Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Little Jackie Conway's first big challenge

Ever since Gov. Beshear's new Personnel Cabinet announced how it has decided to justify the improper raise given ex-State Treasurer Jonathan Miller's female friend, Brooke Parker, the mainstream press has been eerily silent on the subject that raised such a ruckus just a week before Christmas.

The decision by Dan Egbers, a former personnel official under prior Democrat administrations who's been pressed back into service like so many other recycled hacks from the bad old days, to backdate a couple of ACE awards for Parker seems to have placated everyone.

Well, we're not sure about how Mrs. Miller is feeling these days, but everyone in the political arena seems to be satisfied with the outcome.

The only problem is that this is blatantly illegal. ACE awards are capped at 10 percent of an employee's salary, and can only be given to one person once every two years.

Lame-duck Attorney General Greg Stumbo has been too busy prosecuting Ernie Fletcher for things not one-tenth as bad as Fletcher's Democrat predecessors have been doing out in the open for decades, and cutting deals to get himself back in the General Assembly, so he's had no time to open an investigation into Miller's overly generous raises granted to Parker and the improper method chosen to retroactively make them right. (There's been no investigation into Miller's preselection of a merit job applicant, either, believe it or not).

So the ball will be in AG-Elect Jack Conway's court starting next week. Little Jackie, as we've grown fond of calling him, is already at a crossroads and his career as attorney general hasn't even started yet.

Will he do the right, and open an investigation into this rotten can of worms? Or will he keep the peace in the Democrat hegemony and let the outrageously illegal acts of Miller and the new Beshear Personnel Cabinet stand unchallenged?

Our money's on the latter. Besides the Democrats' notorious lack of ethics and their legendary inability to obey state personnel laws, Little Jackie Conway's a political climber. He's going to want to run for higher office in a few years and he doesn't want to anger those higher on the current pecking order by looking into wrongdoing within his own party.

Welcome to the Beshear administration. It's going to be a long four years.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Your federal tax dollars at waste

Of late, Congressman Ben Chandler has taken to publishing his periodic reports to his constituents as newspaper inserts instead of sending them out through the mail. Whatever you may think of the "franking" privilege, which allows government officials to mail such correspondence without having to pay for it, it's better and cheaper than buying newspaper inserts. "Franking" doesn't really cost anyone anything; the congressional offices just shuffle some money on paper to the U.S. Postal Service and no cash changes hands.

Newspaper inserts, however, are a different story. The congressional offices have to pay for them. This is a real expenditure of tax money.

Chandler's use of newspaper inserts is bad enough, but his most recent update crossed the line.

In their Lexington Herald-Leader on Friday, many subscribers who don't live in Chandler's congressional district found themselves looking at a slick, full-color report from Chandler to his constituents, tucked in amongst the "last weekend before Christmas" sales. In small print on the back of the insert, beneath a union "bug," was the text, "printed and published at taxpayer expense."

It's not nice to see Congressman Chandler wasting tax money to communicate with voters outside his district.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Our advice to Beshear on fixing the budget "crisis"

We're highly skeptical of Gov. Beshear's claims that the state budget is in dire straits. We think he's making this claim in order to push forward his agenda to include raising taxes and fees, passing casino gambling and firing Republicans in state government under the guise of saving money.

He's already rescinded the raises Gov. Fletcher gave members of the Parole Board and claimed it was done to save the state money.

In that vein, we have four suggestions for Gov. Beshear to save even more money:

1.) Rescind the big raises former Treasurer Jonathan Miller gave his friend and staff member Brooke Parker.

2.) Rescind the state's personnel settlement with Mike Duncan, who was reinstated to his job and given a lump-sum of more than $300,000 plus back pay because of his claim that he was fired for political reasons.

3.) Rescind the state's personnel settlement with Ronald Easter, who got a huge raise and a $50,000 lump sum payment because he claimed he was passed over for a promotion because of political reasons.

4.) Keep the number of cabinets the same as it is now and not expand them as he plans to do to pay back political favors.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hacking away at good government, one old-line Dem at a time

The latest appointment news out of Frankfort is that Charles Gevedon has been named deputy secretary of the Justice Cabinet.

Gevedon, 67, is a longtime veteran of the General Assembly, representing far western Kentucky in the House. He's spent the last three years as a top official in Attorney General Greg Stumbo's office.

Steve Beshear continues to select old dinosaur Democrat names and faces from way back for his key posts. This represents a regression to the bad old days that Kentucky voters sought to get away from only four years ago.

