A fiery former Gov. Steve Beshear accused Gov. Matt Bevin on Wednesday of declaring war on Beshear and his family and said the Republican will say or do anything to get what he wants.
The Democrat, whose eight years in office ended in December, held a news conference in the Capital Plaza Hotel to deny all of Bevin’s recent accusations of misconduct in the Beshear administration and to accuse Bevin of questionable activities.
Beshear said Bevin “personally bullied university presidents into signing a letter agreeing to budget cuts by threatening to cancel any approval of agency bonds and other necessary processes ordinarily needed to run the universities.”
He also accused the Personnel Cabinet’s general counsel of intimidating state workers into signing letters accusing the Beshear administration of wrongdoing, under threat of losing their jobs, and he accused Bevin of firing dozens of non-merit — or politically appointed — employees because they donated to Democratic candidates.
Beshear said Bevin is “apparently going around the state raising money from anyone who wants something from state government to help him pay off his multimillion-dollar campaign debt to himself.”
The former governor also said the FBI might be investigating allegations that Bevin tried to force Democratic House members to switch to the Republican Party by threatening to cancel road projects in their districts.
Beshear declined to offer specific names in his allegations, saying Bevin would retaliate if he made them public.
In a statement, Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto called Beshear’s accusations “wild” and “baseless.”
“After a top-level appointment of both him and his son pleaded guilty to federal bribery last week, former Gov. Beshear is merely trying to protect what is left of his legacy,” Ditto said. “Every wild, baseless accusation he has attempted to levy is not corroborated by any facts whatsoever.”
After a top-level appointment of both him and his son pleaded guilty to federal bribery last week, former Gov. Beshear is merely trying to protect what is left of his legacy. Every wild, baseless accusation he has attempted to levy is not corroborated by any facts whatsoever.
Jessica Ditto, spokeswoman for Gov. Matt Bevin
She was referring to a guilty plea by Tim Longmeyer, who was personnel secretary for Steve Beshear and the top deputy for Beshear’s son, Attorney General Andy Beshear.
“Governor Bevin is focused on the job the people of Kentucky elected him to do, which is to restore fiscal responsibility and create economic opportunity,” Ditto said. “He will let the investigation take its course and has said all he intends to say about this matter.”
Bevin has directed Finance and Administration Secretary William Landrum to hire a private law firm to investigate the Beshear administration.
Beshear’s news conference came eight days after Bevin held one in the Capitol to talk about allegations of “questionable activities” in the Beshear administration.
They included alleged coercion of state employees to give to Democratic candidates, including Andy Beshear in his successful bid for attorney general last year, improper use of no-bid contracts, mishandling of a major technology contract in the Medicaid program, and financial irregularities in the state worker compensation program.
He has bullied the legislature, the universities, the media and organizations that rely on state funding. But he will not get away with bullying me.
Former Gov. Steve Beshear
Beshear said Bevin, in only a few months in office, has “demonstrated that politics, not governing, is his priority.”
He said Bevin’s “pattern of attacks that seek only to bully and distract” began when Bevin criticized Beshear’s wife, Jane, for accepting the then-governor’s appointment to the Kentucky Horse Park Commission.
“Then he accused me and all of us who worked on improving health care in Kentucky of lying about our progress, ignoring the facts that back up our assertions,” Beshear said. “And now he’s announced plans to use taxpayer money to conduct his own investigation of what he claims were illegal contracts and a systemic shakedown of government employees. Enough is enough.”
The former governor said he agrees with his son, the attorney general, that the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, and not Bevin’s finance secretary, should investigate allegations of misconduct.
Beshear contended Bevin’s accusations “are nothing more than an attempt to distract the public’s attention from the disaster he made of Benefind (a public benefits program), from his plan to strip health insurance from vulnerable Kentuckians, and from his inexplicable and unnecessary attempts to cut investments in our schools.”
He added: Bevin “has bullied the legislature, the universities, the media and organizations that rely on state funding. But he will not get away with bullying me.”
Concerning Longmeyer’s bribery plea, Beshear said, “unfortunately, when you run an organization with some 33,000 employees, there will be a few people who violate the rules.
Mr. Longmeyer betrayed not only himself and his family but also his co-workers, the people we served and — on a personal level — Jane and me. If we had had any inkling of his criminal actions, Mr. Longmeyer would have been fired on the spot.
Former Gov. Steve Beshear
“Let me be clear: Mr. Longmeyer betrayed not only himself and his family but also his co-workers, the people we served and — on a personal level — Jane and me,” Beshear said. “If we had had any inkling of his criminal actions, Mr. Longmeyer would have been fired on the spot. I am also confident that anyone else involved in his scheme will be rightfully brought to justice.”
Beshear said there was never any attempt made with his knowledge or at his direction to coerce any state worker to give political contributions.
Beshear said that he was not considering legal action against Bevin but that he “will not stand by and serve as a punching bag for Mr. Bevin for the next four years while he tries to blame others for his shortcomings.”
He also said Bevin could be more transparent by making his tax returns public, as every previous governor in modern times has done, including former Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher.
Beshear on Wednesday released his tax returns for 2015, his last year as governor.
The Beshears’ returns showed an adjusted gross income of $351,791. About $135,000 of that was from the governor’s salary. The rest was from dividends, capital gains, IRA distributions, rental real estate and Social Security benefits. They reported giving $8,266 to charities.