Lunchbox: Sex & the (possibility) city

Oh the Humana-ty: After being bludgeoned by U.S. Sen. Max Baucus for using scare tactics to criticize part of his health care bill, Louisville-based Humana Inc. is under federal investigation. The health insurance provider is being accused of trying to scare seniors about health care reform through a series of mailings that said Medicare participants would lose benefits under the overhaul.

Sawyer questions Stinson: In an interview with Diane Sawyers on “Good Morning America” former Pleasure Ridge Park high school football coach Jason Stinson called Max Gilpin’s death a “tragedy”, but didn’t take responsibility for it. Earlier this week Gilpin’s mother’s asked for a direct apology from the former coach. “The one thing I know about Max is that Max is in heaven with Jesus and that’s an awesome thought for me,” Stinson told Sawyer. The wrongful death civil suit against Stinson that was filed by Gilpin’s family is still pending.

Sex & the possibility city: The new ‘Possibility City’ advertisement is a hilarious spoof based on those ridiculous erectile dysfunction commercials. Check it out:

“You know that feeling when the mood is right, but the city is wrong? Louisville can help. Ask your doctor if your heart is healthy enough to stand all these possibilities.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8e1wCm6K5g[/youtube]

Enemy of the state: House Speaker Greg Stumbo will introduce a bill that will track those with domestic violence orders against them by using GPS electronic monitoring devices. The legislation is meant to help alleged victims of domestic violence, he says. The bill is named after Amanda Ross, who was murdered on September 11th in Lexington and had a restraining order against former Kentucky lawmaker Steve Nunn, who is charged with Ross’ murder.

End These Times: Hat tip to WFPL’s Gabe Bullard news blog, he posted this interesting piece in The Atlantic about the growing infiltration of hackery into news. It reveals that political hit groups posing as legit sources like to “leak” attacks to news networks in the guise of tips.

<sub> State registry alleges King family violated campaign finance laws

BY PHILLIP M. BAILEY

pbailey@leoweekly.com

Katie King ran a well-financed campaign for district judge that covered every corner of the city last fall. Despite being a relatively unknown 28-year-old assistant county attorney, the daughter of mayoral candidate and Metro Councilman Jim King, D-10, buried opponents under an avalanche of campaign literature, endorsements and a series of well-produced television ads.

Along the way, Katie King’s candidacy sparked a storm of criticism, with some observers claiming her win is further proof that judicial elections are nothing more than a monetary exercise whereby the candidate with the deepest pockets buys a victory. In King’s case, she raised well over $250,000 and out-spent her opponent by a 4-to-1 margin going into the November election.

But after King was sworn in, the controversy more or less subsided as she settled in behind the bench.

Then came a recent revelation about how Judge King’s campaign was financed: It turns out Jim King made some of the heftiest contributions to her campaign in the form of “personal gifts” that far exceeded the $1,000 limit permitted under state election law.

In a preliminary report issued in August, the staff of the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance says Councilman King violated campaign finance laws by giving his daughter more than $145,000 during the course of her campaign. KREF is expected to make a final ruling on the matter later this week.

Even if the board upholds the findings from the preliminary report, however, it’s unclear if there will be any penalties aside from a possible fine. It’s an uncertainty that raises questions about whether Kentucky’s campaign finance laws are strong enough to deter wrongdoing, or whether it’s worth it for the wealthy to risk a slap on the wrist to win an election.

When asked about the contributions to his daughter’s campaign, Councilman King says he previously corresponded with a KREF employee who told him the agency does not regulate the private finances of a candidate. The preliminary report, however, admonishes King for misreading the context of those e-mail exchanges. It goes on to say that it was “incorrect and unwise” for him to misconstrue those general statements as if it were the registry’s legal opinion.

The registry’s general counsel notes that King was seeking a way to infuse money into his daughter’s campaign knowing that he could not directly contribute funds.

Although the preliminary report finds the Kings likely violated campaign finance laws, it suggests the infractions were unintentional. Because Jim King relied on potentially unclear correspondence with a KREF employee about the contributions, the report suggests the “violations do not appear to have been committed knowingly,” according to the report.

“It doesn’t seem logical to me that anyone can limit gifts between a father and a daughter,” says King, adding he conferred with an attorney and took the employee’s statement as the agency’s legal advice. He maintains that the preliminary findings exonerates him of any wrongdoing and hopes the board will adopt the staff’s recommendation without penalty.

“I’m certainly not interested in paying any fines because I think we followed their advice,” he says.

<BREAK>

Set up to assure the integrity of the Commonwealth’s electoral process, the registry’s campaign finance rules have a two-tier penalty system. The first track can carry substantial civil punishments that can impact average candidates and contributors for unintentional violations. In those cases the staff usually recommends conciliation to its board, which can levee up to $5,000 per violation. The registry’s general counsel alleges that King committed three separate civil violations, which means the agency could issue fines totaling $15,000.

In addition to fining a campaign or donor, the registry can put additional requirements for filing amended reports and add stricter obligations on candidates to avoid future violations. Beyond that the agency has limited options when it comes to penalizing unintentional abuses.

There’s a broad spectrum of people who run for office in Kentucky. For more affluent contributors and candidates — like say, the Kings — it is questionable whether these low civil penalties issued by the registry are truly a deterrent and not a slap on the wrist. Those with deeper pockets, says attorney Spencer Noe, counsel for the Kentucky Republican Party, however, can be deterred by the public perception associated with those violations.

“You don’t want a reputation — I don’t care who you are — of violating campaign finance laws. I think that has a major deterring affect on a candidate that prevents people from knowingly violating those laws.”

If a violation is intentionally committed then the registry can refer the matter to the attorney general’s office for further investigation and prosecution.

Shelley Johnson, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, says they recently prosecuted a campaign violation case earlier this year in Kenton County. In April, Covington City Commissioner Steven Megerle pled guilty to conspiracy to violate campaign finance restrictions in a case that involved handing out campaign fliers aimed at damaging openly gay candidates.

As a result Megerle was given a 12-month jail sentence, which was suspended for a year. The court later ruled that he could not raise, collect or handle money associated with any political campaign during a one-year suspension.

“I don’t think many people want to be talked about as a campaign violator,” Noe says. “We know a $1,000 fine isn’t going to affect a multimillionaire very much financially, but if a candidate or contributor gets that reputation it is a detrimental affect to him and nobody wants that.”