Pro-Heiner 501(c)(4) fires first negative shots in Republican primary against Comer, Bevin

04/08/2015 06:30 AM

Republican gubernatorial candidates James Comer and Matt Bevin found themselves squarely in the sights of Citizens for a Sound Government, a 501(c )(4) group supporting Hal Heiner that released on Tuesday the first round of attack ads in the GOP primary.

Citizens for a Sound Government — whose president, Alan Philp of Lakewood, Colo., also runs the pro-Heiner political action committee Bluegrass Action Fund — assailed Comer, Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner, for voting to increase his legislative pension as a state representative and collecting $87,000 in farm subsidies.

“What do you call a politician who spends our tax dollars to take care of himself? You call him James Comer,” a female narrator says in the 30-second spot. “He’s not a Kentucky conservative.”

The group levied familiar charges against Bevin, recycling issues raised about the Louisville businessman in his primary challenge against U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Citizens for a Sound Government revived attacks that Bevin accepted $100,000 in government grants despite his opposition to federal bailouts; his family’s Connecticut-based bell-making business, Bevin Brothers Manufacturing Co., did not pay its taxes on time; and Bevin failed to pay property taxes on a Maine home.

“Matt Bevin: doesn’t pay his own taxes on time but happy to take taxpayer dollars,” a male narrator says in the 30-second ad. “That’s not the record of a Kentucky conservative.”

The ads, as they appeared in broadcast, can be seen here:

When asked for his reaction to the ad against him, Comer spoke as if Heiner ordered the hit, insinuating the former Louisville Metro Council member who has already given his campaign $4.2 million is also funding outside groups in the race. He also suggested that Heiner violated a promise to run a positive campaign with the ad’s release.

“I have a theory of who that donor may be,” Comer said after the Oldham County Republican Women’s Club gubernatorial debate Tuesday. “It may be the same donor in his campaign, and it’s unfortunate that there would be a super PAC set up to try to run negative ads against a candidate when the candidate can just run the negative ads himself in his regular campaign.”

Comer, who said he had only seen the ad once when interviewed by Pure Politics, said his campaign would review the accusations raised by Citizens for a Sound Government before offering a rebuttal.

“I will defend myself, but we’re going to continue to run a positive campaign about ideas and achievement,” he said.

Heiner, however, denied that he has given money to any outside group involved in the governor’s race.

On whether he’s broken a pledge to stay positive in the Republican primary, Heiner said those ads belong to Citizens for a Sound Government, not his campaign.

“I want my campaign to be judged based on what I say and the people that I meet and talk to and the ads that come from Heiner-Crosbie for Kentucky,” he said after the debate.

Citizens for a Sound Government can thank McConnell for unearthing attacks in its anti-Bevin ad, but fact checkers dispelled several of those points throughout last year’s GOP primary for U.S. Senate. addressed several of McConnell’s accusations, including those raised by Citizens for a Sound Government, en masse in a 2013 report less than a month after Bevin entered the race.

The website, a nonpartisan effort by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, noted that the $100,000 state grant used to restore the bell-making facility after it was destroyed by fire in 2012 came months after Bevin fully rectified the business’ tax issues. He had taken a more prominent role with the bell manufacturer in 2008 after his uncle, the former owner, had fallen into poor health, according to the report.

What’s more, the website notes the missed tax payment on Bevin’s Maine vacation home in 2007 came after he switched mortgage companies and didn’t get notice of the delinquent payment. Bevin paid two liens against the house a month after noticing the discrepancy, according to the report.

Bevin campaign manager Ben Hartman dismissed the ad as “false” and said the links between Heiner and the outside spenders supporting him “are becoming more and more clear.” While he said the negative turn in the campaign is “unfortunate,” it didn’t come as a shock.

“I’m not surprised that there are those who would like to see puppets for the Washington politicians to be elected governor here would attack Matt right as his campaign starts to surge,” Hartman said in a phone interview. “… I think this shows that perhaps Hal and those close to him are desperate to hold onto a lead that they’ve spent millions of dollars to get.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.


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