Logo and lingo of Democratic Kentucky Family Values PAC under question from Republicans

10/22/2014 12:59 PM

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of reports examining claims being made in a handful of the most contentious state House races of 2014.

Amid this year’s fight for control of the state House, two groups now are squabbling over the use of terms like “conservative” and “family values.”

The Kentucky Family Values PAC, a Democratic group, has launched ads in many state House races where they have supported the Democratic candidates and described many of them as “conservative.” But a religious activist group with a similar name, the Family Foundation of Kentucky, is taking issue with the wording as well as aspects of the group’s identity.

One of the races where the Democratic super PAC has sent out mailers endorsing a Democrat is the 62nd House District race where Democrat Chuck Tackett is running against state Rep. Ryan Quarles, R-Georgetown. The mailer, obtained by Pure Politics, can be seen below:

Family Foundation of Kentucky Executive Director Kent Ostrander has mailed letters to newspapers in districts like the 62nd in which he points out similarities in the logos of the two groups while also saying the group is misleading voters through their messaging.

In his letter, Ostrander writes:

As Executive Director of The Family Foundation of Kentucky, I must make a clear distinction because of mounting confusion across the state. A Democrat Super PAC named “Kentucky Family Values” (KFV) is advertising for Democrat House candidates exclusively and describing them as “conservative” and as having “family values.”

It’s America, so KFV can say what it wants . . . but because they have chosen both verbiage and a logo so similar to that of The Family Foundation, a nonprofit public policy organization that does NOT endorse, many believe it is The Family Foundation supporting these candidates.

The logos of the two different groups can be seen here:

In a phone interview with Pure Politics, Ostrander said his group has received many hostile calls from voters who want to know why a non-profit group like Family Foundation of Kentucky is endorsing candidates, particularly ones who disagree with their stances on things like abortion and same sex marriage.

Ostrander said he is not trying to call out the other group for expressing their opinions and added he does feel that some of the candidates they are endorsing could be called “conservative” Democrats. However, the Family Foundation of Kentucky head says his group is frustrated with the backlash they have gotten from confused voters.

In response to the Family Foundation of Kentucky’s concerns, the Kentucky Family Values PAC issued a statement to Pure Politics saying that it has used the name and logo for the last four years and is “supporting candidates who have demonstrated a strong commitment to the responsible fiscal stewardship of the state and who are fighting to support Kentucky’s families.”

Kentucky Family Values is opposing several candidates who do not share our state’s family values, including one candidate who stole money from her mother, another who was arrested for drunk driving and sentenced to jail when he attempted to pick up and drive his children and yet another who makes his living by cashing in on the hardship of homeowners. Kentucky Family Values’ argument is not with any other group, but we do find it confusing that anyone who believes in family values would condone or defend those behaviors in someone seeking public office in Kentucky.

The three candidates the group refers to in the first paragraph of their statement are Diane Burns Mackey, the Republican candidate running against Rep. Jim Gooch, Jeff Jobe, who is running against Rep. Johnny Bell, and 56th House district Republican candidate Ryan Schwartz who is running against Rep. James Kay.

As Pure Politics reported , Jobe’s past is already coming into play with mailers being sent out on behalf of Rep. Bell by the Kentucky Democratic Party which shows the arrest records for when the Republican candidate was arrested for driving under the influence.

In a statement, Jobe said his past was fair game and that he has asked forgiveness for his past.

As for the claims against Mackey, according to court documents , she deposited a check for just under $45,000 addressed to her mother for a tobacco buyout payment. However, the lawsuit states that Mackey deposited the check into her own account instead of her mother’s account.

Sections of the court documents can be seen below:

On April 24, 2002, Mary Burns Johnson (Johnson) executed a power-of-attorney appointing her daughter, Mackey, as her attorney-in-fact. The document was a general power of attorney, but it expressly excluded the power to make gifts on behalf of Johnson. Thereafter, in January 2006, Johnson received a check for $44,827.12, which represented a tobacco buyout payment from the United States Department of Agriculture. Mackey endorsed the check on Johnson’s behalf and deposited it into an account which Mackey owned and controlled.

As a result of these actions, the Public Administrator asserted that the Estate had incurred losses in the amount of the check, as well as taxes and interests on the payment in the amount of $5,974.60. In her response, Mackey admitted depositing the check into her own account, but stated that Johnson had authorized her to do so. Mackey also disputed the Public Administrator’s allegation that taxes were owed on the payment.

In a phone interview with Pure Politics, Mackey said the lawsuit came as a result of a dispute with a sibling. Mackey had been taking care of her mother toward the end of her life and had been using some of her personal funds to pay for her mother’s care.

The tobacco buyout payment was arranged by Mackey and her husband, who raised the crop himself. According to Mackey, her mother wanted her to have the money in the account in question because of the amount of her own money being spent caring for her mother.

The $45,000 was spent on assisted living and other expenses related to the care of her late mother, Mackey said. When the case was taken to court after the family dispute with her sibling, Mackey said she took out a loan to pay back the amount of the check and the taxes — even though she says they had paperwork signed by Johnson endorsing the amount going into the account.

“It is sad that a group who says they support family values would stoop to attacking a family over a personal dispute,” Mackey said.

And finally, the line about a candidate who “makes his living by cashing in on the hardship of homeowners” refers to Republican Ryan Schwartz, who serves as an attorney with a focus on debt collection.

In an ad running in the 56th District, where Schwartz is challenging state Rep. James Kay, D-Versailles, Kentucky Family Values cites many cases for Tax Ease Lien Investments 1 where Schwartz represented the company. The fact sheet for the ad states that the client buys up delinquent property before taking the debtor to court to face higher fees and in some cases foreclosures “on vulnerable demographics.”

“When big corporations who prey on working people need a lawyer, they call Ryan Schwartz,” the ad says. “Schwartz specializes in helping companies foreclose on middle class homeowners…for profit.”

“You see, one of Schwartz’s biggest clients is a corporation that buys up debt and then forecloses on the vulnerable homeowners, selling off the property for big profits,” the ad continues. “And Schwartz is there every step of the way.”

Schwartz told Pure Politics foreclosure is often used as a buzz word in these situations and noted that he is not called into a case until the end of a very long process to get property taxes paid.

“I am an attorney, my opponent is also an attorney. You have to represent your clients and make a living,” Schwartz said, adding that he also does foreclosure defense work as well.

However, Schwartz said most of the cases he works on in this area deal with homes that are abandoned or a homeowner is deceased and has no living heirs or none that are aware they now own the property. In cases where people are living in the home, Schwartz says they “bend over backwards” to make sure no one is thrown from their homes.

The Republican Party of Kentucky told Pure Politics the group is using its name and messaging to mislead Kentucky voters.

“The difference between the Family Foundation of Kentucky and Kentucky Family Values is Kentucky Family Values uses their name to deceive Kentucky voters, period. They don’t care about family values, all they care about are their big out-of-state contributions,” Republican Party of Kentucky chair Steve Robertson told Pure Politics. “If Kentucky voters were aware of the source of their funding, they would be skeptical of the statements they are making all over the state.”

In part two of the reporting, Pure Politics will have more on some of the ads from Kentucky Family Values

About Pure Politics

Pure Politics airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. ET and again at 11:30 p.m. ET in all of cn|2's Kentucky markets. The program features political analysis and news, as well as interviews with officials, candidates, policy makers and political observers.

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