Cameron visits south central Kentucky amid campaign finance tussle

Published 8:44 am Friday, June 30, 2023

Republican gubernatorial candidate Daniel Cameron returned to southcentral Kentucky on Wednesday, making an effort to direct heat at Gov. Andy Beshear while the pair deal with separate campaign finance controversies.

The attorney general came under fire this week after the Daily Beast reported that Cameron solicited campaign donations from executives of Edgewater Recovery Centers, which is currently under investigation by Cameron’s office.

Michael Denbow, an attorney for Edgewater, told the Associated Press that a campaign official made a later call to an Edgewater representative regarding a potential fundraising event, which did not come to fruition. According to the Cameron campaign, the $7,600 donated by Edgewater executives has been refunded.

Beshear’s campaign on Monday called for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the donations. On Tuesday, the Kentucky AFL-CIO, a prominent labor group, requested the state’s Executive Branch Ethics Commission to investigate the funds as well.

The Daily News asked Cameron for his response to the requested investigations.

“Our response is what we’ve already shared, which is that as soon as we found out that there was an investigation underway, we stopped any planning of any fundraiser,” Cameron told members of the media in Scottsville on Wednesday afternoon. “When they contributed to our campaign, we refunded those donations and I’ve recused from any investigations as of late into Edgewater.”

He said the campaign was “planning a fundraiser initially before we understood that there was an investigation.” He said after realizing there was an investigation of Edgewater in progress, “we stopped conversations about any fundraiser.”

“Again, I fully believe in accountability and transparency and that’s why we took the steps that we did,” Cameron said.

He said he wanted to juxtapose that response with that of the Beshear campaign, saying that his own approach to the situation has been to “review, refund and recuse.”

“I want to contrast that with what Andy Beshear did, which was review, appoint and then reward,” Cameron said. “What I mean by that is, when he received $200,000 from the mayor of London, he bragged about it; and then on the backside, awarded $1.4 million to the city of London after having received that donation.”

Cameron was referring to an infusion of donations the Beshear campaign received last week, all coming from one source.

The Kentucky Lantern first reported that the donation, a chunk of campaign funds in excess of $200,000, was linked to London Mayor Randall Weddle’s credit card. Cameron’s office referred the matter to the FBI last Thursday.

According to the Associated Press, Beshear’s campaign and the Kentucky Democratic Party have since moved to refund “more than $200,000 that they determined to exceed limits set by law.”

According to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, the maximum donation an individual can contribute to a candidate is $2,100 per election.

The city of London, along with the city of Greensburg, Scott County, Boyle County and Lexington Fayette Urban County Government all received part of $4.8 million in transportation funding in May. London’s $1.4 million slice was for sidewalk improvements.

“He reviewed, his campaign team reviewed – rather than recuse, they appointed the mayor of London to certain boards, and then they awarded the city of London $1.4 million,” Cameron said. “A $200,000 contribution got London, Kentucky, a $1.4 million contract.”

Cameron was also asked about Freedom Fest, an upcoming conservative event to be held in Kenton County on Sept. 9. The festival is sponsored by Eric Deters, a former candidate for Kentucky’s Republican gubernatorial nomination.

The list of scheduled attendees and speakers includes President Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump.

“We haven’t had any conversations on that. Obviously, Freedom Fest sounds exciting and I know a lot of folks attend, so I look forward to participating and that’s our plan at this juncture,” Cameron said.

Cameron did not have anything concrete to share on whether President Trump, who has endorsed Cameron’s candidacy for governor, will be coming to the commonwealth to campaign for the AG ahead of the November election.

“Well, look – I ultimately will have a conversation about that. I don’t know. I certainly hope he comes into the state,” Cameron said.

Cameron told supporters in Scottsville to look at other Republican governors that have made education a significant part of their platforms – specifically Ron Desantis of Florida, Glenn Youngkin of Virginia and Sarah Huckabee Sanders of Arkansas – as a reference for what Cameron wants for Kentucky.

“We can do that here,” he said. “We can make meaningful change that’s important to our teachers and make sure our system is world-class.”

Across campaign stops, Cameron has been quick to mention that there are “27,000 fewer Kentuckians working” since Beshear took the oath of office.

“One of the things Andy Beshear did was expand Medicaid coverage to able-bodied participants,” he said. “And I understand from talking to our health care providers why it was important to expand Medicaid coverage, but at the end of the day for able-bodied individuals, we need to make sure they are looking for and trying to obtain work as well.”

He said the state needs a governor who creates a “culture of work,” rather than what he called a “culture of dependency” established by Beshear.

He also said it was “interesting” that Beshear has “decided to stand with Joe Biden and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence” rather than stand with the “values of Kentuckians.”

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is an LGBTQ+ nonprofit known for dressing in Catholic nun drag to satirize religious and moral issues while fundraising for charities.