Politics & Government

Testimony: Dad of Alison Grimes left $20K in cash, $25K check in consultant’s couch

Jerry Lundergan left the federal courthouse on in Lexington after his first appearance on campaign finance charges in 2018.
Jerry Lundergan left the federal courthouse on in Lexington after his first appearance on campaign finance charges in 2018. cbertram@herald-leader.com

Lexington businessman Jerry Lundergan left $20,000 in cash and a $25,000 check in the couch of a political consultant’s home to pay for work the consultant did for Lundergan’s daughter, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, in her 2015 re-election campaign, the consultant testified Friday.

The implication of the testimony was that Lundergan was making a secret, illegal payment to support Grimes’ campaign.

The consultant, Jonathan Hurst, said Lundergan intended the money as a payment to do mailings for Grimes’ campaign, but Lundergan wrote “Boy Scouts” in the memo line describing the purpose of the check.

Hurst said Lundergan left the check and cash in a bag in a couch at Hurst’s home in Louisville in October 2015.

Hurst said he did not cash the check, drawn on a Lundergan company called S.R. Holding, or spend the money. He said he told Lundergan he could only do work, such as campaign mailings, if the Grimes campaign paid for it.

The cash and check were still at Hurst’s house in January 2016 when FBI agents searched the house as part of an investigation of whether Lundergan made illegal contributions to Grimes’ 2014 U.S. Senate campaign. Grimes, a Democrat, faced U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in that race.

A federal grand jury ultimately indicted Lundergan and Dale Emmons, a longtime political consultant, on several charges, including taking part in a scheme to make prohibited corporate campaign contributions to Grimes’ 2014 campaign.

They are on trial in federal court in Frankfort, where Hurst testified.

Hurst was once a target of the investigation but received immunity under a deal to testify for the prosecution. Lundergan’s lawyer, Guthrie True, spent part of his cross-examination Friday afternoon hammering home that Hurst had been given immunity for testifying against Lundergan and Emmons.

After Hurst kept repeating that he was given immunity to tell the truth, True asked him if he had been given immunity for crimes he had committed in the case.

“Possibly,” Hurst replied. “I don’t know that I thought about it that way. Yes.”

True then spent the rest of the afternoon drilling into payments Lundergan made to Hurst in 2011 for political mailers. Those payments are not part of the federal charges because they came during Grimes’ campaign for secretary of state — which is subject to state campaign finance laws and not federal campaign finance laws.

The government presented evidence from 2011 and 2015 in an attempt to show that Lundergan knew what he was doing when he made contributions that led to the federal charges.

Hurst said he was given checks from Lundergan for $170,849 and $47,350 in the 2011 race that were not reimbursed by Grimes’ campaign.

True dug into the cost of the mailers, attempting to paint Hurst as greedy by showing notes that indicated he made 100 percent profit on the mailers he sent for Grimes 2011 campaign. (Hurst claimed there were expenses not included in the note).

True then alleged Hurst only charged a high markup because he had a close personal relationship with the Lundergans — he called Lundergan and his wife Mom and Dad — and felt he wouldn’t get caught.

He then said Hurst didn’t report the checks after he found out they weren’t reimbursed by the campaign because he didn’t want to be caught ripping off Lundergan. Hurst dismissed the claim, repeating that Lundergan was a savvy businessman.

“He (Lundergan) was an easy mark wasn’t he?” True asked Hurst.

“No,” Hurst said.

“And you added to that by threatening to quit,” True said.

“No, sir,” Hurst said.

The trial resumes Tuesday when True will continue his cross examination.