Appointing people like Gevedon and Joe Prather and other partisan hacks means that business will be done the same way it has always been done in state government. Anyone who really thinks Kentucky state government is a grand and glorious thing is living in a partisan wonderland.

We don't see a whole lot of young people with fresh new ideas and real suggestions for meaningful change in the bureaucracy being appointed.

Oh wait, there's one. Brooke Parker. But we all have a good idea how she moved up the ladder so quickly.

The silence is deafening from Big Sky Country

Jonathan Miller's been caught with his pants down, while his close female associate's hand has been in the cookie jar, and not a word from Montana's ... err, we mean Kentucky's preeminent left-wing blog.

Wonder why? Couldn't be because Miller encouraged Mark Nickolas to start the biggest slander site in cyberspace, could it? Couldn't be because Nickolas and Miller are close, could it?

While we're on the subject, we gotta hand it to Ryan Alessi. We frequently accuse him of being wet between the ears and not having a full understanding of Kentucky politics, but the way he framed this story is nothing short of brilliant. He protected himself and the Lexington Herald-Leader from legal liability while making the point perfectly clear.

On the other hand, what in the world was Page One Kentucky thinking by coming right out and calling Miller an adulterer? Talk about your libel suit, ripe for picking off the litigation tree.

Drawing your own conclusions is one thing. Putting them on paper, or on the Internet, is another thing entirely.

Incumbent legislator bends over for Stumbo

Honestly, we cannot comprehend the fascination Kentucky Democrats have with Greg Stumbo.

Yes, they owe him a debt of gratitude for mortally wounding, politically speaking, Ernie Fletcher. But they really need to take a hard look at the man they're fawning over.

Greg Stumbo is a drunk and a drunken driver. He is an adulterer. He abused his office for political purposes. And he's a deadbeat dad. Do they really want to idolize such a man and put him on a political pedestal?

Since Stumbo chose not to run for re-election as attorney general, instead running on a losing gubernatorial ticket as Bruce Lunsford's running mate, he's been pondering his options. Initially he made a lot of noise about running for the U.S. Senate and fired quite a few shots across Crit Luallen's bow when she was also rumored -- and in many cases, being encouraged -- to be a candidate. In more recent days, he's been talking about trying to return to the Kentucky House of Representatives, where he was a longtime legislator and Democrat leader before being elected attorney general.

Stumbo was succeeded as 95th District representative by Chuck Meade, who was basically Stumbo's hand-picked successor. Meade was subsequently ousted by Brandon Spencer. Both were contemplating the race next year until suddenly, Spencer resigned his House seat yesterday.

This sets in motion a special election that will have to take place sometime in late January or early February, depending on when Gov. Beshear calls for the election, to allow that House district to have representation in the upcoming General Assembly session. The nominee will be chosen by party officials in the district, which consists of most of Floyd County. Those people will have a hard time not choosing Stumbo as the nominee, even though Meade was already an announced candidate for the May primary. This will install Stumbo as an incumbent for the primary, and there will probably be few if any Democrats eager to challenge him. And in that district, any Republican opposition will be token at best.

No doubt House leadership will move Stumbo back into a high position of power once he's there. He may not get the lofty title he once held, but he'll be welcomed back enthusiastically and they will try as best they can to make it as though he was never gone.

We don't know what Spencer may have been offered in exchange for his abrupt and unexpected resignation, but it had to be something sweet. Either that, or Stumbo blackmailed him. Stumbo's dirty laundry is public knowledge and it doesn't seem to bother him, but others aren't quite as shameless.

We'll watch to see how this story develops, but we expect the fix is in to get Stumbo back in the House. Exactly what prompted him to seemingly abandon his Senate run when he seemed so confident a few weeks ago, we don't know, but it appears that special measures are being taken on his behalf to keep him in politics.

We just don't know why, unless it's blind partisan loyalty. If any of us had Stumbo's baggage, we'd move far away to someplace where no one knew us and we'd never try to get involved in public service again.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Courier-Journal shows its anti-rural bias again

For the last three days, the Courier-Journal has run a series of stories and editorials slamming Kentucky's push to build Interstate 66 through rural sections of extreme western and south-central and southeast Kentucky.

Today they followed that up with a story ripping the Transportation Cabinet's decision to expand a highway safety improvement project in Cumberland County. (Incidentally, that story quoted new Transportation spokesman Chuck Wolfe, confirming our post of last night that he would be appointed to that position).

We could reply with a long angry rant and try to educate the masses on why these projects are needed for safe travel and economic development in rural Kentucky, but we won't.

Instead, we'll just say that the C-J wouldn't utter a peep about this situation if Hal Rogers was earmarking millions of dollars for the East End Bridge, or if a change order was issued to straighten out Hospital Curve.

