Non-merit employee says he donated to Beshear campaign at official's request, but check was returned

08/01/2011 02:17 PM

UPDATED: One non-merit state employee confirmed to Pure Politics that one of his bosses asked him to donate to Gov. Steve Beshear’s re-election campaign. And he said the campaign returned his check because he had included a note saying he only gave money at the urging of a higher-up.

Dr. Patrick Sheridan confirmed to Pure Politics that this winter he received a phone call to his unlisted home number from Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Deputy Secretary Charles Geveden, who asked him to write a $1,000 check to Beshear’s campaign.

Sheridan said he wrote a $500 check to the Beshear campaign with a note attached. The note said the check was being written in response to a personal call from Geveden.

Some time later, his check was returned in the mail, Sheridan said.

Sheridan is a long-time non-merit employee in the cabinet. His name was one of 13 listed in a letter from another Justice Cabinet employee alleging strong-arm tactics by Geveden. Dr. Rodney Young sent that letter to the Republican Party of Kentucky, which has asked for an investigation.

It is against state law for an administration to target appointed state workers for political fundraising unless those solicitations are made “as part of an overall plan to contact voters not identified as state employees,” the law says.

Of the other 12 employees Young said had been contacted, three contributed to the Beshear campaign in December or after: Deputy Commissioner Alfreddie Hasan Davis gave $500 in December; Diana McGuire, the legal director in the department, gave $250 in December; and Anthony Payne, a division director in the Department of Juvenile Justice gave $250 in April, according to a search of records on the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.

Geveden was out-of-the office on Monday and unavailable for comment.
A statement from Kentucky Democratic Party spokesman Matt Erwin said Young doesn’t “claim he was pressured by anyone to make a donation to a political campaign nor does he present any evidence that anyone was pressured to make a donation.”

UPDATE: Erwin said Sheridan did include a note with the check saying Geveden contacted him on his unlisted phone. But Sheridan also asked in that note that his personal information not be kept, which is what prompted the check to be returned.

“We can’t tell this guy we’ll take his money and not keep his information,” Erwin said. Kentucky candidates must provide to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance information about donors, such as address, occupation and spouse’s name.

“(What happened) was 100 percent not illegal. It was part of a fundraiser,” Erwin said. He said Geveden was making a follow-up call to individuals about the fundraiser.

Young’s letter said Sheridan was offended at being asked for money, and Sheridan even threatened to retire instead of giving in to political pressure.

Sheridan confirmed to cn|2 that he was planning to retire in a few months.

Sheridan didn’t say he felt his job was at stake unless he wrote the check. But Sheridan told Pure Politics in his 20 years in state government, he had never received a solicitation for a campaign contribution, despite his non-merit status.

While he confirmed the details of Geveden’s fundraising request, Sheridan declined to be interviewed further.

Also, Young did not return a call to Pure Politics but did speak with the Courier-Journal’s Tom Loftus. . Young said he is a Democrat but not politically active and confirmed that no one solicited donations from him.

The Republican Party of Kentucky’s chairman, Steve Robertson, has filed identical complaints with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance and Executive Branch Ethics Commission.

Young also sent his letter to Attorney General Jack Conway. His office said they had just received Young’s allegations today and were in the process of looking at the letter. Conway’s office declined to comment further.

Beshear’s campaign also has dismissed the allegations as pushback on bad poll numbers for one of Beshear’s opponents, Republican David Williams.

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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