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Newberry defends fund-raiser hosted by lobbyist

Under an ordinance proposed by Mayor Jim Newberry, city-registered lobbyists would be prohibited from fund-raising or making a campaign contribution to a candidate running for city office.

Two days after Newberry unveiled the ordinance, David Whitehouse, a lobbyist registered in Frankfort, had a fund-raiser that brought in $10,000 for Newberry's mayoral campaign. Whitehouse and his wife, Cindy, have each contributed $1,000, the individual maximum for the primary campaign. Whitehouse said he is a longtime friend of Newberry's.

In an e-mail response to questions about the fund-raiser, Newberry said, "I have operated and will continue to operate by the rules of the world as they exist. That doesn't preclude me from trying to improve the rules."

Accepting campaign contributions from lobbyists "is legal under our current rules, but it's also exactly why I am proposing this legislation," he wrote.

A lobbyist who is registered with the state, but not with the city, would not fall under the proposed city ordinance, said 4th District Councilman Julian Beard.

"Whitehouse is not a lobbyist for Lexington. He is a lobbyist for Frankfort," Beard said. At the same time, Beard called it "interesting" for the mayor to go to Whitehouse's house for a fund-raiser, then talk about regulating lobbyists."

On the state executive agency lobbyist Web site, Whitehouse is registered to represent a dozen companies and organizations, including Bluegrass Regional Mental Health; Columbia Gas of Kentucky; Insight Communications; Lilly, USA; and Metaformers Inc.

In 2006, before Newberry took office, Metaformers was hired by the city to fix widespread problems with its computer finance system.

Vice Mayor Jim Gray, running against Newberry for mayor, said a lobbyist registration ordinance "is a good thing for us to consider."

But, he added, "I don't think you propose ethics reform one day and the next night have a fund-raiser with the biggest lobbyist in town. Something just doesn't smell right."

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