Political news


U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell weighed in on the 2016 presidential race at a luncheon in downtown Lexington Thursday. 

The Senate Majority Leader warned against the crowded field of Republican candidates getting too contentious. There are fourteen politicians jockeying to secure the Republican nomination for president next year.

McConnell warned against the race becoming unnecessarily brutal.

“You saw in the Kentucky governor’s primary if you get into a fight with somebody else in a multi-field candidate you could end up taking yourself down and whoever you’re feuding with down and somebody else benefits from it.”   

Former Republican candidates for governor Hal Heiner and James Comer launched attacks at one another, and on Election Day got bested by Matt Bevin, who stayed out of the fight for the most part. McConnell never made an official endorsement in the primary. It was widely speculated he and Bevin didn’t get along-- Bevin never endorsed McConnell after getting beaten by him in last year’s U.S. Senate race.


Campaign finance records filed last week reveal a late burst of six-figure donations to James Comer in his unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination for Kentucky governor last month, with similar sums going to a political organization aiming to defeat the eventual primary winner, Matt Bevin.

These latest records shed light on so-called “unauthorized campaign committees,” which can raise and spend money to support or oppose candidates — without the authorization of candidates themselves. Unlike personal donations that are capped at $1,000 in Kentucky, the committees can donate as much as they’d like.

According to candidates’ reports filed with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, two of these committees spent $743,250 during the period May 6-June 18, about half for Comer, half against Bevin.

Last month Bevin defeated Comer by 83 votes to win the Republican nomination to oppose Democrat Jack Conway in the Nov. 3 election for governor. A millionaire businessman from Louisville, Bevin received no support from unauthorized committees in the May-June reporting period.

omer’s 11th-hour boost came from Kentuckians for Growth, Opportunity & Prosperity, a committee headed by investment adviser and Republican fundraiser Richard Knock of Union, in Northern Kentucky. It gave Comer $315,000, mostly in the week before the primary. The money helped Comer pay for more than $300,000 in TV ads in May.

When President Barack Obama visits Nashville to tout his health care law, he's unlikely to say much, if anything, about a failed plan to expand Medicaid in Tennessee.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell told The Associated Press ahead of Obama's visit on Wednesday that he's expected to discuss building on the progress made under the Affordable Care Act.

When asked about Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's plan to expand Medicaid, Burwell said Insure Tennessee "isn't the focus of the visit."

The plan sought to extend coverage to 280,000 low-income Tennesseans. The proposal failed in a special legislative session in February, was then revived during the regular session -- only to be killed again in a Senate committee.

Supporters held a news conference earlier this week to renew an effort to try to pass the plan.

With a U.S. Supreme Court decision expected any day now, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear says state agencies are making preparations should the justices vote to allow gay marriage. 

"One area would be in taxation," Beshear told WKU Public Radio.  "Our revenue department is looking at that in terms of filing a joint married return."

The wording on marriage license forms would also have to change to accommodate same-sex couples. 

Beshear said his administration has anticipated the ruling going each way and have steps in place to comply if the nation's highest court orders the commonwealth to allow and recognize same-sex marriages.

Many legal scholars expect the Supreme Court to strike down Kentucky’s prohibition on gay marriage.  A federal judge last year struck down the ban, but a federal appeals court reversed the ruling.

LRC Public Information

Former Democratic state Rep. Keith Hall is scheduled to testify in his own defense Thursday during a federal corruption trial.

Hall is accused of paying a state mine inspector tens of thousands of dollars to overlook safety violations at coal mines Hall owned. That mine inspector, Kelly Shortridge, has pleaded guilty to soliciting a bribe.

On Wednesday, Shortridge told a federal jury Hall paid him $25,000 for favors and he expected Hall to use his position on the House Natural Resources Committee to get Shortridge promoted.

Hall's attorney, Brent Caldwell, acknowledged that Hall paid Shortridge. But he said the payments were legitimate business transactions because Hall paid Shortridge as a consultant to help find people to work his coal mines. He said Hall never once asked Shortridge for favors.

The Democratic and Republican candidates for Kentucky lieutenant governor will participate in a forum in Paducah later this year.

The Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce said Jenean Hampton, the running mate of Republican gubernatorial nominee Matt Bevin, and Sannie Overly, who is running with Democratic nominee Jack Conway, have both confirmed they will participate in the event Oct. 1.

Hampton and Overly are to appear before a chamber luncheon. The chamber said the forum will include opening comments from the candidates, a question-and-answer session with local media and concluding remarks by the candidates. WPSD-TV news anchor Todd Faulkner will be the moderator.

WPSD will broadcast the event live and will stream it live on the station's website.

Attorney: Kentucky Resolves Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Jun 23, 2015

Kentucky's legislative leaders have resolved a sexual harassment lawsuit involving a former Democratic lawmaker and two state workers.

Thomas Clay, the attorney for Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper, said the case has been resolved to the satisfaction of the parties. He declined to elaborate. 

Costner is a former aide to House Majority Whip Johnny Bell. Cooper still works for Bell. The pair filed a sexual harassment lawsuit alleging former Democratic state Rep. John Arnold touched them inappropriately and that the Legislative Research Commission did not do enough to protect them.

Arnold resignd his seat and was  fined $3,000 by the Legislative Branch Ethics Commission. He has appealed the fine.

LRC Public Information

A federal prosecutor told a jury that a former Pike County lawmaker secretly paid tens of thousands of dollars to a state mine inspector.   The trial for Keith Hall began on Monday.  

The 55-year-old Hall, who is accused of bribery, served 14 years as a Democratic state representative from Phelps until a 2014 primary defeat. 

Prosecutors say Hall, who owned coal mines, paid about $46,000 in bribes to mine inspector Kelly Shortridge in 2009 and 2010.  Shortridge has pleaded guilty to soliciting a bribe, saying he agreed to ignore violations at Hall's mines.  Shortridge is expected to testify against Hall. 

Hall's attorney Bryce Caldwell says Hall's payments to Shortridge were for legitimate business deals.  Hall could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Congressman John Yarmuth Is Running For Re-Election

Jun 22, 2015

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth on Monday announced that he will seek a sixth term in office.

Yarmuth, a Democrat from Louisville, said announcing ahead of a formal filing would also help him raise funds should he have a serious Republican challenger in 2016. Even though he can’t officially file until later this year, he said it was important for him to clear the air before officially filing.

LRC Public Information

A former Kentucky lawmaker goes on trial in federal court in Pikeville this week.

Jury selection got underway Monday in the trial of Keith Hall of Pike County.  The former democratic state representative is charged with paying bribes to an inspector to ignore violations at coal mines owned by Hall. 

Hall's co-defendant, former state mine inspector Kelly Shortridge, pleaded guilty in earlier this year to taking bribes from Hall. The plea agreement said Shortridge, who worked for the Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement, took about $46,000 in bribes over two years from Hall. 

Hall represented Pike County for 14 years before losing his 2014 re-election bid.