The feud between Gov. Matt Bevin and Attorney General Andy Beshear continued Friday as Bevin accused Beshear of shirking his duty and Beshear publicly responded to a request for information filed by the governor that sought details about the inner workings of Beshear’s office.
In a news conference live-streamed on YouTube, Beshear defended the accomplishments of his office over the past year, saying he wanted to be as transparent as possible with the public.
“I’m not the governor’s lawyer, or the legislature’s lawyer. I’m the people’s lawyer,” Beshear said.
By releasing his response to Bevin publicly, Beshear said, “I believe the information can’t be taken out of context, regardless of who would take it out of context. You can’t take just one line from a letter and use it in any way to mislead people.”
Beshear, a Democrat, was responding to two requests issued under Section 78 of the Kentucky Constitution, which allows Bevin, a Republican, to request information from the other constitutional officers. Beshear said he has received approximately five of those requests since taking office in January 2016.
The only other Democrat who holds a state constitutional office, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, has not received any formal inquiries from Bevin about her office, according to spokesman Bradford Queen.
Neither has state Auditor Mike Harmon, spokesman Michael Goins said.
Bevin’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bevin’s inquiry asked for details about Beshear’s Office of Civil and Environmental Law, including the number of attorneys assigned to the division and descriptions of the cases they have handled in the past three years. He also asked about the division of Beshear’s office that decides appeals of the Kentucky Open Records Act and Open Meetings Act. Bevin wanted to know the number of appeals decided in the past three years and how many attorneys handle such cases.
“I’m always appreciative when the governor takes an interest in the hard-working staff in my office,” Beshear said. “As their governor, I hope he will thank them for their hard work and success.”
Beshear’s news conference came hours after Bevin’s office issued a news release that said, “Beshear has not lifted a finger to defend the constitutionality of HB 2.”
Bevin was referring to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Kentucky that challenges the constitutionality of a law approved last month that requires women to view the results of an ultrasound before getting an abortion.
Beshear said he is defending the case as aggressively as he can by requesting that the two defendants he represents, the Office of the Attorney General and the Kentucky Medical Licensure Board, are dismissed from the case. The governor’s lawyers are defending the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which implemented the law.
Bevin has taken issue with Beshear’s actions in the case, arguing that Beshear failed to do his job when he didn’t make a legal argument in favor of the law as he responded to a motion to temporarily block its implementation.
Beshear has said he didn’t take a position on the temporary restraining order because it should not apply to the two offices he is defending. Bevin’s lawyers have filed two briefs asking the judge to dismiss the request for a temporary restraining order.
“Listen, the governor is trying to trick you guys using procedure,” Beshear said. “A supplemental brief was filed by the cabinet today. We’re going to file two briefs next week and we’re going to be at the hearing.”
Beshear said if the two parties he is representing are dismissed, he would also defend the cabinet. But when asked whether he personally thinks the law is constitutional, he demurred.
“Ultimately, whether it’s constitutional will be decided by, if not the (U.S.) Supreme Court, the 6th Circuit (Court of Appeals),” Beshear said.