Hard to believe, isn't it, that David Hawpe as rural roots, given the bias he's shown against rural Kentucky?

Monday, December 17, 2007

An eyebrow-raising appointment in Beshear's new administration

If it hasn't been announced by the time this hits cyberspace, it should be announced before too long that Charles Wolfe has been named communications director for the Transportation Cabinet.

Wolfe is eminently qualified. After all, he's a veteran Associated Press reporter in Kentucky and has worked in state government communications for the past little while. His appointment is unusual in that most agency spokespeople are former television personalities rather than print journalists, but that's not the main reason our eyebrows went up in Spock-like fashion when we heard the news of Wolfe's imminent appointment.

You see, for the last several months, Wolfe worked in the communications office of Gov. Fletcher. One of his major duties was to write speeches and help coordinate official events, that served as de facto campaign stops, as September and October crept toward November.

His eminent qualifications aside, we don't know why Gov. Beshear and new Transportation Secretary Joe Prather would want someone fresh out of their vanquished opponent's office, who was helping with the campaign against their side, to come to work for them, especially in the agency that was the flashpoint for the problems that cost Fletcher his re-election bid.

Two things jump out at us, and both are quite disturbing given the high value we here at K-Pac put on loyalty.

The first is that Wolfe's loyalty is for sale. He was willing to work for Fletcher, now he's willing to work for the man who beat his former boss. High-level political appointments are different than your average non-merit job. Total dedication to the governor and his policies is essential. And if you are helping craft the governor's message, it's even more critical. It's disturbing to think that someone who was so highly placed in Fletcher's administration could so easily shift gears to the man who beat him.

The second, and more troubling thought, is that while he worked for Fletcher, Wolfe wasn't fully on board. We'd hate to think that someone who was writing his speeches and planning his appearances had secretly cast his lot with the opposition. Fletcher deserved the best possible effort from everyone on his team and we don't want to think he had someone so close to him not giving 100 percent and more.

Honestly, we don't know why Beshear and Prather would want anyone even remotely connected with Fletcher in their government, especially those who were still around during the campaign. It didn't take long for Beshear to take a big broom to Transportation. We don't know specifically who all stayed and who all was booted out, but we do know that Tim Hazlette (the highway safety commissioner who was personnel director during much of the time covered by the Stumbo witch hunt investigation) and Doug Hogan (the man whom Wolfe is replacing as Transportation's spokesman and who also served as Fletcher's spokesman for awhile) were shown the door.

We're already upset with Mitch McConnell, Anne Northup, many other prominent Republicans and about half the GOP electorate for not showing loyalty to the embattled governor. One of the reasons we admire Brett Hall is because he remained loyal to Fletcher even after being fired for using profanity with reporters and daring to speak the truth about the party's efforts to abandon their first governor in three decades.

None of us know Wolfe, none of us have ever met him nor had any dealings with him, we just know of him through professional reputation. So we can't say with certainty what his motives are or what Beshear and Prather are trying to prove by keeping him on in a highly visible position. But given the fact that if we'd just ousted an incumbent governor we wouldn't want any of his key staffers anywhere near our administration unless they'd pledged their support for us early on, we certainly view this appointment with wonderment and suspicion.

Ernie Fletcher lost his re-election bid in large part because his fellow Republicans, those who should have supported him against all enemies, stabbed him in the back. We don't have words to express the disgust we'd feel if we found out that one of his communications office staffers had helped wield a knife.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Kentucky's press hits a new low, outs lottery winner who wanted anonymity

We didn't think Kentucky's media could sink much lower than their one-sided coverage of the 2007 gubernatorial election and the Fletcher administration.

Boy, were we fooled.

Last week, a winning Powerball ticket was sold in a rural Bullitt County retailer between Shepherdsville and Fort Knox. The winner eschewed the usual publicity, requesting anonymity.

In such a life-changing incident, where there is no legitimate public interest to be served in revealing the winner's identity, you'd think the press would respect his request to remain anonymous.

Think again.

Information on the identity of lottery winners is a matter of public record in Kentucky. And despite the winner's request to refrain from having his name publicized, the Courier-Journal filed an open records request with the lottery board, got the name of the winner, then rushed to post it on the C-J's Web site.

Sure, the newspaper was well within its rights to do so, but was that disclosure really in the public's best interest? Now the lottery winner will be hounded for chunks of his new fortune. He'll have relatives coming out of the woodwork, most he's never heard of, singing sob stories and looking for a handout. Charities, some legitimate but many not, will also be looking for some cash. If the winner tells them no, they'll try to shame him into a donation.

