Attorney General says KY needs campaign finance reform, defends for profit college suit

10/17/2011 07:42 AM

Kentucky needs to look at campaign finance reforms to require more transparency of donors to outside groups, Attorney General Jack Conway.

Conway also explained his position on why his office has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over air quality regulations Conway said are too harsh on coal-fired power plants but not over water quality regulations that affect mine permitting.

But Conway talked about extensively about needed campaign finance reforms for the first time, which comes as he seeks re-election as attorney general after coming off a loss in last year’s U.S. Senate race.

“I think we need some reforms in the state, absolutely,” Conway said at the 3:00 mark.

For instance, Conway said Kentucky could “require disclosure” of donors to outside groups, such as organizations set up under section 527 of the IRS code. In this election cycle, for instance, the Republican group Restoring America has spent more than $1.35 million on ads in the governor’s race but hasn’t disclosed donations from individuals — just a donation from a newly formed corporation called Restoring America. That’s a consequence of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that essentially allowed corporations to donate like an individual to such a campaign group.

“I think the court case in Citizens United was a travesty,” Conway said at 6:10 of the interview … then added at the 7:10 mark: “We need to make sure we limit the amount of dollars and that we have transparency.”

Several people in Conway’s office volunteer their time after work hours to “vet each check” to see whether any contributions are coming from parties directly affected by a current investigation, Conway said.

Conway did accept contributions from oil and gas company officials last year during his bid for the U.S. Senate even as the Kentucky attorney general’s office was representing consumers in energy rate cases in front of the Public Service Commission.

“We don’t set the rates,” he said around 3:45 of the interview. “We haven’t taken any in this cycle, not because we thought it was a conflict of interest, but because I didn’t want to deal with it. I didn’t want to deal with the criticism.”

On two attorney general issues, Conway said he has called out the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency when he believed the agency was unfairly restricting an industry. (7:20 of the video)

And Conway’s office has filed lawsuits against several for profit colleges in Kentucky, including National College for what the attorney general’s office has claimed has been engaging in false advertising by inflating job placement numbers.

National College says the numbers it used on its webpage reflect students who are currently employed, but statistics provided to regulators are different: those include former students who have jobs in the field they studied.

“Yes, it’s misrepresenting,” Conway said, after the 1:00 mark. “These are career colleges — training for a career. If they’re out there advertising 96 percent job placement, and not bothering the consumers that if you’re working in fast food right now, we’re still going to count your job in fast food even if you completed your degree, I think that’s false, deceptive and misleading.”

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