AG candidate Beshear recruits prominent Democrats, including his dad's appointees, as fundraiser hosts

04/10/2014 02:16 PM

Of the $885,000 in donations 2015 attorney general candidate Andy Beshear collected in the last three months, more than half of it came from 42 fundraising events, most of which were held by prominent Democrats and allies of the Beshear family.

And out of those 42 hosts who held events for Beshear, 15 of them were appointed by Beshear’s father, Gov. Steve Beshear, to cabinet positions or various boards and commissions, according to a review of Beshear’s finance reports.

That list includes Inez coal magnate Jim Booth, who is now on the University of Kentucky board of trustees, former Kentucky Secretary of Transportation Cabinet Joseph Prather and Todd Case of Louisa, whom the governor placed on the Kentucky Motor Carrier Advisory Committee, to name a few.

Other prominent Democrats who served as fundraising hosts include: former Gov. and former U.S. Sen. Wendell Ford, former U.S. Rep. Mike Ward and Mayor of Louisville Greg Fischer.

“There’s a limited pool of people who get involved in campaign finance,” said Jonathan Miller the former two-term state treasurer who held a March fundraiser for the younger Beshear. Miller said he hasn’t talked about Andy Beshear’s run with the governor, who in 2007 appointed Miller to be Democratic Party Chairman.

Andy Beshear, an attorney with Stites & Harbison, was unavailable for comment Thursday because he was preparing for a trial. In a statement to Pure Politics in response to specific questions about the fundraising, the campaign said Andy Beshsear has been talking to crowds as small as “10 and as many as 100,” and that most of the fundraiser hosts have asked how they can help the campaign.

“Many hosts are long-time friends of Andy and Britainy and the overwhelming majority of fundraiser hosts have approached the campaign asking how they can help – not the other way around,” Campaign Manager Jared Smith said.

With more than one-year before the Democratic primary, Beshear has collected an unprecedented haul of contributions. The $1.1 million total he has collected since getting in the race in November is nearly three times as much as the $446,000 incumbent Attorney General Jack Conway brought in during his first run in the 2007 primary.

But Miller said that’s necessary for the constitutional offices other than governor.

“It’s very difficult to raise money for anything but a governor’s race,” Miller told Pure Politics in a phone interview.

According to the Beshear campaign, it was Wendell Ford who encouraged Beshear to enter the race early — something no other Democratic candidate has done in any 2015 race. Most Democrats have been biding their time as Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes mounts a challenge to Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in the 2014 election cycle.

Entering the race early with a large financial warchest makes a statement, said former state Sen. David Karem of Louisville, who held a February fundraiser for Beshear.

It allows the campaign room to breathe and can lead to the swagger and sends a notice to political opponents who are considering encroaching on Beshear’s turf and encourages other candidates to “shy away.”

“It’s a very trustworthy strategy. Build a campaign fund and let people know you’re a very serious candidate,” said Karem, whom Gov. Steve Beshear appointed to the state Board of Education in April 2009.

Karem said it was Andy Beshear who contacted him to host the fundraiser even though he is a contemporary of the govenror.

Karem and the elder Beshear served in the legislature at the same time and Karem said they both have children named Jeff and Andy — the running joke was that they had the same kids.

Andy Beshear and Karem both served on the board of trustees at Spaulding University where Karem became, “very impressed by him.”

“Andy’s made a very successful career on his own,” Karem said adding that Beshear has also grown up around politics.

In the last three months, the campaign for Beshear has been around the state with fundraisers in Inez, Newport, Louisville and Murray.

  • The fundraiser in Inez hosted by Booth brought in $38,500 — and Booth has been a mainstay funding backer of Gov. Beshear before the governor named him to one of the plum boards and commissions: the trustees of UK.
  • The fundraiser hosted by Fischer landed Andy Beshear’s campaign nearly $75,000.

Beshear’s campaign says there isn’t a total fundraising number in mind they’re trying to hit.

“He does not have a specific fundraising goal, but feels confident he will raise enough funds to get his vision of safe, healthy and prosperous communities to all Kentuckians,” Smith said.

But with the packed schedule of events earlier this year, Miller said he found it “extraordinarily difficult” to find people who hadn’t already donated to Beshear by the time he was trying to recruit guests for his event last month.

“It’s really clear that in the inside baseball world… the Democrats are solidly committed to Andy,” Miller said.

Miller added that an attorney general “can’t do anything for anybody,” implying the donations aren’t for favors if Beshear gains office.

However, if Beshear shows the same career track as his father it could be an investment some see worth making.


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