Not that much to investigate

The independent prosecutor demanded by the Republican Party of Kentucky would have a short and boring job.

Unless something much more serious is out there, the contacts between Gov. Steve Beshear's office and the Kentucky Retirement Systems don't even register on the corruption meter.

The recently fired executive director of KRS, Mike Burnside, says he agreed to meet with politically connected Democrats representing two investment firms, only after receiving calls from people in Beshear's office.

Burnside said he heard the pitches because of the interest shown by the governor's office. Neither firm got a contract.

One of the politically connected Democrats, Mark Guilfoyle, says he didn't go through the governor's office but called Burnside directly to set up a meeting.

So we have undisputed evidence of one call from the governor's office that resulted in no state contracts or payments.

Far more concerning to state pensioners and taxpayers should be the $15 million in fees to placement agents paid by companies doing business with KRS on Burnside's watch.

After the Securities and Exchange Commission last year opened an informal inquiry into the role of placement agents in KRS decisions, Beshear called for an audit of KRS, which is nearing completion.

State Auditor Crit Luallen has said she is expanding the audit to look into questions being raised about phone calls from Beshear's office.

While there's nothing here that tars Beshear, reporter John Cheves has given us an illuminating glimpse behind the scenes, which should serve as an object lesson: Public trust would increase if businesses looking to sell their services to government did so strictly on the basis of merit, rather than by paying people such as Democratic campaign consultant Mark Riddle and the wife of the former head of the Democratic Governor's Association to help open doors for them.