The letters urging leniency in the sentencing for former state official Tim Longmeyer are truly affecting.
Family members, friends, coaches of his kids’ sports teams, business associates and many others portray a man devoted to family and community, a decent person who often put others ahead of himself. None could explain how he came to plead guilty to getting kickbacks from government contractors, which he funneled to political campaigns.
There is no indication that Longmeyer used the money to enrich himself and he has agreed to pay $203,500 in restitution.
But U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell did the right thing by sentencing Longmeyer, a longtime Democratic insider, to 70 months in prison.
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Longmeyer broke the law, misused and wasted public funds and betrayed the trust placed in a public servant.
These are serious crimes with long-term consequences that cannot be acquitted with a fine and a suspended sentence.
The damage is particularly painful because, as Caldwell noted, that trust is already stretched pretty thin: “We live in a time and a country where the public is cynical about its government.”
Longmeyer and at least one other man, Democratic party consultant Larry O’Bryan, engaged in the scheme over several years while Longmeyer was Personnel Cabinet Secretary in the administration of former Gov. Steve Beshear.
According to information revealed in court and through filings, Longmeyer directed contracts to a consulting firm, MC Squared, that agreed to kick back some of the money which Longmeyer used, at least in part, to make illegal straw political contributions to Democratic candidates he supported.
There is no indication the campaigns were aware of the source of the funds. O’Bryan pled guilty to three counts of bribery last week but will not be sentenced until January.
While Republicans have sought to cast the case of Longmeyer — who worked for both Steve Beshear and for his son Andy, who was elected attorney general last fall — as an indication of systemic corruption among Democrats, neither party has a monopoly on either virtue or corruption.
This summer one conspirator in a federal vote buying case in Magoffin County testified that Democrats and Republicans worked together to rig the outcome of elections.
There is no reason to celebrate when an individual is sentenced to prison, separated from family, friends and community. But we join in Caldwell’s hope that Longmeyer’s sentence might give pause to others considering abusing the public trust.