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Kentucky House approves plan to redraw congressional districts

PDF: House plan for congressional districts

By Beth Musgrave and Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT — The state House split mostly along party lines Tuesday in approving a bill to redraw the boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts.

Republicans in the Democratic-controlled House protested that House Bill 2 was designed to protect Democratic U.S. Reps. Ben Chandler and John Yarmuth.

The bill now goes to the Republican-led Senate, where it is expected to undergo major changes.

“Absolutely, the Senate will change the House version to make the new map more like the current map,” said Senate State Government Chairman Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown.

If the Senate changes the House plan “in a positive manner, we certainly will take a look at it,” said House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg. “If the Senate chooses to change it in a political manner, I doubt it would meet very much success over here. We would just have to do without a plan.”

Plan would put Hal Rogers’ home county in two congressional districts

PDF: House plan for congressional districts

By Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT — A state House committee voted along party lines Thursday to split the home county of Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of Somerset into two congressional districts as it redraws the boundaries of Kentucky’s six districts.

The plan contained in House Bill 2 also moves Boyle, Garrard and part of Jessamine counties from Central Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District to south-central Kentucky’s 2nd District.

It also makes Northern Kentucky’s 4th District a more urban district and moves Daviess County from the 2nd District to the 1st District.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, acknowledged after the House State Government Committee approved the bill that it is likely to change before becoming law.

“I assume it will go through some vigorous debate and likely transformation,” he said.

Proposals to redraw Ky. congressional districts would bring big changes

By Beth Musgrave and Jack Brammer

PDF: View the proposals

FRANKFORT — Two new proposals to redraw the boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts could mean major changes for Central Kentucky voters.

Both plans appear to benefit Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, who represents Lexington and many surrounding counties in the 6th Congressional District.

The proposals — one pushed by the Democratic-controlled House and another by unnamed members of Kentucky’s congressional delegation — would move Republican-leaning Jessamine and Garrard counties out of Chandler’s district, replacing them with counties that lean more Democratic.

Republican Andy Barr, a Lexington lawyer who narrowly lost to Chandler in 2010 and plans to challenge him again in 2012, said Tuesday that the emerging plans amount to “incumbent-protection gerrymandering for a weak incumbent.”

Census: A lot of Kentuckians will get a new congressman

By Bill Estep –

A lot of Kentuckians are going to get new representatives in the U.S. House because of significant shifts in the state’s population.

The eastern and western ends of the state lost population between 2000 and 2010 while the middle third grew, according to U.S. Census figures released this week.

Three of the state’s six congressional districts fall short of the necessary population, while the other three are over it.

The national average for a U.S. House District will be 710,767.

However, the target number will vary by state; dividing Kentucky’s population of 4.3 million by six seats means a population target for each district of about 723,000.

Keeping Kentucky in the spotlight

David Adams, Rand Paul’s campaign manager through July and currently campaign manager for Phil Moffett, a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, says he expects the Tea Party spotlight to stay on Kentucky through the 2011 elections. Paul’s quick victory in the Senate race was not surprising as he said, “This was over before […]

Whitfield’s votes on Cuba changed as donations rolled in

By Halimah Abdullah and Lesley Clark | McClatchy Newspapers U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville

WASHINGTON — Supporters of the U.S. embargo against Cuba have contributed $12,000 to U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield since 2004 as part of a largely successful, multimillion-dollar effort to convince lawmakers to block efforts to weaken sanctions against the island, a new report shows.

Up until July 2004, the Kentucky lawmaker voted repeatedly to repeal the travel ban and ease relations with Cuba, according to a report by Public Campaign, a nonprofit Washington-based organization that focuses on campaign reform. Later that month, Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, received thousands in donations from groups opposed to easing sanctions. He has since consistently voted to uphold the sanctions.

“The pressure they get to raise money plays heavier in their decisions than it ought to,” said David Donnelly, the national campaigns director for Public Campaign. “We think this is a damning pattern. We think these are good people caught in a bad system. If members of Congress have to spend too much time raising money, they have to listen to people who give money.”