We've noticed a dramatic dropoff in the level of civility in the discourse of the C-J's editorials over the past few years. Gone are the rhetorical flourishes and elegant prose of eras past. In their place are coarse, hostility-filled rants that are far beyond anything the left has ever accused Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity or Ann Coulter of uttering.

No surprise, then, that the newsroom's standards have declined along with the editorial board's.

Shame on the Courier-Journal. Shame on them for not respecting this man's wishes. Shame on them for seeking the scoop and the headline at the expense of a private individual's tranquility. Shame on them for putting their desires above the good of the general public.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Beshear ordering caviar on a fish sticks budget

Even before he took office, Gov. Beshear was poor-mouthing the state's budget and financial outlook. For a while we thought he'd started wearing plaid jackets and changed his name to "Wimp."

Of course Kentucky's new Democrat governor is laying the ground for a tax increase, or approval of casino gambling, or most likely both, but it's a bit disingenuous to be complaining about having no money when you're planning a massive new expenditure.

One of the best things former Gov. (and God, how we hate saying that) Ernie Fletcher did was to consolidate the number of cabinets in Kentucky state government. Even after giving the remaining cabinet secretaries a raise over what Paul Patton's secretaries earned, it was a money-saving move for Kentucky and improved government efficiency.

Now Beshear is planning on undoing Fletcher's consolidation and is going to expand the number of cabinets.

Beshear has already said he will establish a Labor Cabinet and has already picked State Rep. J.R. Gray as the secretary-to-be. This is a bone thrown to the labor unions who supported Beshear, although we don't see the need for this to be a cabinet-level agency.

The new governor is also under tremendous pressure to split up the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The agency was known for years as the Cabinet for Human Resources until Patton split it up into Health Services and Families & Children. Fletcher reunited the two human services agencies under one umbrella as they had been for years.

Beshear also faces pressure to split up the state's regulatory agency, the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet. Fletcher combined the state's regulatory agencies, Environmental Protection and Public Protection and various other agencies, into one big regulatory body. Beshear has already stated his plans to extract Labor from that mix and will probably spin off other cabinets from this bureau.

There's also discussion about pulling Tourism out from its current home and re-establishing it as a cabinet. There also remains the possibility that Beshear will pull Revenue out of Finance & Administration, where Fletcher moved it four years ago, and making it a cabinet-level agency once again.

If Beshear establishes at least three new cabinets in addition to the promised Labor cabinet, that will cost the state an additional $1 million per year just in salaries for the four new cabinet secretaries. And that's presuming the secretaries' salaries will stay at the $125,000 per year they were paid in the Fletcher administration and they don't get raises.

That doesn't include benefits, salaries for the support staff the cabinet secretaries will need, other items such as a state vehicle, new furniture and other office perks, and the like. When all is said and done, the creation of four new cabinets could cost the state in total close to $2 million annually. If Beshear creates or re-establishes more than four new cabinets, the costs will go up proportionally.

A couple of million dollars a year may not seem like a lot in the grander scale of the state budget, but it looks bad for Beshear to be griping about the financial situation on one hand, then wasting money by creating additional cabinet positions on the other. It's more important at this point for the new governor to act in a fiscally responsible manner and set a good example than it is to pay back political favors.

This decision may be our first indication of what kind of governor Steve Beshear is going to be. He's already made a number of outstandingly bad choices in filling key staff positions, recycling old and failed political hacks from the nightmares that have been this state's previous Democrat administrations. Now he's wasting millions of dollars this state cannot afford to score political points and curry favor or reward supporters.

Kentucky has a fish sticks budget. Our new governor is trying to eat caviar.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Take that, Baby Stumbo!

Among the pardons outgoing Gov. Ernie Fletcher issued today was one for Tim Conley, the Morgan County judge-executive who's been on the receiving end of a bogus investigation carried out by a Greg Stumbo devotee.

Fletcher wasn't able to win too many of his battles against Stumbo, but this one against Stumbo's surrogate will no doubt sting a little in Prestonsburg.

Good job, Gov. Fletcher! And congratulations, Judge Conley!

Fletcher's hard lesson: Frankfort didn't want its culture changed

As the sun sets on Ernie Fletcher's term as governor, we can't help but look back at this same time four years ago and reflect on the outgoing governor's promises and how the state's majority political party reacted to them.

Gov. Fletcher said he intended to clean up the mess in Frankfort and to change the culture in state government.

He found out that state government liked its culture the way it was and didn't want it changed, and Frankfort didn't want its mess cleaned up.

