Republican Gov. Matt Bevin delivers his budget before a joint legislative session in the House Chambers at the Kentucky State Capitol, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, in Frankfort, Ky. Bevin’s first budget won’t take effect until July 1, but the new governor is not waiting to slash government spending. Timothy D. Easley Associated Press
By John Cheves
Gov. Matt Bevin’s 2015 campaign collected more than $115,000 after he was elected, allowing about 150 donors — including Frankfort lobbyists, state employees, coal executives and business owners with an interest in state government — to help him pay off his creditors. Many wrote $1,000 checks during Bevin’s first month as governor.
Some are recent converts, having financially backed Democratic nominee Jack Conway in last year’s general election, or Republican candidate James Comer in the GOP primary. Once the ballots were counted Nov. 3, they wrote their first checks to Bevin, the new Republican governor.
“What can I say about this?” said Mason Routt of Versailles, chief executive of CAL Laboratory Services. Routt gave $2,000 to Conway before the election. On Nov. 16, he and his wife gave $2,000 to Bevin. “In an effort to promote bipartisanship and show that we can all come together, we need to support he who is in office. How’s that?”
The question now: Will the governor, with the power to award state contracts and appointments and regulate industries, ask donors to cover the $1.57 million he personally lent to his largely self-financed campaign? As of Jan. 2, that debt remained on the books.
Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto declined to comment Thursday on the governor’s post-election campaign fundraising.
Whatever fundraising Bevin does in coming months, it will happen privately. No longer in a gubernatorial election year, Bevin doesn’t have to file another finance report disclosing his donors until Nov. 11. His last filing — called a 60-day post-election report — was received Jan. 7, covering the first month of his administration.
Typically, the 60-day post-election report is where a campaign puts its affairs in order and dissolves, said John Steffen, executive director of the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. But Bevin’s campaign stayed active. It took in more than $10,000 on Dec. 30 alone, and it sent out final payments to campaign workers, pollsters, strategists and other creditors. Its biggest unfinished business now is Bevin’s outstanding personal loan.
Steffen said Bevin doesn’t have to close his 2015 campaign committee unless he wants to raise money for a future run for office — say, for re-election in 2019 — which would require him to start fresh with a new committee.
“His case is a little unusual,” Steffen said. If Bevin’s 2015 campaign continues to take money during 2016, “there will be a reporting gap there. But there is no provision in the law requiring him to report until November.”
The idea that for the next 10 months we’re not going to know who is giving money to the state’s chief executive is just unacceptable.
Richard Beliles, chairman of ethics watchdog Common Cause of Kentucky