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Country ham, redeye gravy and political speculation

Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture James ComerBy Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

LOUISVILLE – Political talk spiced up the 51st annual Kentucky Farm Bureau Country Ham Breakfast early Thursday morning at the Kentucky State Fair.

Dozens of politicians gave as many media interviews as possible and circulated among the 1,600 early risers to feast on country ham, redeye gravy, scrambled eggs, grits, hot biscuits and political speculation.

Republican candidates for governor

State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said he has chosen his running mate in next May’s Republican primary election for governor, but would not announce his choice until he officially declares his candidacy at a Sept. 9 news conference in his hometown of Tompkinsville.

Widespread speculation has focused on state Sen. Christian McDaniel of Kenton County.

Comer repeated his belief that a millionaire Republican from Jefferson County – a reference to Louisville businessman Hal Heiner – will not be the next governor of Kentucky.

He said he is “strong” in the state’s largest city, noting that state Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, is supporting him.

“After Sept. 9, you are going to see a steady stream of key endorsements from Republicans leaders in Jefferson County,” Comer said.

Heiner, who announced his candidacy in March, dismissed Comer’s prediction.

“What I am hearing is that the Democratic candidate (Attorney General Jack Conway) is from Jefferson County and that the Republican nominee had better be able to hold it close in Jefferson County,” said Heiner, a former Louisville mayoral candidate. “I know from my past involvement in Jefferson County, I’m the candidate who could do that.”

Heiner said he is traveling “full-time” across the state, visiting 60 counties in the last five months.

Heiner said he will be a governor who will create jobs, protect the state’s “best natural resource – coal,” and be as transparent as possible.

Conway, the only other announced candidate for governor, did not attend the breakfast. He was in Washington for a news conference with five other state attorneys general and U.S. Department of Justice officials to announce a $16.65 billion settlement with Bank of America Corp. to resolve federal and state claims about mortgage-backed securities.

2016 race for U.S. Senate

Two prominent Democrats have been mentioned as possible candidates for the U.S. Senate in 2016.

That’s when the seat now held by Republican Rand Paul of Bowling Green is up for election. Paul is considering a possible run for the U.S. presidency in that year that could take him out of the U.S. Senate race.

State Auditor Adam Edelen of Lexington said before Thursday’s breakfast that “Rand Paul is in the business of running for two jobs at once. I’m not. I’m looking forward to being a candidate for state auditor (in 2015).”

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said, “I’m hearing a lot of people tell me that’s a good idea for me to do. But what I’m telling them is that I am awfully happy being mayor of Louisville and we have a lot of work left to do.”

For the health of it

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, who arrived early at the breakfast, said he was prepared for all the political talk that accompanies one of the state’s premier political events.

“I had to take two Pepto-Bismol this morning so I wouldn’t get sick over breakfast hearing (U.S. Sen.) Mitch McConnell and Jamie Comer brag about themselves about all the things they have done,” Stumbo said.

Andy Beshear reports $1.1M on hand for attorney general race, picks up endorsements

By Jack Brammer

jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Andy Beshear, a Democratic candidate for attorney general in 2015 and the son of Gov. Steve Beshear, reported Thursday that his campaign has nearly $1.1 million cash on hand, after raising $160,000 in the last three months.

Beshear, a Louisville attorney with Stites and Harbison, has raised more than $1.26 million total for his campaign. He started it last November.

The candidate also announced the endorsements of five prominent Democrats for his campaign – former Attorney Generals David Armstrong and Chris Gorman, state Auditor Adam Edelen, former state Auditor Crit Luallen and state House Speaker and former Attorney General Greg Stumbo.

‘Comment’ will discuss governor’s race; ‘KY Tonight’ will look at campaign finance law

With state Auditor Adam Edelen’s announcement that he will not run for governor next year, this weekend’s “Comment on Kentucky,” a public-affairs show of the Kentucky Educational Television network, will discuss the 2015 gubernatorial race.

Joining interim host Bill Bryant of Lexington’s WKYT-TV will be three journalists — Bill Estep of the Lexington Herald-Leader, Laura Cullen Glasscock of The Kentucky Gazette and Joe Gerth of The Courier-Journal.