Most of those who voted for Fletcher knew exactly what he meant when he promised cleaning up the mess and changing the culture. There were two specific things we expected him to do.

First was to break the stranglehold Democrats had on hiring merit system employees, especially out in the state in counties with Republican majorities. We were tired of Republicans being systematically excluded from state jobs. We've heard plenty of verifiable stories about how job applicants were told they would not be considered unless they were registered Democrats. We've even heard that one former state employee with hiring authority, who was notorious in his discrimination against Republicans, spoke in code on this topic. He was prone to say that you had to be "the right religion" to get a job under his umbrella.

Second was to get rid of all the appointees that had floated from job to job under the previous administrations in Frankfort. No matter who the Democrat governor was, many of the same old hacks found ways to stay on. They might have to take a step down from commissioner to director, or they might have to change agencies, but they were still in the mix, helping lead Kentucky down the wrong path. Recycling employees means recycling stale and failed ideas, and it showed in Kentucky's national rankings.

Neither act sat well with Democrats, who believe ruling this state is their birthright. The administration's efforts to make state hiring decisions more equitable and fair to Republicans brought about the political persecution that ended up being Fletcher's downfall. And the appointment of fresh faces with new ideas caused the Dems to cry about inexperienced kids who didn't know anything about running state government.

The truth is, state government needed shaking up, even more than what Fletcher accomplished. One of our big complaints about Fletcher is that he kept way too many appointees from previous administrations. During the campaign, Fletcher said that more than 60 percent of his political appointees were Democrats. While we know that a Republican cannot win statewide office in Kentucky without significant crossover support, we weren't happy with the number of holdovers.

Those new appointees, who brought fresh ideas on how to do things, were met with resistance from merit workers who like things they way they are and always have been, and don't like change -- even when the change will make their jobs easier as state government becomes more efficient. All the stereotypes about state workers were reinforced by those workers' conduct and exhibited attitudes during the past four years.

Those who liked the status quo will be thrilled with Steve Beshear's administration. His appointments to date look like they could have come during any of the previous Democrat administrations. Many of the same old faces that have mismanaged state government for years are back in the picture. Their resumes boast of service under Patton, Jones, Wilkinson, Collins and even Brown. By the time Beshear's appointments are complete, we expect to see cronies of every living former Democrat governor in place.

And given Beshear's lousy track record concerning merit system employment, it's no surprise that we're already hearing of political deals being cut for hirings and promotions. It's as if the past four years didn't happen; like that dream season of "Dallas" when Bobby Ewing was dead.

It's obvious that Frankfort liked its culture just the way it was. When Ernie Fletcher followed through on his promise to change that culture, that culture's inhabitants panicked. Fletcher's undoing was that he actually had the nerve to keep his promises.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The world has stopped turning! The C-J gets it right in a couple of editorials!

Elizabeth, honey, we're comin' to join ya!

This week we've read not one, but two Courier-Journal editorial points on which we can agree.

The first is that the silly "8664" plan to tear down a major cross-country expressway and divert traffic onto other roads that may not be equipped to handle it, including one road that isn't even built yet, is just that -- silly.

The second is the C-J's statement that "(a)s usual, Kentucky Common Cause chairman Richard Beliles indulges in moralistic hyperbole..."

The "8664" proposal is, indeed, foolish. And Beliles has cried "wolf" so many times that it's hard to take him seriously anymore.

While it's nice to read a couple of rational statements in C-J editorials, we doubt seriously if that paper's editorial board is ever going to wise up and become conservative.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Jensen vs. Robinson: Another round on the way?

One of the most intriguing rivalries in Kentucky political circles is that between Tom Jensen and Albert Robinson. It's obvious the two Laurel County Republicans simply don't like each other very much.

They have faced off at the ballot box several times, the last time being in 2004 when Jensen unseated Robinson in the GOP primary for their state Senate district which includes Laurel, Jackson, Estill, Powell and Menifee counties.

Could Robinson be positioning himself for another run against Jensen to try to get his Senate seat back?

Robinson recently sent a press release to newspapers outside of Laurel County in the 21st Senate District announcing his election as a 33rd Degree Mason.

Since Robinson lives in London, why would this be news in McKee, Irvine, Stanton or Frenchburg? Why would he want to get his name back before the public in those communities?

Generally, the citizenry of a particular town or county doesn't care about former legislators from their district if the ex-lawmaker doesn't live there. The only conclusion we can draw from this is that we may be seeing another round in the Robinson-Jensen grudge match.

Neither man's tenure in the legislature has been without controversy. Robinson, a real estate broker and developer, has been accused of steering public highway projects to benefit himself by opening up access to land he had for sale or wanted to develop. Jensen, a lawyer, has been accused of profiteering on property in downtown London that was sold for the new Laurel County Judicial Center currently under construction.

