Final Twist in Kentucky Governor Scandal, Replaces Enemies on Board

Upset with how they enforced the law against him, Ky. Gov. Paul Patton (D) replaced the two most experienced members of the Ky. Registry of Election Finance Aug. 30 with one of his leading political contributors and a law student. ”I feel very, very strongly that this registry had misadministered this law,” Patton said. He said it has too strictly enforced the 1992 law that offers public financing to candidates for governor who adopt spending limits, as all major candidates have.

Patton faulted the seven-member board for ”micromanaging” the 1995 governor’s race by opening ”penny-ante” cases against his campaign and allowing Atty. Gen. Ben Chandler (D) to take over the post-election investigation that resulted in the indictment of Patton’s top aide, another aide and two top Teamsters.

Patton filled a Democratic seat on the board with Jack Smith, a former U.S. attorney whose firm’s members and spouses have given Patton’s political causes more than any other law firm. Smith, his wife and members of his law firm have given Patton’s political causes $38,700, the 22nd largest identifiable interest among the governor’s contributors. Their giving has grown more than any other major group in the last year and a half.  He replaces registry chairman Don Cox of Louisville, a lawyer with broad experience in election and First Amendment law. To a Republican seat, Patton appointed David Samford, a Republican campaign worker and a third-year law student at the Univ. of Ky., who was nominated by the state GOP. He replaces Kent Westberry of Louisville, a former Asst. U.S. Atty. who as the senior Republican member worked closely with Cox in managing the registry. Patton said he did not reappoint Cox and Westberry partly because ”I think the registry messed up the administration of this law horribly.” Asked how, he said, ”They turned it over to Ben Chandler.”

It was Patton who asked Chandler to investigate Republican Larry Forgy’s charge that Democrats ”bought votes all over Kentucky” in the 1995 election, in which Forgy lost to Patton by 21,560 votes, 2.2 percent of the total. Chandler and the registry later agreed that he would take the lead in the probe, which ended in the indictment of Patton’s chief of staff and former campaign manager, Andrew ”Skipper” Martin; labor aide Danny Ross, who worked in a pro-Patton campaign for the Teamsters between stints on the state payroll; and two top Kentucky Teamsters, including Lon Fields Sr., whom Patton appointed to the state racing commission. A circuit judge dismissed the campaign-finance indictment against Martin, Ross, Fields and Robert Winstead, but Chandler is appealing the ruling. [Courier-J. 8/31/99]