Loose ends: Complaint filed against Williams-Farmer, MoveOn.org airs ad against Rand Paul and U.S. chamber

09/16/2010 05:39 PM

UPDATED: 9:37 A.M.Former teacher’s union official files campaign finance complaint against Williams-Farmer

The 2011 gubernatorial slate of Republicans Senate President David Williams and Agricultural Commissioner Richie Farmer must answer a complaint about whether they violated the rules by spending money before they were an official ticket.

The complaint — filed late Wednesday by Steve Neal, a former executive director of the Jefferson County Teacher’s Association — asks the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance to investigate the Williams-Farmer campaign for three possible violations of campaign fundraising law. The registry regulates campaign fundraising and spending of candidates running for state and local offices.

Two of the allegations focus on a campaign video and a campaign website which were launched on Sept. 1, the same day that Williams and Farmer filed a letter of intent with the registry to run as a team.

A third allegation stems from a poll Williams released in July that he cited as evidence that a Williams-Farmer ticket would be competitive next year against Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear who is running for re-election with running mate Jerry Abramson. Neal’s complaint cited a cn|2 story as a source of information because the article quoted the polling memo that Williams provided to cn|2 Politics.

Williams-Farmer campaign spokesman Scott Jennings did not return a call asking for comment on Thursday. Jennings told cn|2 Politics in an interview earlier this month that Williams had put up his own money to pay for the poll and early expenses.

“David Williams is making a loan to the campaign,” Jennings said.

And Jennings said no bills were paid until after the candidates filed.

UPDATED: In an e-mail Jennings told cn|2 Politics that the complaint is “without merit” and filed by an “individual with an axe to grind,” referring to Neal appointment to the Board of Education by Beshear.

“No funds were raised or spent by the slate prior to its filing with the Registry on Sept. 1,” Jennings said in the e-mail. “The Registry’s General Counsel says that is the standard by which a slate must live and the Williams-Farmer ticket has abided by that rule. Further, the Registry dismissed a similar complaint in 2008 filed by the Republican Party of Kentucky against a Democrat candidate for state Senate. We believe the same rules apply to Republicans and Democrats alike.”

Williams and Farmer pledged not to hold fund-raisers before the November 2010 elections so as not to divert money away from candidates — including many of Williams’ Republican colleagues in the state Senate. But the ticket did put on its website a button for donors to give online. Jennings said some money already came in during the first few days.

Neal, when reached by phone on Thursday, said that his past knowledge in politics as part of the JCTA led to him “connecting the dots” and filing the complaint, he said. Neal said having experience with creating and paying for videos, websites and polling during his time as executive director lead him to know how much those things cost and how long they take to make.

Neal said he read articles about what the Williams-Farmer ticket was doing, but nothing about having filed its letter.

“It just hit me that I didn’t see anything about filing their letter of intent,” Neal said. “So I started doing research and I reached the conclusion that they broke the law.”

Neal has a history with both Beshear and Williams. Beshear appointed him to the state’s education cabinet, but the Republican-led Senate didn’t confirm his confirmation. Neal said he didn’t receive any help in filing the complaint, but did say he consulted with an attorney to make sure he had “all my i’s dotted and t’s crossed.” The only help Neal received from the Kentucky Democratic Party was a list of media e-mails to send the release to, Neal said.

The central issue for the registry will be to determine whether it violated the law to sign up vendors, such as a film crew, before filing the paperwork with the registry — even if money didn’t change hands until after turning in the letter of intent.

Candidates for governor used to be able to raise and spend money through exploratory committees. But the General Assembly eliminated exploratory committees as part of election reforms five years ago.

Williams said he didn’t regret supporting the change because he said it was more important that voters should know who the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor on a slate are before they should start raising and spending money.

Liberal group will air ads against Rand Paul

After three different independent groups have aired ads against Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jack Conway for his support of health care reform, a liberal group is pushing back against an endorsement Republican candidate Rand Paul has received.

First reported by Jake Payne at pageonekentucky.com, the 35 second ad hits Paul for the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which started to runs ads against Conway this week.

The ad ties Paul to recent tax fraud charges made against the Chamber by a new organization, U.S. Chamber Watch, that is backed by unions.

“The recent charges of tax fraud against the National Chamber of Commerce come on the heels of the Chamber committing $75 million dollars to buy this election for Republicans” said Justin Ruben, Executive Director of MoveOn.org, in a release. “By aligning themselves with an organization who will use any means necessary to advance their cause of making it easier to outsource jobs and line CEOs pockets, Kelly Ayotte and Rand Paul are showing their true colors. The country needs more candidates standing up for middle class Americans, not corporate interests.”


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