AG deserves more scrutiny, media criticism

J. McCauley Brown
J. McCauley Brown

The responsibility of the press is to report the news in a fair and balanced manner.

While I understand some leeway is afforded to editorial boards to comment on whatever topic they see fit, that does not absolve them from an expectation by the public that they will maintain consistent opinions on issues such as transparency, open and honest government and the avoidance of conflicts of interest by our elected officials.

While the Herald-Leader editorial board see fit to criticize Gov. Matt Bevin for each and every perceived grievance, they have been noticeably quiet about the various missteps and scandals of Attorney General Andy Beshear.

It would appear that when Beshear is presented with a choice between what’s best for the state and what’s best for him and the legacy of his father, former Gov. Steve Beshear, his first instinct is to choose the latter. In nearly every instance his instinct has proven wrong.

He sued the governor over cuts to university funding, necessary to help get our fiscal house in order. He was defeated in court and has appealed.

He fought Bevin’s launch of a wide-ranging probe into accusations of corruption in the administration of his father’s administration. The executive branch ethics commission disagreed.

He used his office to provide jobs for a number of ethically questionable alumni of the Beshear administration. Two high-ranking advisers have resigned due to criminal charges in the first five months.

He announced he was launching his own investigation into the Tim Longmeyer campaign-finance scandal gripping his and his father’s administrations. He was defiant, despite the opinions of many, that there was no conflict of interest and refused calls to appoint a special prosecutor. One week later, he reversed course, admitted there was a conflict and stepped aside.

He responded to an open-records request by a Herald-Leader reporter with page upon page of completely redacted documents. He didn’t even make it until the day’s end before he bowed to public pressure and released the unredacted versions.

Rather than do his part to help with the underfunded pension crisis, he refused to voluntarily cut his office’s budget. Even Secretary of State Alison Grimes agreed to participate in the cutbacks in support of the greater good. The attorney general’s office remains the only state agency or constitutional office to refuse to participate.

At each and every turn, Andy Beshear has erred on the side of covering up, obscuring facts and standing in the way of transparency. Meanwhile, the Herald-Leader editorial board has ignored him. Instead, it focuses on Bevin’s budget (which Fitch’s, a bond rating agency, praised for its commitment to funding pensions and reducing reliance on one-time funds) or Bevin’s reorganization of a variety of boards and commissions (something Steve Beshear did 103 times during his eight years in office).

It’s time they start paying closer attention to what is going on in the attorney general’s office.

J. McCauley Brown is chairman of the Republican Party of Kentucky.