Why’s Bevin investigating? FBI on the job

Sometimes it’s just hard to understand Gov. Matt Bevin.

He’s been awfully upset by things he thinks or fears are duplicative in state government.

That is his principal rationale, as far as we can tell, for his insistence on dismantling kynect, the state’s health insurance exchange that has extended coverage to over 400,000 Kentuckians and earned national acclaim. And his recently announced drive to reduce red tape in Kentucky government targets duplicative regulations.

But none of that stopped him from launching an investigative effort that is duplicative of one other government agency and possibly another.

Bevin last week announced he contracted to pay $500,000 to an Indiana law firm ($250 an hour) to look into his suspicions that his predecessor — Gov. Steve Beshear, the same guy who set up kynect — pressured state employees for political contributions and gave state contracts to his friends.

These are serious allegations and we’ve got no problem with investigating them. Kentucky owes many of its problems to a long history of political corruption.

The trouble is, the FBI is already on the job.

In March, federal prosecutors brought political corruption charges against Tim Longmeyer, who had served as personnel secretary under Beshear and then briefly as deputy attorney general under his son, Andy Beshear, who was elected attorney general last November.

Longmeyer pleaded guilty in April but hasn’t been sentenced, probably because he’s working with federal investigators. “Our investigation is continuing,” U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey said at the time.

So, we know the feds are all over it, whatever it is.

And then there’s the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, the entity created under Kentucky law to have the independence to look into the very types of things Bevin is alleging. In April, Andy Beshear asked the commission to investigate the matter rather than the Bevin administration.

He has a point. If one governor’s administration can pressure state employees into making political contributions, it’s reasonable to assume the next governor might also be able to pressure those employees into saying they were pressured by the first governor.

The commission said it got Andy Beshear’s letter but as a matter of course does not confirm or deny whether it has begun an investigation.

In June, Bevin signed an executive order giving himself complete control over all appointments to that commission.

In 2008 Steve Beshear changed the process for selecting the five commissioners. Under that process, the governor makes one appointment of his choosing and then chooses other appointees from recommendations by the attorney general and the state auditor. Bevin eliminated the input of the other two constitutional officers.

So, we’re left wondering if justice and clean government are Bevin’s only motives.

If so, the governor could have waited a bit to see what is turned up by the feds — who have subpoena authority unlike the law firm Bevin hired. And he could have waited a few months until it became clear whether the independent commission is investigating.

However, if Bevin is looking for a report that will keep the allegations alive and be useful in future political battles, it makes much more sense to hire his own investigators to snoop around.

It’s certainly not clear if Kentucky will be any cleaner or wiser when Bevin’s firm turns in its final bill. We know it will be $500,000 poorer.