had the best year of anybody in Washington.

The Post’s Chris Cilizza handed out his yearly awards over the weekend, and he gave McConnell the nod for best year “for getting the job of his dreams.”

McConnell’s landslide win over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes and his ascension to U.S. Senate Majority Leader after Republicans around the country joined him in victory on Election Night earned the senator the trophy.

“McConnell — like Harry Reid, whom he will replace in the Senate’s top job — is not a flashy politician who surged through the ranks in record time,” Cilizza wrote. “He is a plotter and a strategist of the highest order, a man who always has a plan and executes it relentlessly.”

Cilizza noted that while McConnell failed in making President Barack Obama a one-term president, “McConnell has the chance not only to lead and (try to) unite his party, but also to redefine for the broader public what it means to be a Republican.”

Not coincidentally, Cilizza named Obama winner of the worst year in Washington.

State receipts show ‘strong’ jump in November

By Jack Brammer jbrammer@herald-leader.com FRANKFORT – The General Fund, which pays for most state programs, took in 12.8 percent more money in November than it did in November 2013, state budget director Jane Driskell said Wednesday. Driskell, in a news release, said sales and individual income taxes accounted for much of the gain. “We are […]