Gov. Matt Bevin is proving that, in politics, there is absolutely nothing new under the sun.
Bevin came into office promising a change in how our state does business, an end to cronyism and pay-to-play politics. He’s also the first governor to fully embrace social media, tweeting frequently and posting videos on Facebook.
Yet Bevin increasingly seems like just another politician who does business with and gives high-paying jobs to his buddies, hides what he doesn’t want the public to know, and attacks those who pry under his carefully polished facade.
Ho-hum, we’ve seen it all before.
But that doesn’t make it right nor will it stop government watchdogs like Richard Beliles — who last week filed an ethics complaint over the deal in which Bevin bought a mansion on 10 acres for much less than the appraised value from a political supporter he’d appointed to a powerful board — or journalists like Tom Loftus, the Courier-Journal reporter who brought that deal to light.
“Let’s let the facts come out,” Bevin told reporters in a strange 13-minute rant after the ethics complaint was filed.
Great, give us the facts, governor.
It was Bevin who declined to even acknowledge that his family had moved to the house that was being guarded by the governor’s security detail. Where he lives and who he buys from “are frankly not anybody’s interest,” Bevin declared.
The first governor in decades who hasn’t released his tax returns, Bevin has made a habit of deciding what the public deserves to know. Indeed, he said as much in a Facebook video a couple of weeks ago: “There is plenty of access, you will always be able to hear directly from me.”
This, too, is not new: Listen to me, heed no other.
So, no surprise that it makes the governor hot under the collar when Loftus and others raise questions and report on things that Bevin has not deemed appropriate for the public to know. In response, he does what so many have done before: He attacks the messenger.
He called Loftus, a longtime and award-winning political reporter, “pathetic” when the first mansion story was published.
As the story persisted and grew, Bevin’s attacks heated up. Last week, Beliles filed the ethics complaint. And Loftus delved deeper, reporting that Neil Ramsey, who sold Bevin the house, took advantage of generous state tax credits to invest $300,000 in a company in which Bevin has a longtime interest (we don’t know how large an interest since Bevin won’t tell us) just about the time they were inking the house deal.
In a tweet Saturday, Bevin called Loftus a “peeping Tom,” saying that he was “caught sneaking” around the mansion in March and was “removed by state police.”
Here Bevin moves beyond calling names to, apparently, inventing stories.
In the first story, Loftus wrote that a reporter — clearly himself — visited the property where he met Mark Treadway, a state trooper on the governor’s security detail. In response to Bevin’s Saturday tweet, Loftus further explained that he walked up the driveway where he met a worker, identified himself and was directed to an outbuilding. There he met Treadway and both men introduced themselves. Treadway asked Loftus not to approach the house, and Loftus left.
Far from being the work of a criminal, as Bevin’s allegations of trespassing and peeping into windows suggest, Loftus’ account is that of a diligent, professional reporter, one who does not rely on prepared statements or promotional videos to uncover facts.
“People deserve the truth,” Bevin told reporters during his long lecture.
We agree, governor.