Whitfield is not alone. In several cases, members of Congress who had supported easing sanctions against Cuba changed their position — and got donations from the U.S.-Cuba Democracy Political Action Committee and its donors.

Kentucky lawmakers at odds over pill-tracking technology

By Halimah Abdullah, Bill Estep and Valarie Honeycutt Spears U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky.

WASHINGTON — Kentucky lawmakers are at the center of a political feud over the best way to derail interstate prescription pill trafficking, including the pipeline from Florida that plays a key role in an epidemic of drug abuse in Kentucky.

Republican U.S. Rep. Harold Rogers, whose Eastern Kentucky district is plagued by what one prosecutor called a “tsunami” of pills from out of state, favors one approach to track the flow of drugs. Reps. Ben Chandler and Ed Whitfield support an alternate plan, which competes with Rogers’ for limited federal dollars.

From his seat on the powerful House budget committee, Rogers has had more success getting money for the program he favors, which is named after him.

Under that program, states get grants through the U.S. Department of Justice to set up or improve ways to monitor prescriptions for controlled substances, such as pain pills and anti-anxiety medication.

The program has funneled $48 million to 47 states and territories since 2002 for prescription-drug monitoring.

Whitfield, a Republican from Western Kentucky, and Chandler, a Democrat who represents Central Kentucky, support a program called National All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting, or NASPER. That program would set up uniform guidelines across the country for tracking prescriptions and require states to share information.

The program is managed by the Department of Health and Human Services. It has gotten less than one-quarter of the $48 million it needs through federal appropriations.

Whitfield spent $24,000 from leadership PAC at Beverly Hills Hotel


By Halimah Abdullah –

U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville

WASHINGTON — Over the past two years, deep-pocketed donors to Kentucky Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield helped the Hopkinsville lawmaker and his guests enjoy $24,000 worth of meals at the posh Beverly Hills Hotel, where Hollywood television and movie industry executives schmooze over drinks.

Donors also chipped in $27,000 to help Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, and his associates sit in the shadows of the legendary twin spires as they watched horse races at a Churchill Downs fund-raiser.

Through both lawmakers’ leadership political action committees — funds established by a member of Congress to support other candidates — lobbyists and such industry leaders as AT&T and Lockheed Martin contributed roughly half a million dollars to the two congressmen. They in turn hosted lavish fund-raisers, according to Federal Election Commission records and an analysis by ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative-journalism organization.

In 2007, the House and Senate banned lawmakers from taking gifts from lobbyists and associated companies. But donors can still give to leadership PACs.

Lawmakers can make direct contributions to federal and non-federal candidates, fund independent expenditures to advocate for or against a particular candidate, and pay for operational expenses such as travel related to maintaining the PAC and raising money.

Campaign funds, which are governed under different FEC guidelines, can’t be spent for personal use by a candidate and his or her campaign committee.

Nebulous, and at times unenforced, congressional policies regarding leadership PACs clear the way for lawmakers and lobbyists to use the money to bond at resorts after steak dinners, go to horse races and make large political donations.

U.S. Rep. Whitfield announces re-election bid

U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville

FRANKFORT – U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, put to rest Thursday rumors that he may run for the U.S. Senate next year, saying he will seek re-election to the office he has held since 1995.

Whitfield, whose 1st Congressional District covers much of the western part of Kentucky, said in a statement that he intends to run for re-election next year.

“Representing the First Congressional District of Kentucky in the U.S. House of Representatives for the past 15 years has been an honor and a privilege,” he said.

“With our economy still reeling and controversial energy legislation being pushed forward that will have an enormous impact on Kentuckians, a strong voice to represent the First District in Washington is more important than ever,” he said. “That is why I intend to run for re-election to the House of Representatives in 2010″

–Jack Brammer

Whitfield crosses party lines to support wage discrimination bill

U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, was one of only a handful of House Republicans to support a controversial measure that makes it easier to sue for wage discrimination.

The measure overrides a May 2007 Supreme Court ruling that Lilly Ledbetter, a Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company employee in Gadsden, Ala., couldn’t sue her employer for pay discrimination because she didn’t file suit within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act. The measure passed the House on a vote of 250-177 Tuesday.