The Jensen-Robinson battle in 2004 was heated and ugly at times. If indeed "Uncle Al" is gearing up for a rematch, this might be a doozy. Get some popcorn and watch the fun.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Ernie Fletcher: Not your typical politician with an ego that needs inflating

Mainstream media reporters and rabid left-wing bloggers in Kentucky have been obsessing over the fact that outgoing Gov. Ernie Fletcher hasn't been giving a lot of "exit interviews" as he prepares to leave office. They claim that Fletcher is throwing away his chance to establish his legacy by spurning those who would write said legacy.

This is a specious argument, for a couple of reasons. First is that no one in their right mind could expect the press in this state to do justice to Gov. Fletcher. The largest print outlets in the state opposed his election and endorsed his Democrat opponent. Most even endorsed one of his opponents in the primary. Even before he took office, the papers were slamming his choices for transition team members because (GASP!) there were lobbyists on it.

(No one seems concerned, however, that Steve Beshear's transition team for the Education cabinet contains a school administrator against whom credible evidence of possession of child pornography and inappropriate conduct with a student has been presented.)

Things got worse after Fletcher was inaugurated. The coverage of the hiring scandal was especially one-sided. Although Fletcher and his staff repeatedly pointed out that the whistleblower had actually been a part of the improper activity he alleged and had in fact approved the personnel decisions, that was never reported. Even when the Fletcher camp's statements were proven true prior to the election via court depositions, the press never picked up on it.

Fletcher has been criticized for passing up an interview with KET's Jim Goodman. Those critical of the decision have cited Goodman's impartiality and reputation for not being a partisan. But they forget that Goodman works for a network that regularly has a party of liberals and hostile journalists, occasionally inviting a token conservative, every Friday night at 8 p.m. where Fletcher-bashing was often the order of the day. Why should Fletcher give a special interview to a representative of the same network that gave Al Smith and other "Comment on Kentucky" a taxpayer-funded venue to rip into him on a weekly basis?

The guess here is that Fletcher will end up writing a book about his term as governor. His memoirs should be especially interesting since they will tell the truth that the mainstream press and far too many supposed Republican or conservative bloggers would not report.

But the biggest reason that Fletcher may appear unconcerned about his legacy as governor is that he really is unconcerned about it. You see, Fletcher is not the typical politician. In fact, you might want to call him "The Accidental Governor" because unlike many others who held the office before and will hold office afterwards, he is not a career politician who always lusted for the power and prestige of being governor.

Fletcher got into politics for the most honorable of reasons. As a physician and a Christian, he became concerned about a few issues that were of interest to him, and he ran for office and won a seat in the Kentucky House of Representatives. During his first and only term in the General Assembly, the legislature redistricted and he was placed in the same district as his fellow conservative Republican Stan Cave. Rather than run against Cave, he opted instead to run for Congress to challenge U.s. Rep. Scotty Baesler. He lost, but the margin was encouragingly close enough to prompt him to run for Congress again when Baesler vacated the seat to run for Wendell Ford's open seat.

Fletcher's entire political career only spans about 15 years, and he didn't get into the political arena until he was in his 40s. That's not exactly representative of your typical politician.

The outgoing governor's life has been all about service. He's been a fighter pilot, a doctor and a ministers. It's obvious that Fletcher's heart is in the business of helping and serving others, no matter the venue. His ego doesn't require constant massaging, the likes of which most politicians crave on a daily basis. He doesn't crave the heady rush of holding public office. He and his wife Glenna can live a happy and uncomplicated life outside the public eye, taking pride in the accomplishments of their adult children and enjoying the company of their grandkids.

Short-term, of course, the personnel probe will dominate the discussion of Fletcher's four years in office. That's sad, really, given the illegitimate nature of that whole affair and the evidence that is already popping up that the incoming administration plans to return to the days of yore when Democrat patronage was the rule of the day and virtual "No Republicans Need Apply" signs were hung on the gates at the state's highway garages.

But take away that issue and the Democrats had nothing to run on against Fletcher. Nothing. His administration has been an unqualified success when all the things that really matter are examined. Fletcher is probably right when he says the true improvements for this state are long-term things, not short-term quick fixes. And that's assuming that all the good his administration did isn't reversed in the next four years and the inevitable slide back into Democrat medocrity.

