Ky Sup. Ct. Upholds Indictment of Teamsters in ‘95 Election Case

The Ky. Supreme Court, on Jan. 23, upheld the indictment of four men who allegedly violated state campaign spending limits by coordinating a joint effort of the Paul Patton campaign and the Intl. Bhd. of Teamsters in the 1995 gubernatorial election.

Patton, the current governor, beat Republican Larry Forgy by just 2.2 percent. But after a series of articles by the Louisville Courier-Journal on irregularities in the Democrats’ voter turnout drive, Patton ordered an investigation by Attny. General Ben Chandler, also a Democrat. Patton wasn’t happy, however, when a special grand jury indicted his chief of staff and campaign mgr., Andrew “Skipper” Martin; his liaison to Big Labor, Danny Ross; Lon Fields, frmr. pres. of Teamster Local 89; and Fields lieutenant Robert Winstead.

According to the 1998 indictment, the four arranged for Ross, officially working for Martin on the Patton campaign, to be paid by the Teamsters union. At a time when the maximum legal contribution to state candidates was $500, the Teamsters were charged with contributing $20,000 to the Patton campaign by their payments to Ross. In June 1999, Circ. Judge William Trude, Jr. dismissed the indictment, claiming that it was so vague and overly broad that it violated the First Amendment rights of campaign contributors.

The Ky. Ct. of Appeals reinstated the indictments in 2000, and the Ky. high court upheld them by a 4-1 vote, ruling that the four were not indicted for constitutionally protected speech, but solely for exceeding the legal contribution limit at the time of the ‘95 campaign. [Louisville Courier-Journal 1/24/03]