Williams says Farmer's hotel bill was not a bad expenditure; Parties squabble over Lt. Gov. candidates

04/27/2011 12:45 PM

Republican candidate for governor David Williams defended his running mate, Richie Farmer, for charging to the state $1,600 in expenses including a $359-a-night hotel room for four days during the boys basketball Sweet 16 tournament in Lexington last month.

Farmer, the agriculture commissioner, was promoting the “Kentucky Proud” program at the tournament, which helped make him a Kentucky basketball legend in the late 1980s.

“If you go to all the games at the state basketball tournament before and after and you’re there with a Kentucky Proud t-shirt working the crowd, promoting the situation, you know, $300 a day, you couldn’t hire Richie Farmer and his celebrity status to be there and promote that,” Williams said. “So I don’t think that was a bad expenditure of state dollars for Richie Farmer to do.”

Williams made the comments at last night’s Legacy “Newsmaker” forum, sponsored by Insight Communications — the parent company of cn|2.

In response to questions from moderator Ryan Alessi of Pure Politics, Williams said Farmer billed the state for a stay at the Kentucky State Fair last year in Louisville in which he also was promoting the Kentucky Proud program.

“And that’s about the same distance from Frankfort,” he said.

The Democratic Party has called on Farmer to pay back the state for the expenses.

“No matter what kind of spin you put on this – Commissioner Farmer’s hotel stay was a foolish and wasteful way to spend the hard-earned money of Kentucky taxpayers,” said Dan Logsdon, the Democratic Party Chairman.

Williams went on to question the expenditures of Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, who traveled to India earlier this month on an economic development trip.

Beshear announced after the trip that a New Delhi-based company would build a new facility in Hardin County.

When asked whether the news about Farmer’s spending might undercut his message of presenting himself as a fiscal conservative, Williams said that’s what the Democrats hope happens.

But he said he didn’t believe it was a big issue with voters. And if it does matter, he said, people have a chance to vote.

“That’s a judgment decision of the voters of the commonwealth of Kentucky,” he said.

This has sparked a back-and-forth between the parties over the respective lieutenant governor candidates.

The Democratic Party has been hitting the Williams-Farmer ticket for weeks on releasing tax returns, Farmer’s furlough pay and hotel expenses.

The Republican Party today took aim at Beshear’s running mate, Jerry Abramson.

Steve Robertson, the Republican Party Chairman, released a statement criticizing Abramson for the hire of a special assistant named Carol Butler while mayor of Louisville. According to a Courier-Journal story from March 15, Butler was paid $85,000 a year for part time work but many other city employees were quoted as saying Butler didn’t come to the office often.

In a statement, Robertson called Abramson’s hiring of Butler “inexcusable.”

“It is inexcusable that Jerry Abramson appears to have spent $85,000 per year on a no-show job for his buddy,” Robertson said. “If Abramson passed out free money to a phantom employee on the taxpayer dime, then in the spirit of running mates reimbursing the taxpayers, Jerry Abramson should be the first to step up to the plate.”

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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