The show will air live Friday at 8 p.m. on KET.

On the Monday, June 23, edition of “Kentucky Tonight” at 8 p.m. on KET and at KET.org/live, host Bill Goodman and guests will discuss campaign finance laws.

Scheduled guests are Richard Beliles, state chair of Common Cause Kentucky; Christopher Thacker, president of the Central Kentucky Lawyers Chapter of The Federalist Society; Joy Arnold, chair of Central Kentucky Move to Amend; and Paul Salamanca, a University of Kentucky law professor.

Viewers with questions and comments may send e-mail to kytonight@ket.org or use the message form at KET.org/kytonight. Viewers may also submit questions on Twitter @BillKET or on KET’s Facebook page, facebook.com/KET. All messages should include first and last name and town or county. The phone number for viewer calls during the program is 1-800-494-7605.

“Kentucky Tonigh”t programs are archived online, made available via podcast, and rebroadcast on KET and KET KY. Archived programs, information about podcasts, and broadcast schedules are available at KET.org/kytonight.

“Kentucky Tonight is a weekly KET production, produced by Deidre Clark. Goodman is host and managing editor.

–Jack Brammer

Senate sends cyber-security bill to the House

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com
FRANKFORT – The Senate approved a cyber-security bill Friday that would require most state and local government agencies to notify citizens of any electronic breaches of personal information within 35 days.
House Bill 5 now goes back to the House to consider the Senate’s version of the legislation.
The measure is being pushed in this year’s legislative session by Auditor Adam Edelen. He complained earlier this month that the Senate was not acting quickly on it.
“The process wasn’t pretty, but bipartisan agreement was reached on one of the top public protection issues of the digital age,” Edelen said Friday in a release.

Senate panel approves cyber-security bill pushed by Edelen

State Auditor Adam EdelenBy Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – A Senate committee Monday night unanimously approved a cyber-security bill that Auditor Adam Edelen had complained was being blocked in the Senate because of political reasons.

The Senate State and Local Government Committee changed House Bill 5 before approving it and sending it to the full Senate. Chairman Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, told reporters that the amended bill had the support of Edelen.

Edelen, frequently mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for governor in 2015, said in an email that he appreciated Bowen “clearing the logjam on House Bill 5 and moving this important cyber-security bill forward.”

House Bill 5 would require most state and local government agencies to notify citizens of any electronic breaches of personal information. Almost 30 groups have endorsed the bill, including AARP of Kentucky, the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky State Police and Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

Bowen said the biggest change the Senate committee made in its 21-page substitute to the House bill was giving agencies 72 hours to notify the state police commissioner, auditor and attorney general of a security breach. The original bill gave agencies 24 hours.

The measure would take effect on Jan. 1, 2015.

Earlier this month, Edelen held a news conference to say he was “deeply frustrated” that the Republican-controlled Senate was not acting on his legislation, which garnered nearly unanimous support in the Democratic-led House.

He particularly was upset with Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, who had dubbed the measure “the Adam Edelen for governor bill.”

Thayer at the time said the bill would rise or fall on its own merits. He also said politics had nothing to do with the Senate’s handling of the bill.

Thayer, who is on the committee that unanimously approved it Monday, was eager to put the measure on the “consent calendar” when it is considered in the full Senate. A bill on the consent calendar means it can be acted upon at the same time with other measures without debate.

Promising ‘big things,’ Adam Edelen is focused on Governor’s Mansion

State Auditor Adam EdelenBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

After the GPS failed, state Auditor Adam Edelen took over, giving directions through downtown Paris to the young staffer driving, and he arrived to speak at the Rotary Club meeting about 20 minutes early.

Among the first there, he chatted up two of the country club officials and an employee setting up lunch as his staff eyed the fried fish, grilled cheese sandwiches and chili that was coming.

“We don’t eat much,” Edelen said, grinning.

With Edelen, who has time?

At 39, he is considering calendar dates near the first Saturday in May to announce that he is running for governor.

“My guess is the field will be pretty well established this spring, sometime either before or right after Derby,” Edelen said. “And I wouldn’t anticipate, if I were to go, I wouldn’t anticipate being a late entrant.”

