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.