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Kentucky News Network

Ahead of Thursday night's Republican presidential debate, a top ally to U.S. Senator Rand Paul has announced he’s taking a leave of absence from Paul's super PAC. 

Jesse Benton, who headed America's Liberty, is under federal indictment for his alleged role in a bribery scheme. 

Benton’s indictment has implications in a statewide race in Kentucky.   Benton was serving as campaign manager for Mike Harmon, the Republican nominee for State Auditor.  Harmon is a state representative from Danville who is challenging incumbent State Auditor Adam Edelen. 

In a statement issued to WKU Public Radio, Harmon said while he knew of the accusations against Benton before he hired him, he did not expect Benton to be indicted. 

Representative Harmon said keeping him on the campaign would only serve as a distraction, so he asked Benton to resign. 

"Jesse has agreed to step completely away from the campaign until such time he can fully resolve this issue," stated Harmon.  "I wish Jesse the best of luck both for this issue and his future.  We will certainly keep him in our prayers."

Benton is charged conspiring to buy the support of a former Iowa state senator during Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign.

Flickr/Creative Commons

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis is suing Kentuncky Governor Steve Beshear for insisting that she provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Davis is currently being sued by four Rowan County couples who were denied marriage licenses after Davis stopped issuing them in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage.

In a complaint filed late Tuesday, Davis said that issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples is “contrary to her conscience, based on her sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Davis argues that Beshear is liable for any damages awarded to couples suing her.  She also says that Beshear is obligated to create marriage license polices that uphold her religious rights.

Federal prosecutors have charged three people who worked for Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign with conspiring to buy the support of a former Iowa state senator.

Among those changed is Jesse Benton, who now heads up a super PAC supporting the 2016 presidential candidacy of Paul's son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

An indictment unsealed Wednesday charges Benton, John Tate and Dimitrios Kesari with conspiracy and several other related crimes.

The indictment says they negotiated with former Iowa State Sen. Kent Sorenson to switch his support to Ron Paul in exchange for money. Sorenson had previously backed Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.

The indictment says the arrangement was concealed from Ron Paul himself and that Benton initiated the deal.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr (Creative Commons License)

A statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis will remain in the Kentucky State Capitol building’s rotunda.

The Historic Properties Advisory Commission voted to keep the statue despite calls from Gov. Steve Beshear, Sen. Mitch McConnell, leaders of both legislative chambers, and the Republican and Democratic nominees for governor.

Kentucky NAACP President Raoul Cunningham said that he was disappointed in the vote.

“I don’t think you need a statue of Hitler in the state capitol to discuss the ills of Nazism or the Holocaust," remarked Cunningham.

Calls to remove the statue began after a shooting in a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina in late June. The incident prompted many southern states to re-evaluate Confederate symbols on state properties.

WFPL News

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul got plenty of attention Saturday during the Fancy Farm Picnic in Western Kentucky.

But it wasn’t the good kind.

“Now, Rand Paul is busy,” Fancy Farm emcee Matt Jones told the crowd. “He has a presidential race to lose. He has to make sure to take care of that.”

Jones and others — Democrats, particularly — piled up on Paul all weekend.

With the Kentucky senator’s White House bid in the national news for its recent struggles, state Democrats are uniting behind the belief that he may also be vulnerable in his simultaneous effort to retain his Senate seat.

Most polls show Paul getting in the range of 5 percent of the vote in the crowded Republican presidential primary field. His fundraising efforts have been equally lackluster.

In a recent story, Politico reported that Paul’s aversion to seeking big campaign donations from wealthy contributors is part of what’s holding him back.

Stephen Voss, a political science professor at the University of Kentucky, said the biggest problem is Paul’s personality.

Jacob Ryan, WFPL

Kentucky’s Republican nominee for governor is pledging to defund Planned Parenthood operations in the state if he’s elected.

Matt Bevin’s campaign issued a statement Wednesday saying he would order the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to stop distributing federal taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood clinics in Lexington and Louisville.

Bevin said he would order the money returned to the federal government.

Politifact Sheet: Eight Things to Know About the Planned Parenthood Controversy

Planned Parenthood has come under fire from conservatives in recent weeks after an anti-abortion group released videos showing Planned Parenthood staff discussing aborted fetuses. The group behind the videos accuses Planned Parenthood of selling aborted fetuses for a profit, a charge Planned Parenthood strongly denies.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood says it’s a longtime provider of healthcare for low-income women.

In a statement from Planned Parenthood Indiana-Kentucky sent to WKU Public Radio Wednesday, the group said its two centers in Kentucky helped more than 4,700 patients last year.

“Banning federal funding for Planned Parenthood would have a devastating impact on women, men and families—especially those in medically underserved communities and with low incomes —for preventive care, including Pap tests, breast and testicular cancer screenings, birth control, STD testing and treatment, and annual wellness exams," said the statement from Planned Parenthood Indiana-Kentucky CEO Betty Cockrum.

WKU PBS

U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky will be among the ten Republican presidential candidates who will take the stage Thursday night in their first debate ahead of the 2016 election. 

Scott Lasley is a political scientist at WKU and chairman of the Warren County Republican Party.  He says the debate will allow Paul to differentiate himself from his fellow White House contenders, especially on foreign policy.

"The one risk he does run is the more he differentiates himself from more mainstream Republicans, he's got to make sure he doesn't drift into Ron Paul land," Lasley told WKU Public Radio.

Many think of his father as an isolationist, but Rand Paul has said he wants to be known as the candidate who thinks of war as the last resort. 

Professor Lasley says Paul might also use criminal justice reform as a distinction between him and the other Republicans on stage. 

The first GOP debate of the 2016 presidential race isn’t expected to have major influence on Paul’s campaign, but if he performs really well, Lasley says it could help bring in large fundraising dollars, which he has struggled to attract.

