Republican candidate for governor Matt Bevin won’t say whether he plans to attend a private meeting hosted by the Kentucky Coal Association and representatives of the energy industry.
KCA President Bill Bissett said Monday that Bevin and Democratic candidate Jack Conway were invited to speak at the group’s annual meeting, which is scheduled for October.
Conway’s campaign told Kentucky Public Radio he would attend. But in an interview on Tuesday, Bevin refused to give a straight answer about whether he would go to the closed-door retreat.
“There’s things that are on my agenda and there’s things that are not on my agenda, and things that will be made aware to the outside world and some that won’t,” Bevin said when asked if he would attend.
In June, Bevin and Conway both appeared at a private event in Virginia attended by luminaries of the nation’s coal industry. The media was not made aware of that event, where the two candidates took questions from Bissett and audience members and sparred with one another, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.
An invitation for that meeting advertised opportunities for one-on-one conversations between politicians, investors and coal executives.
On Tuesday, Bevin said the June event wasn’t out of the ordinary.
“There are many groups, these groups you’re asking about and many others, who care about this and want to see that we make the right choice for Kentucky,” Bevin said. “And we’ve met with many of them and will meet with many others, and some are happy to have them be open forums, and some are not. There have been many others that have been closed to the press, many others.”
The private meetings give candidates the opportunity to network anonymously with influential donors, said University of Louisville political science professor Dewey Clayton.
“There’s always the sort of issue out here as far as, What does money buy? Does it simply buy access, influence — or does it buy the candidates? So I think this might give them some cover,” Clayton said.
Several media outlets raised objections to the secret debates. But Clayton said candidates feel more comfortable having discussions outside of the public eye.
“I don’t think that’s always a sign that they’re up to something nefarious necessarily,” Clayton said. “I just think sometimes they would like to do this but not having the glare of the media right there.”