To his critics, being late has never been a problem for Edelen, a young man in a hurry who is guided by ambition that they say will be his undoing.

Auditor Edelen and Sen. Thayer spar over Senate’s handling of cyber-security bill

Adam Edelen
By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – A “deeply frustrated” state Auditor Adam Edelen accused Senate Republican leaders, especially Majority Leader Damon Thayer, of blocking for political reasons a cyber security bill he is pushing.

Edelen, frequently mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for governor in 2015, said at a news conference Thursday that Thayer is preventing a bill that had near unanimous support in the House from moving forward.

He said his bill “can’t even get a damn hearing” in the Senate.
State Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown

House Bill 5 would require most state and local government agencies to notify citizens of any electronic breaches of personal information within 35 days. Almost 30 groups have endorsed the bill, including AARP of Kentucky, Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky State Police and Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

Thayer, at a news conference an hour after Edelen called him “the chief obstructionist” to HB 5, said he finds “it kind of comical that the auditor has become so hysterical about the fact that his bill hasn’t moved yet.”

House approves bill to protect personal data on government computers

Adam Edelen

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — The state House signed off Thursday on a bill that would require state and local government agencies to notify citizens if their personal information on government computers is exposed or hijacked.

House Bill 5, backed by Auditor Adam Edelen, got unanimous approval in the House on the chamber’s consent calendar.

The legislation, co-sponsored by Democratic Rep. Denny Butler of Louisville and Republican Sal Santoro of Florence, requires state and local government agencies to notify individuals affected by a data breach within 35 days of the incident.

Notification must be provided on the agency’s website and to the media. Individuals affected must be notified by phone, mail or email.

Law enforcement, regulatory agencies and the auditor’s office must be notified within 24 hours. If a breach affects more than 1,000 individuals, the Finance Cabinet and national consumer reporting agencies must be notified.

The bill also contains provisions to strengthen cyber security protections. It calls for agencies to encrypt personal information and calls on the Commonwealth Office of Technology to establish cyber security training for agencies.

Kentucky is one of four states that do not have a law requiring government to notify citizens of a breach.

Political speaking order set for this weekend’s Fancy Farm

FRANKFORT — The speaking order for politicians at this weekend’s 133rd annual Fancy Farm picnic has been set.

The political speaking will begin at 2 p.m. CDT Saturday on the grounds of St. Jerome Catholic Church in Graves County.

Mark Wilson, political organizer for the church picnic, said Monday that the no-shows are Gov. Steve Beshear, Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and state treasurer Todd Hollenbach.

The political speaking, to be emceed by “Comment on Kentucky” host Ferrell Wellman, will begin at 2 p.m. CDT with five minutes of comments each by state Sen. Stan Humphries, R-Cadiz, and state Rep. Richard Heath, R-Mayfiled.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville, then will get six minutes.

Following McConnell also with six minutes will be U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville.

Each of the attending state constitutional officers will get six minutes. In order of speaking, they will be Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, Attorney General Jack Conway, Auditor Adam Edelen and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer. Comer is a Republican; the others are Democrats.

Matt Bevin of Louisville, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate next year, will get five minutes. So will Ed Marksberry of Owensboro, a Democratic candidate for governor in 2015. They will flip a coin to see who goes first.

Prosecutors say Richie Farmer’s alleged wrongdoing started before 2008

Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer

By Beth Musgrave
bmusgrave@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer misused state resources to further his personal and political agendas prior to 2008, federal prosecutors allege in court documents filed late Friday.

Prosecutors said Farmer, who was agriculture commissioner from 2004 to 2011, was only charged with alleged improprieties from 2008 to 2011 because a five-year statute of limitations prohibits them from pursuing alleged wrongdoing before that time.

Still, prosecutors said they plan to introduce evidence about Farmer’s conduct prior to 2008 during trial to bolster their argument that Farmer had an “unwarranted sense of entitlement.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Taylor said prosecutors plan to show that Farmer improperly influenced the hiring, promoting and rewarding of more employees than the three who are mentioned in an April indictment of Farmer.

Testimony and evidence also will show that Farmer, a former beloved University of Kentucky basketball player and once rising star in the Republican Party, tried to influence private vendors to provide goods and services to him or the department.