U.S. Justice Department prosecutors are joining the criminal investigation into secret audio recordings made inside Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell’s Louisville campaign headquarters.
In February, a liberal activist named Curtis Morrison secretly recorded McConnell and re-election campaign staffers talking about tactics they would use against actress Ashley Judd, should she challenge McConnell in next year’s election. Judd later said she wouldn’t run for Senate, but Morrison gave the recordings to Mother Jones, a liberal political magazine that published the audio and transcripts at its website.
McConnell has demanded anyone involved in the secret recordings be prosecuted.
Politico reports that any attempts to subpoena evidence from Morrison would probably need the approval of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who has to sign off on any such subpoenas for journalists. Morrison has worked as a paid freelancer for a Louisville-based online news outlet, in addition to his work with political groups that have said their goal is to defeat McConnell in 2014.
U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has introduced a bill in Congress to block military funds to Syria. The measure is aimed at preventing further U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war.
Senator Paul, a Republican from Bowling Green, is co-sponsoring legislation that would ban direct or indirect aid for military operations in Syria, but would not prevent humanitarian aid.
The bi-partisan legislation is also supported by Senators Tom Udall, Mike Lee, and Chris Murphy, all of whom have spoken out in opposition to President Obama’s decision to arm rebel groups in Syria.
“The President’s unilateral decision to arm Syrian rebels is incredibly disturbing, considering what little we know about whom we are arming," said Paul. "Engaging in yet another conflict in the Middle East with no vote or Congressional oversight compounds the severity of this situation. The American people deserve real deliberation by their elected officials before we send arms to a region rife with extremists who seek to threaten the U.S. and her allies.”
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear just announced a proclamation calling lawmakers back to Frankfort Aug. 19 for a special session dealing with legislative and judicial redistricting.
The Democratic-led House passed redistricting maps during this year's General Assembly, but they were voted down by Senate Republicans. Beshear has said he wants lawmakers to have an agreement in place before the start of the special session, so that it lasts the minimum of five days.
"Leaders in both chambers have indicated to me a willingness to utilize the same census numbers for legislative and judicial redistricting as were used for Congressional redistricting in 2012," Beshear said in a news release. "This will make all redistricting plans consistent and avoid having to address Congressional redistricting again. I have therefore not included Congressional redistricting on the agenda for the upcoming special session."
Kentucky’s junior U.S. Senator says a growing number of young people agree with his stance that the federal government is infringing on the privacy rights of Americans.
Bowling Green Republican Rand Paul told CNN a recent poll conducted by the cable network proves his point. The CNN poll showed a 17 percentage point drop in support for Obama among those between the ages of 18 and 20.
Paul has been outspoken in recent months about the Republican Party’s need to reach out to groups that have been supporting Democratic candidates and causes, like young voters.
Paul has also been outspoken on his criticism of the National Security Agency, following new revelations surrounding data-surveillance programs that collect phone-call records from million of Americans and use U.S. internet companies to capture foreign communications.
Paul, who is thought to be preparing for a possible 2016 White House bid, told CNN the GOP should “do everything we can to protect our country, consistent with our Constitution.”
The Indiana Supreme Court has let stand the fines levied by state House Republicans on Democrats for their walkout over a controversial right-to-work bill.
Justices split 3-2 on an opinion issued Tuesday finding that the constitutional separation of powers bars the courts from interfering in internal legislative decisions. The state's highest court approved a request that the case be dismissed.
Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote for the majority that it is not the court's role to assess punishments within the legislative branch of government. Justices Loretta Rush and Robert Rucker dissented, writing that the House's "discretion to punish its members" doesn't include withholding pay.
Majority House Republicans ordered the state auditor to withhold the fines from Democrats who spent weeks at an Illinois hotel in protest of the right-to-work bill in 2011, and staged another walkout the following year.
Kentucky lawmakers will go into special session later this year to craft new maps of political districts based on the most recent U.S. Census data. Legislative leaders want a tentative agreement in place before returning to Frankfort, but one of the hang-ups is whether to include federal prisoners being held in the commonwealth.
Kentucky law says a prison cell is not a residence, and the inmate population can, but doesn't have to be taken into account when drawing political maps. State lawmakers counted federal prisoners when they approved a new Congressional map last year. That map was upheld by a judge while the legislative and judicial maps were ruled unconstitutional.
Lawmakers will use this year's special session to redraw legislative and judicial maps. Legislative leaders agree on the need for consistency, and contend they can't use one set of data for one map and different data for another. House Speaker Greg Stumbo wants the congressional map amended and argues it would have a minimal impact on districts.
"There's only about 8,500 federal prisoners and the average congressional district is 770,000," explains Stumbo.
Senate President Robert Stivers argues consulting again with each congressman would prolong a costly special session.
"So now we get into a situation where we're engaging the federal delegation in a special session issue," remarks Stivers.
This week, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is expected to issue the date for a special session on redistricting. He met last week with legislative leaders to plan for the session, amid growing pressure to finish the task.
The state supreme court ruled the General Assembly’s first attempt at redrawing political boundaries unconstitutional. Two lawsuits have been filed seeking to speed up the process, and one calls for redistricting to be done by federal judges, but Governor Beshear says that’s not the way to go.
“You know, the courts are sort of divorced from the political setting and the legislature needs to take care of its own business and take care of its own districts and so, they’re gonna step up and do that," Beshear says.
The goal is for lawmakers to have a tentative agreement before they return to Frankfort to avoid a lengthy special session, which would cost taxpayers about $60,000 a day. It takes at least five days for a bill to work through Kentucky's legislative process, which means taxpayers would foot at least a $300,000 bill.
If you're a member of Congress and you didn't know about the National Security Agency's phone records program before it was disclosed last week, President Obama has this to say to you: Where have you been?
"When it comes to telephone calls, every member of Congress has been briefed on this program," Obama said to reporters last Friday.
Gov. Steve Beshear was meeting Monday afternoon with House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Senate President Robert Stivers to try to work on a plan to resolve legislative redistricting.
The governor has said he is confident that the issue will be resolved in a special session sometime this year.
Each decade, lawmakers are required to draw new legislative district boundaries to account for population changes recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau. Kentucky had major population shifts between 2000 and 2010, requiring changes in boundary lines to comply with the federal and state "one person, one vote" mandate.
Two federal lawsuits have been filed in recent weeks to speed up the process in Kentucky. One asks that a three-judge panel redraw boundaries.
The chairman of the State Government Committee in the Kentucky House says he's not sure when Governor Beshear will call lawmakers back to Frankfort for a special session.
Muhlenberg County Democrat Brent Yonts says the governor informed him at the conclusion of this year's regular session that he wanted lawmakers to figure out a solution to legislative redistricting before January.
"I'm hoping it will not be in July or August when most of us are traveling a lot," Yonts told WKU Public Radio. "If it's going to happen, I hope it's early September or possibly in June. But he hasn't communicated to me exactly when it's going to happen."
Governor Beshear recently said he is considering a special session sometime in the fall. Kentucky's legislative boundaries have to be redrawn to reflect the most recent U.S. Census data.
Earlier this year the House passed new maps that were rejected by the Senate. Now the state is facing two lawsuits alleging lawmakers have been negligent in not getting new boundaries drawn.