"Don't blame me, I voted for Ernie..."
The above sentiment, posted by an anonymous commenter on kypolitics.org in response to a thread on the casino gambling amendment, pretty well sums up the current mess in Frankfort, which has already been dubbed "Slot-Trot" by a few wags in the conservative Bluegrass blogosphere and the Republican Party of Kentucky.
For had the majority of voters in last fall's gubernatorial election opted to re-elect Ernie Fletcher, we wouldn't be on the cusp of the biggest political scandal to hit the commonwealth since BOPTROT in the early 1990s.
Had Fletcher been re-elected, there would have been no push from the Governor's Office to pass a casino gambling amendment. There would be no breakdown in the Democrat leadership in the House of Representatives. There wouldn't be a battle between the out-of-state (with one powerful in-state exception) casino interests and the horse racing/farming/breeding activists that has apparently turned into a bidding war that's caught the eye of the feds and threatens to bog down the entire legislative process.
Apparently inspired by a flippant comment made by Louisville TV journalist Mark Hebert about some Democrats in the House suggesting that the horse interests show the same level of financial support in their re-election bids this year that they did for Steve Beshear in last year's gubernatorial race, the news broke fast and furiously on blogs right and left Monday that federal agents had been spotted all over Frankfort.
We find delicious irony in this. Once federal investigations get going, they usually follow the evidence wherever it leads and the result is often a snowball rolling downhill, getting bigger and faster as it goes. And we suspect this one may actually roll uphill, directly toward the back office on the first floor of the Capitol.
Lots of questions have already been raised about the contributions made by gambling interests, including Kentucky's own Bill Yung, toward a special interest group devoted to getting Beshear elected. The group attacked Fletcher relentlessly on the subject of ethics, which was really just a front for the pro-casino interests that wanted Fletcher out and the friendly Beshear in.
Since the House Democrats apparently didn't get what they wanted from the horse industry, they are pushing a casino amendment that makes no guarantees as to the number of casinos that will be operated by equine interests. Could this be their way of taking revenge after the extortionist efforts failed?
We have no doubt that once the federal investigation gets into full swing, the G-men will be taking a look at Beshear as well as the legislators. And we'd find it deliciously ironic that an ethics investigation might be Beshear's downfall, stemming from his relationship with a group that funded ads that constantly pounded Fletcher on the subject of ethics.
The things Fletcher and his administration were accused of were nothing compared to what's being alleged now. The truth, and everyone in Kentucky knows it whether or not they will admit it, is that the Democrats have done far worse and much, much more during their years in power in terms of patronage hiring. Yet no one in the Fletcher administration was ever accused of extorting anyone in exchange for votes or favors.
Kentucky voters were warned about Beshear's squirrelly ethics. His actions regarding personnel violations in state government while he was attorney general, his conduct in the Kentucky Central affair, and his penchant for bringing old-style party hacks back into his administration was a dead giveaway that something like this could happen. The horse interests and casino interests appear to be in an all-out bidding war for the favors of government officials that lends itself to a hearty "See, I told you so" from thousands of Republicans and Fletcher backers across the state.
Kentucky is about to be shamed once again. This was both preventable and predictable, but voters in this state put fewer than two dozen highway department personnel actions above the best interests of the commonwealth and its people.