The governor himself frequently admitted that he had trouble thinking politically. He was usually more focused on policy than politics. That probably was not helpful to him in his effort to stay in office, but it certainly was beneficial to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Ernie Fletcher's not your typical politician. That's why he was such a refreshing change from what we've had in Frankfort in the past and what we're reverting back to beginning next Tuesday.

Typical politicians need ego-stroking and legacy-building. Not Ernie Fletcher. As long as he moved this state forward -- and make no mistake, he did -- he's not worried about his legacy.

Is Beshear already lying about his personnel plans? (Part Two)

With the merit system investigation being the Democrats' sole focal point of the recent gubernatorial election, it stands to reason that during the campaign and afterwards, Steve Beshear has said over and over again that he and his appointees will take great care to honor the merit system and the employees therein.

That may or may not be true -- and we're leaning toward "may not," given Beshear's track record and the history of his party's abuses of power while in office -- but someone needs to get that same message out to Beshear's operatives.

We've been hearing plenty of stories that give us more pause about how well the personnel laws will be obeyed than anything Greg Stumbo's goons took out of 200 Mero Street in boxes back in the spring of 2005.

Beshear's hacks and cronies in state government are already flexing their newfound political muscle. Some of them were already flexing it, even before the election.

We already know that there was a Democrat patronage system in place for state merit system hiring decisions and still in operation even after Ernie Fletcher was elected in 2003. Most of the mid-level managers in state government were products of the old-line Democrat patronage system. They owed their jobs and their loyalties to the Democrats and were just biding their time until the evil Republican Fletcher was out of office. They took their directives from Democrat elected officials and local party leaders, especially when it came to personnel decisions. In many cases where the Fletcher administration preferred one job applicant and the local Democrat hierarchy supported another, the Democrat preference won out. The thinking was that the continued loyalty would result in rewards when the Democrats got back in power and retook control of the executive branch.

The election results have emboldened these people, who obstructed nearly every Fletcher administration policy and procedure they could the past few years, often past the point of insubordination.

We've heard of one instance in Transportation that portends what's on the horizon. Several weeks prior to the election, during a heated discussion between two merit system employees, an open Beshear supporter threatened someone believed to be sympathetic to and supportive of Fletcher with negative employment consequences after the election. The Beshear supporter is expecting to have some clout and influence with the incoming administration. This was reported to Transportation's higher-ups, but nothing was done. The Cabinet leadership is on its way out the door, and the inspector general is sympathetic to the Democrats and unsympathetic to the Fletcher administration. This has left one employee thumping his chest and another employee wondering if she'll even have a job after next week.

Perhaps more troubling, we've heard of instances where members of Beshear's transition team and merit system employees who supported Beshear are discussing the possibilty of being promoted into merit jobs that are either currently vacant or where vacancies are anticipated. The transition team members are basically in the process of preselecting candidates for promotion within the merit system, and the Beshear supporters are trying to elicit political support as they seek promotions.

Seems like this is what the Fletcher adminstration was accused of doing, doesn't it?

The Democrats have a horrible track record of compliance with the merit system laws, and Beshear's personal history on this subject dating back to his days as attorney general is particularly troubling. The vast majority of people in this state have an uninformed and just plain wrong perception of what actually happened under the Fletcher administration. But even if you accept their perceptions as truth, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Democrats are already trying to position themselves for promotions within the merit system. If they begin to cannibalize themselves in a hunger for power after being out of power for only four short years, will any of this go public? The media has already said that the Beshear administration will invite greater scrutiny on itself for personnel decisions because of what happened the past four years, but will the Democrat sympathizers in the press actually supply that scrutiny?

Judging from what we know and what we've seen so far, they won't. Beshear and his supporters are already lying about their respect for the merit system, but the press has been silent to this point. We aren't surprised.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Is Beshear already lying about his personnel plans? (Part One)

Given the fact that controversy surrounding personnel decisions is what caused Ernie Fletcher to be a one-term governor, it naturally follows that the subject of state employees would be one of keen interest to reporters, and one that Steve Beshear would frequently address.

What a surprise, then to find out that some of the statements Beshear has made publicly don't jibe with reality.

Well, actually it's no surprise given Kentucky Democrats' attitudes toward state government hiring in general, and Beshear's record on the subject in particular, but we expected they'd at least get in office before they started lying.

When Beshear began discussing his transition and staffing plans, he said he believed there were some good employees among the non-merit appointed workers who served in Fletcher's administration. He said he would be evaluating employees and positions on an individual basis and would not engage in wholesale dismissals of existing non-merit employees.

We have information from two separate sources, though, that contradicts Beshear's claims of approaching his appointments with an open mind. Both examples come from the Transportation Cabinet.

