Bevin, Conway plan to follow recent tradition in disclosing tax filings if elected, but only Conway will release his as a candidate

06/10/2015 06:18 PM

BARDSTOWN — Recent governors and some candidates for the office have made their tax filings public, a trend that will continue in the next administration.

Both Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway and Republican Matt Bevin said they will release their tax returns if elected governor.

“Let me win the job first,” Bevin told Pure Politics at a meet and greet at Handy Food Mart in Bardstown on Wednesday. “I’ve released plenty of financial information as a result of decisions I’ve made to run for office in the last couple years. What I’m required to release, I’ll release. What I’m not required to, why not? People know plenty about my financial situation if they want to as a result of my recent run for office.”

But while Conway’s campaign said in an email to Pure Politics that the candidate plans to release his returns sometime next week, the Louisville investment manager who largely self-funded his primary win by pumping $1.75 million into his campaign said that information will remain private until he wins public office. Both he and Conway invested significant personal sums to their respective Senate bids, $1.25 million for Bevin in 2014 and $1 million for Conway in 2010 per Federal Election Commission filings.

“No,” said Bevin, who last year held interests worth either more than $10,000 or at least 5 percent in seven businesses specializing in products such as LED lights, candy and medical devices according to his financial disclosure form filed with the Executive Branch Ethics Commission. “Why? Why would I?”

When Pure Politics told Bevin others, such as Gov. Steve Beshear, released such records as candidates, he said he sees no value “whatsoever” in publicizing his tax returns as a gubernatorial hopeful.

Conway, who earns $118,217 annually as attorney general and reported himself as a partner in the Louisville real estate development group BCRS Partners in his financial disclosure to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, also disclosed investments worth more than $10,000 each in Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, Breitburn Energy Partners, Vanguard Natural Resources, EV Energy Partners, Energy Transfer Partners, Access Midstream Partners, Nustar Energy, Crestwood Midstream Partners and Calumet Specialty Products.

“I have led the Office of the Attorney General with fiscal responsibility, the upmost integrity, and a strong commitment to transparency,” Conway, who will make his returns from the previous three years available next week, said in a statement. “That’s exactly how I will lead the state as Kentucky’s next Governor. Unlike my opponent, I have no problem making my tax returns public as a gubernatorial candidate.”

Since Gov. Paul Patton won office in 1995, Kentucky governors have routinely made their annual tax returns public. Beshear released his income tax filings for the final time as governor in response to an open records request by The Courier-Journal’s Tom Loftus, who reported that the Beshears collected $580,547 in income last year, largely from about $340,000 in capital gains.

The recent string of disclosures has led to increased calls on candidates for the office to bring that information to light, a fact Beshear learned in his 2007 victory against incumbent GOP Gov. Ernie Fletcher.

Beshear, then a practicing attorney in Lexington who had previously served as attorney general and lieutenant governor, faced public pressure from Fletcher’s campaign to release his tax filings. After initially demurring, the current two-term Democratic governor revealed he had earned some $3.7 million in 2006, mostly through stock sales that yielded $3.3 million in capital gains, and challenged Fletcher to disclose donors to his criminal defense fund, which he declined for fear of political retribution from then-Attorney General Greg Stumbo.

Four years later, Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw became the only Republican gubernatorial candidate to disclose her tax filings despite former Senate President David Williams, that year’s nominee, calling on former GOP candidate Larry Forgy to release 10 years of tax returns in the 1991 gubernatorial primary.

Williams, at that time, managed eventual Republican nominee Larry Hopkins’ campaign, and he defended his about-face by saying his legislative financial disclosures provided ample opportunity for scrutiny. Holsclaw and the Kentucky Democratic Party unsuccessfully requested that Williams and runner-up Phil Moffett, who’s serving his first term as state representative, disclose their tax filings.

Richard Beliles, chairman of Common Cause Kentucky, said he believes candidates should be up front about their personal tax situations. He supports full disclosure of tax information, noting he released his filings in his unsuccessful campaign against then-U.S. Rep. Jim Bunning in the 4th Congressional District in 1988.

“It may reveal things that they may be investors in or connected to from a business standpoint that might be significant from their outlooks as candidates,” Beliles said in a phone interview with Pure Politics. “… I hope they both will release their tax returns.”

Bevin, for his part, says there are numerous topics more important in this election cycle than his income taxes.

“My job is to create opportunity in this state, to create jobs for people, to look at the educational state, to look at the health care state, to look at the tax structure in this state,” he said.

“That’s what I’m focused on. I think people who want to be titillated by and distracted by things that have nothing whatsoever to do with building a better economy, they’re going to always want to talk about chickens or other peoples’ tax returns or whatever they want to talk about. It’s nonsense.”

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 kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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