As Ky. GOP seeks to take House in 2014, Stumbo says Democrats can defend themselves on ethics

11/15/2013 11:13 AM

House Democrats are bracing for Republicans to may political hay next year out of ethics issues that have dogged members of the Democratic majority caucus and are preparing a deflection defense.

It’s inside baseball, House Speaker Greg Stumbo essentially said in an interview with Pure Politics this week.

“I don’t think people look at that. I think people look at what you’ve done overall,” Stumbo said in response to questions about some of the ethical issues that have faced individual House Democrats.

Former Rep. John Arnold of Sturgis resigned in September amid allegations that he sexually harassed female legislative staffers. In one of the complaints, one of the staff members said she informed another House Democrat, Rep. John Will Stacy of West Liberty, about one of the incidents involving Arnold, and Stacy dismissed it. And Rep. W. Keith Hall, D-Phelps, has faced several ethics questions, including a $2,000 fine from the Legislative Ethics Commission in 2011 for diverting coal severance tax funding to a sewer project that one of his companies was working on. House leaders promoted Hall in January to chair the House Tourism Development and Energy Committee.

House Republicans have begun to say that such things happen when one party runs a chamber for more than 90 years as Democrats have done in the state House.

Stumbo’s rebuttal was that voters won’t “buy into” Republicans’ arguments because they don’t want the same divisiveness in Frankfort that he says the GOP has demonstrated in Washington.

He added later that the controversy surrounding Arnold and others “doesn’t have any effect on policies.” (2:00 of the interview)

“John Arnold may have acted improperly. Does that mean everybody is going to be guilty of acting improperly?” Stumbo asked rhetorically.

On the Arnold situation, Stumbo said he believes Legislative Research Officials handled the allegations properly (3:30) and why he wasn’t sold that former director Bobby Sherman was the right pick for that job in the first place (4:00).

Stumbo said in the interview that he supports including sexual harassment training as part of Kentucky lawmakers’ annual ethics training. But he stopped short of saying he’s ready to support changes to LRC policies to bar lawmakers or LRC supervisors from having relationships with employees.

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He is now pursuing an advanced degree in non-fiction writing from Murray State University and is a regular contributor to Pure Politics. Ryan has covered politics for more than 14 years, including seven years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Ryan can be reached at purepolitics@twcable.com or @mycn2 on Twitter.

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