The well-funded non-profit Americans for Prosperity's hiring of a Kentucky state director signals to many political observers outside donors' intense interest in this fall's state House races and beyond.
In a news release on Tuesday, Americans for Prosperity announced that Julia Crigler, a former political director for the Kentucky House Republican Caucus, would lead its efforts in Kentucky.
Democrats maintain a narrow majority over Republicans in the state House, 54-46.
Sen. Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes have agreed to debate each other - just not at the same time.
Tuesday, McConnell accepted an invitation to a candidate forum sponsored by the Kentucky Farm Bureau on Aug. 20. Grimes, meanwhile, has accepted an invitation to an Oct. 13 debate that would air on Kentucky Educational Television.
But the candidates have yet to agree to a debate they would both attend. One debate, to be hosted by WDRB, was canceled after McConnell accepted but Grimes did not.
McConnell has asked Grimes to agree to three debates with no audience and none after Labor Day. Grimes said she wants an audience and debates in September or October when more people will be paying attention to the election.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Conway is concerned about the influence that a conservative 501(c)(4) group could have on Kentucky’s fall elections and beyond.
Americans for Prosperity was founded in 2004, and was led by David Koch of the billionaire, right-wing Koch brothers fame. The group and its network of undisclosed donors spent $40 million in 2010 to wrest control of the U.S. House from Democrats.
And with the recent announcement that the group has hired a director for its Kentucky chapter, Attorney General Conway says he’s concerned that the network of “dark” campaign money will warp Kentucky politics.
“I don’t think we ought to let in Kentucky state politics happen what’s happened at the federal level," said Conway. " Because people raise money for Senate campaign or House campaigns, and all of a sudden the corporate interests come in in the end and outspend what the individuals raised, and they treat the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives like it’s members are just nothing more than pawns in a larger corporate game.”
Kentucky’s junior U.S. Senator is partnering with a Democratic colleague to help low-level offenders wipe their criminal records clean. Republican Rand Paul of Bowling Green and Cory Booker of New Jersey plan to introduce legislation that would encourage states to increase the age of criminal responsibility to 18.
The bi-partisan effort is being called the REDEEM Act, and would automatically expunge the records of juveniles who commit nonviolent crimes before they turn 15 and would automatically seal the records of those who commit them after.
The bill would also create a broad-based federal path for sealing criminal record for adults, with non-violent offenders able to petition courts to make their case.
Paul is considering a run for the White House in 2016, and a new Quinnipiac University poll shows the Kentucky Senator narrowly leading his potential GOP rivals with 11 percent ofthe vote. That’s just ahead of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who had the support of 10 percent of respondents.
Kentucky's two U.S. Senate candidates disagree on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to allow some corporations to opt out of a new law requiring them to pay for contraception.
Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell called the decision a victory for religious freedom. Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes said churches should be allowed to not provide contraception coverage, but not corporations. She said she supports the right of all women to have access to contraception.
It is one of the few times the candidates in one of the country's closest Senate races have sparred on social issues. But more could be coming. McConnell spoke at the National Right to Life convention in Louisville on Saturday. Grimes has said abortion is a choice between a woman, her doctor and her God.
Lamar Alexander is showing little interest in taking up Joe Carr on a debate challenge in advance of the Republican Senate primary in August.
Alexander told reporters in Nashville on Monday that there are seven candidates running for the GOP nomination and that it would be difficult to schedule them all to appear at once.
Among the challengers, only Carr and Memphis radio station owner George Flinn have shown significant past campaign spending. Alexander wouldn't say whether he would insist on debating all of the candidates.
Alexander, a former two-term Tennessee governor, is running for a third term in the Senate this year. He said voters could find out about him on his website. Or, in his words: "Usually I'm walking down the street and they can ask me."
As the fiscal year comes to a close, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear says it’s too soon to say if spending cuts will be needed to balance the state budget.
State officials predicted earlier this month a shortfall “significantly larger” than the $28 million projected in April. Beshear told WKU Public Radio that one area in particular is contributing to the shortfall.
"The income tax is not coming in as high as projected. We're looking at that to see if there's any particular reasons to address in the future, but we won't know a lot of that for another few weeks," said Beshear.
The income tax, which is Kentucky’s largest source of revenue, has grown by one-half percent this year. State officials expected it to grow by 2.4 percent.
Tapping into the state’s rainy day fund, which currently has about $100 million, is one option under consideration for balancing the budget.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren joined candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes on Sunday to promote a plan to relieve student loan debt.
Warren has been canvassing the country following a failed vote in the U.S. Senate that would have allowed some people to refinance their student loan debt to take advantage of lower interest rates. But Republicans, led by Sen. Mitch McConnell, blocked the bill because it would have raised taxes on wealthy Americans to pay for it.
Grimes and Warren criticized McConnell for siding with millionaires instead of students. McConnell has said the bill was about politics and never about students. He voted for a 2013 bipartisan compromise on lowering student loan interest rates. Warren opposed that bill.
Indiana Governor Mike Pence says Republicans must dramatically limit the federal government's role in education, welfare programs and transportation. Pence says that state leaders, not the federal government, should be responsible for those areas.
Pence made the comments Thursday night in a speech to political donors in New York City. He was in New York to help boost his national profile ahead of a possible presidential bid.
The former Congressman isn't as well known on the national stage as some other potential candidates, such as Kentucky senator Rand Paul, but Republican operatives suggest he could emerge as a major player should he decide to run.
It was Pence's second meeting with New York donors in as many months. He's also been bolstering his policy resume at home and abroad.
Kentucky lawmakers are mulling over ways to deal with a lawsuit between quasi-governmental agencies and their financial relationship to the beleaguered Kentucky Retirement System.
Last year, Seven Counties Services, a mental health nonprofit that contracts with state government, filed for bankruptcy over its pension debt. When a federal judge ruled last month that the nonprofit didn’t have to pay those obligations to the Kentucky Retirement System, KRS executive director Bill Thielen said his organization would appeal the decision.
If that effort fails, the remaining employers in the pension system could foot a $2.4 billion tab to cover the cost of the added liabilities.
Thielen says he supports legislation like that crafted by Republican Sen. Chris McDaniel that would require groups like Seven Counties who voluntarily withdraw from the retirement system to pay off their pension obligations.
“They would only be able to withdraw having fully paid their obligation, and that’s what we believe should be the case, otherwise all the other participating employers are going to have to pick up the tab,” Thielen told lawmakers Wednesday.
McDaniel’s bill died in the House this year, but lawmakers say they’ll continue studying their options as the appeal in the case drags on for the next couple of years.