It could be the ongoing lawsuits, it could be that Senate President Robert Stivers got in on the fun, or it could just be the summer heat in Frankfort. Whatever the reason, Gov. Matt Bevin and Attorney General Andy Beshear stoked the fire of their political feud this week with letters to one another.
On Thursday, Beshear sent a letter to Bevin asking the Republican governor to send a joint email with the Democratic attorney general to state employees, encouraging them to sign up for the attorney general’s Scam Alerts program. Beshear said his letter would be the first in a series of letters asking for cooperation.
“While we have experienced some conflict, our duty to the people of the commonwealth calls on us both to work together where we agree,” the letter said. “In furtherance of this duty, I wanted to offer a first opportunity for cooperation.”
Bevin, who said he first heard about Beshear’s letter through a news report, received the letter as a political stunt rather than an olive branch.
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His response, posted on Facebook Friday morning, posed a list of demands centering around the political drama du jour — swirling allegations about Beshear’s potential conflicts of interest.
Bevin asked Beshear to release the names of clients Beshear represented when he was a partner at the law firm Stites & Harbison. One of Beshear’s specialties at the law firm was representing companies who ran afoul of the Kentucky attorney general, but Beshear refused to name those clients when he ran for office. Bevin also demanded that Beshear explain any involvement he had in a lawsuit the state settled in 2015 against Purdue Pharma, which was accused of misrepresenting how easy it is to get hooked on the powerful painkiller OxyContin.
In addition, Bevin exhorted Beshear to disclose whether he sought ethical clearance with the Kentucky Bar Association about the Purdue Pharma case before taking office and asked him to make it clear in writing that he respects female public officials.
“Fighting for Kentucky families should be more than a political tagline,” Bevin wrote. “If and when you are ready to clean up your office and you and your father agree to stop using it for personal political gain, my administration stands ready to work with the Office of the Attorney General. It would be a welcome and refreshing change of pace.”
A spokeswoman for Beshear responded Friday afternoon by calling Bevin’s letter a “series of personal attacks.”
“We believe Kentuckians expect our offices to work together, especially on such a vital and nonpartisan issue as protecting seniors,” said Crystal Staley, deputy communications director for Beshear. “It’s our hope the governor will reconsider and work with our office.”
Many of Bevin’s demands centered on political drama swirling around the capital this past week. On Wednesday, 30 minutes before Beshear announced he’d be filing several lawsuits against the manufacturers and distributors of pain pills, Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, questioned whether then-Attorney General Jack Conway settled the Purdue Pharma case days before Beshear took office in order to hide Beshear’s potential conflicts of interest.
Stites & Harbison helped represent Purdue Pharma, but Beshear has previously said he was never involved in the case and was not privy to any non-public information about the case
Beshear responded by questioning the independence of Stivers, saying “I guess a lot changes when your income is dependent on an at-will job of your spouse for the governor.” He was referencing Stivers’ wife, Regina Stivers, who makes $118,000 a year as the deputy secretary of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet.
The comment angered several prominent Republican women, who called Beshear’s words sexist.
This week’s bickering is merely the latest in a long list of arguments between Beshear and Bevin. Last week, Beshear filed a lawsuit questioning Bevin’s authority to restructure several state education boards. It’s the fourth lawsuit Beshear has filed against Bevin. Beshear won one challenging against mid-year budget cuts by Bevin. Lawsuits against Bevin for restructuring the boards overseeing the University of Louisville and Kentucky Retirement Systems are still pending.
Beshear has not responded to the governor with another letter — yet.