Kentucky LRC

The new co-chairman of the Kentucky legislature’s subcommittee on energy says he would support a lawsuit against the federal government’s new regulations on carbon emissions.  

House speaker Greg Stumbo has appointed State Representative Gerald Watkins (D-Paducah) to share the co-chairmanship with State Senator Jared Carpenter (R-Berea).  

Watkins says the subcommittee has plenty of issues on its plate, but one of the main concerns is the status of Kentucky’s coal industry and how it may be affected by new federal regulations on carbon emissions.

Fancy Farm 2015

Aug 3, 2015
Emil Moffatt

For some in Western Kentucky, the Fancy Farm Picnic is about chopped mutton and pork, bingo and music. But for the rest of the state it’s that weekend in August when politicians roll up their shirt sleeves and yell into a sea of cheers and boos.  This year’s Fancy Farm continued that tradition—after getting over one plea for civility.

The annual Fancy Farm picnic at St. Jerome's Parish is...a little bit different from the rest of the events most politicians attend during a campaign.

These days, in an increasingly tweeted, snapped and streamed world, politicians prefer to deliver their messages in carefully-scripted commercials or well-rehearsed sound bites for the press.
But Fancy Farm is noisy. Chaotic. Rude. The crowd shouts over the candidates.
This year, Republican candidate for governor Matt Bevin attempted to diffuse the bedlam by leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance

In a state where President Barack Obama’s policies are deeply unpopular among the electorate, Democrats have leapt for the center and some believe they might have overshot it.

A Pre-Fancy Farm Bluegrass Poll shows a tight race for Kentucky Governor with Democrat Jack Conway leading Republican Matt Bevin by just 3 points. Democrats also lead in four out of the five down-ticket races. But all of them are close.

Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway leads Republican Louisville businessman Matt Bevin by a slight margin in the race for governor according to the latest Bluegrass Poll.

Conway leads Bevin 45 to 42 percent according to the survey, which is conducted by SurveyUSA on behalf of the Herald-Leader and WKYT in Lexington and The Courier-Journal and WHAS in Louisville.

When the survey factored in potential independent candidate Drew Curtis, he took 8 percent of the vote.
Among the 863 registered voters polled, Bevin and Conway fared equally well with male voters, each taking 44 percent. Conway does better among female voters, taking 46 percent to Bevin’s 39 percent.

The poll also indicated that current Gov. Steve Beshear has a positive rating in his final year in office, with 51 percent giving him a favorable rating.

Both of Kentucky’s U.S. Senators are working to defund Planned Parenthood following the release of controversial videos secretly shot during a sting operation.

GOP leaders held a press conference in the Capitol Wednesday to discuss a bill that would shift funds to other community health clinics.

Local Planned Parenthood officials say the proposed legislation could affect almost 7,000 people in Kentucky and southern Indiana.  The chain of health clinics includes sites in Louisville, Lexington and New Albany.

In a statement, Planned Parenthood leaders said removing those federal funds would disproportionately affect low-income patients who rely on them for reproductive health care and annual wellness exams.

The bill was drafted by Republican Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky, Joni Ernst of Iowa and James Lankford of Oklahoma.  Paul says the government shouldn’t be subsidizing the organization.

"There's absolutely no need for any public funding of Planned Parenthood," suggested Paul.  "There's no excuse for it."

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has fast tracked the bill. He says senators will vote on it next week.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jack Conway and Republican rival Matt Bevin once again clashed over the expansion of Kentucky's Medicaid system and state-run health exchange, Kynect at a debate held by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday in Louisville.

Bevin has pushed for dismantling Kynect and moving recipients onto the federal health exchange.

“We have a governor who has uncorked a disastrous package of cost on us that we’re going to have to deal with," Bevin stated.

Bevin has argued for the elimination of the state’s expansion of Medicaid, which makes eligible all Kentuckians with incomes at or below 138 percent of the poverty line, and scaling it back to pre-expansion levels.

Conway said if elected he would continue the expansion of Medicaid and state run exchange, saying Kentuckians get better rates through Kynect than on the federal exchange.

“It’s a cheaper, more efficient way to allow people to purchase health insurance,” Conway said.

Conway and Bevin also exchanged a few barbs during the debate—Bevin pointed out that Conway graduated from Kentucky basketball rival Duke University. Conway noted several times that Bevin was not born in Kentucky.

Wealthy libertarians are giving big to Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul.

Three super PACs supporting the Kentucky senator say they raised a combined $6 million through June 30.

That's on top of the $7 million Paul's campaign reported raising between his April announcement and the end of last month.

Super PACs have no limits on how much they can raise, but they cannot directly coordinate with the candidate they're helping.

Donors to the super PACs include Jeff Yass, a high-frequency trader and board member of the libertarian Cato Institute, and George Macricostas, head of a data center company called RagingWire.

Paul is one of the expected 17 major GOP candidates for president. The total raised by his campaign and allied groups puts him in the top six for fundraising.

Candidates for Kentucky governor squared off at a forum hosted by the Kentucky Farm Bureau Thursday, the first public appearance in which the two men directly responded to one another.

The most heated exchange occurred when Conway accused Bevin of wanting to kick 500,000 people off of health insurance, calling him “callous.”

“If we can’t afford something we can potentially scale back but I am not going to kick a half million people off of health insurance on day one," said Conway

Bevin said he wouldn’t kick people off insurance, but rather do away with the state-run health insurance exchange, Kynect, and move recipients onto the federal exchange. He also stated he would eliminate the state’s expansion of Medicaid.

More than 521,000 people signed up for Kynect in the first year of enrollment—and about two-thirds of those enrolled through the Medicaid expansion.

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