We have heard that the Beshear transition team, led by State Sen. Ernesto Scorsone, has asked for the resignations of all the deputy directors in the 12 highway district offices. The deputy directors have already been counseled in the protocols and etiquette of writing resignation letters.

And from another source, we hear that the word has come down that all Transportation employees at the level of director and above will be let go.

If true, and we have no reason to doubt this information given our sources, so much for Beshear's promise of no wholesale firings. Truth be told, most all of the Transportation officials implicated in the hiring scandal were dismissed during the Fletcher administration. Few of the appointees left there had anything to do with the situation.

Beshear's record of turning a blind eye to personnel law violations when he served as attorney general more than two decades ago is proof that he can't be trusted on matters of hiring and firing. We just didn't expect the untruths to start flying before he even takes office. If Beshear is already lying about his plans before his inauguration, what are we as a state in for during the next four years?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Our federal delegation is asleep at the wheel

Big news out of Eastern Kentucky going into the weekend was the indictment of Knott County Judge-Executive Randy Thompson and three others on federal vote-buying charges.

Thompson is the successor to Donnie Newsome, who was tossed out of office because of legal problems of his own. Thompson, a rare Republican in Knott County, was appointed by Gov. Ernie Fletcher, then surprisingly won his own full term last year. He is believed to be the first Republican ever elected to countywide office in Knott County.

During Thompson's first term, Democrat State Auditor Crit Luallen's office issued a scathing audit of Thompson's administration. In that audit, she blamed him for improprieties that occurred in Newsome's administration but had been corrected by Thompson. Among those points were claims that Thompson had improperly spent county money on private roads and driveways. Thompson said he volunteered to show the auditors from Luallen's office where the work was done to prove it was legitimate, but they weren't interested.

Luallen's office presented the audit to the feds, who returned an indictment this week.

This is nothing more than a partisan hit job on Thompson, orchestrated by Democrats who cannot stand to see one of their invincible counties fall into the hands of the GOP, and it has been compounded by lazy federal investigators.

We understand from sources close to the case that the feds did little or no investigation on their own, but instead used Luallen's audit as the basis for their indictments. This is simply inexcusable, considering that Thompson was blamed for mistakes of his jailed predecessor, had corrected any deficiencies in his own administration, and even volunteered to show the investigators that the road work that had been done was on the up and up.

Knott County is home to the "Hindman Mafia," as personified by politicos like Grady Stumbo, Bill Weinberg and former State. Sen. Benny Ray Bailey, who's attempting a political comeback and expects to be one of the Beshear/Mongiardo administration's closest allies in that part of the state. Knott County was also home to Rep. Carl D. Perkins, the longtime Democrat congressman who was about as close to be being a socialist or collectivist as anyone ever to inhabit the Bluegrass State. That Thompson was able to win election as a Republican in that county speaks volumes to his popularity. Even Democrats are admitting that he's been the best county judge in their lifetimes because of what he's done for the county.

Since this is a federal indictment, it came through the U.S. Attorney's office. U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States, while most of the assistant U.S. attorneys are longtime civil service jobholders (i.e., Democrats). Still one would expect the presidentially-appointed U.S. attorney to have signed off on prosecution and indictments of local governmental officials.

That's what is most disturbing about this. Since the feds relied mostly or solely on Luallen's partisan audit, someone had to know that this was politically motivated. New U.S. Attorney Amul Thapar isn't smart enough to be a federal prosecutor if he didn't catch on. And on the off chance that Thapar really wasn't paying attention when the idea to seek indictments against Thompson and the others was floated past him, someone should have reminded him.

Where was Mitch McConnell, who sponsored him for the nomination? Where was Jim Bunning? And where was Hal Rogers, who represents Knott County in Congress? Rogers' new ears to the ground in the area belong to Pat Wooton, former sheriff of Perry County, which neighbors Knott to the west.

When the audit blames one county judge for the woes of another; when the deficiencies are responded to and corrected; when the judge agrees to show just exactly where the roads are that the questionable expenses went to repair but is rebuffed; then something isn't kosher. For federal prosecutors to take a partisan attack disguised as a local government audit, prepared by a Democrat auditor against a Republican county judge, and to use it as the sole basis of an indictment during a Republican presidential administration is absolutely unacceptable.

Somebody blew this one. Thapar's office obviously did, but McConnell, Bunning and Rogers screwed up too by allowing it to happen. Unless this is their parting shot at their former Capitol Hill colleague Fletcher, we can only conclude that several people are guilty of malignant neglect in this affair.

The charges against Thompson and his associates should be dropped and someone should prepare an indictment against the U.S. attorney's office for impersonating good public servants.