Thursday, November 15, 2007

On Paul Patton's post-election comments

It's been more than a week since the Lexington Herald-Leader's post-election analysis included quotes from disgraced former Gov. Paul Patton about what this year's election means.

Patton stated that governors no longer will be able to allow their local campaign chairs, patronage contacts or county party chairs to dictate state hiring decisions in their counties or areas.

Pretty unusual comments, coming from a governor who presided over a well-oiled patronage machine for two full terms and is the only governor ever to be found guilty of violating the state's personnel policies.

Remember that Patton admitted using his personal clout as governor to secure the promotion of a Kentucky Vehicle Enforcement officer. This admission before the Executive Branch Ethics Commission cost Patton $5,000 out of his own pocket. Keep in mind, too, how this all happened. One of Patton's patronage chiefs, Tina Conner, also happened to be his sweet thing on the side. When Patton's lover got a speeding ticket from a KVE officer once upon a time, she told him that if he'd make the ticket go away, she'd get the governor to get him promoted. He did, she did, he did, and the whole sordid mess came to light after Patton broke off the affair and then sicced the state's regulators on her Western Kentucky nursing home.

Patton probably was more personally involved in patronage hiring decisions than any other governor in recent history. Of course, he had twice as long to do it as his predecessors since they weren't eligible for re-election, but anecdotal evidence shows Patton was a busy fellow when he wasn't carrying on with his Purchase area paramour. We've heard of one instance where Patton promised a promotion to a Democrat activist in the state highway department when this fellow's supervisor retired. When Patton changed his mind and instead promised the job to someone else, the supervisor decided not to retire after all.

The Luv Gov may believe what he said about the patronage days being over, but if so, he's badly mistaken. The majority of Democrats who get involved in gubernatorial politics at the local level aren't doing so out of any firm belief system or loyalty to the politician. They do it because they're looking for a little slice of power. They want to be able to control state merit system jobs, highway projects and other infrastructure improvements. They can be a fickle bunch. They may support one candidate this time, but an entirely different candidate the next time, depending on where they think they have the best chance of grabbing onto some authority.

If Beshear really does cut the local players out of the game, which we really don't believe will happen in a million years, these little local Mafia Don-like politicos will take their support elsewhere, even against an incumbent governor. They're not interested in what they can do for the governor or the state, but what the state and the governor can do for them and their egos.

We're hearing disturbing rumors about how Beshear's henchmen in the state merit system are already threatening their co-workers who supported Gov. Fletcher's re-election campaign. If the governor-elect is serious about his claims to respect the merit system, he'll send word to his operatives to cease and desist. Conventional wisdom is that Fletcher's administration set a high standard and then failed to meet that standard. Beshear's campaign, and the events of the past three years regarding merit system hiring, have set Beshear's bar even higher. We certainly don't expect the left-leaning press to hold Beshear accountable for his administration's missteps, but we here at KPac2 and other conservative bloggers certainly will.

Even though Patton certainly spoke with forked tongue about state jobs and future administrations, especially given his own past history, his words need to be heeded by the Beshear administration if the new governor expects to show any integrity or earn any credibility.

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