Wednesday, August 23, 2000

'Plagiarism' hardly scandal

        Just back from Los Angeles and the Democratic Convention, where “The Kiss” grossed everybody out, and getting caught up on the local political scene.

        You call this a scandal? Are Kenton County Democrats hungry for a a piece of Jack Westwood's behind, or what?

        Mr. Westwood is the first-term Republican state senator from Erlanger being challenged this November by Independence Democrat Jaimie Henson.

        The Democrats, lead by party Chairwoman Shirley Huelsmann of Fort Mitchell, have been chewing on Mr. Westwood for months. But their latest shot at the Republican ain't exactly the Teapot Dome scandal.

        On Tuesday, Mrs. Huelsmann sent out a news release that accused Mr. Westwood of plagiarism.

        Here's the deal, according to the Dems:

        In the July 25 edition of the Falmouth Outlook in Pendleton County, another Northern Kentucky Republican state senator — Katie Stine of Fort Thomas — published a “Report to the People” column on legislation dealing with the federal tobacco settlement.

        A week later, nearly the exact same column pops up in Kenton County's Community Recorder under the byline and smiling mug of Mr. Westwood.

        “Somebody's not telling the truth about who really wrote this article,” Mrs. Huelsmann said.

        In a way, that's true. The columns many lawmakers send to their hometown papers are drafted by party leadership offices or the public information office of the Legislative Research Commission, the administrative arm of the Kentucky General Assembly.

        Lawmakers may edit the columns, but they don't write them — a fact confirmed Tuesday by both Sean Pinkston of the Senate Republican Leadership Office and Brian Wilkerson of the House Speaker's Office. That's right, Democrats do it, too.

        It's really not a whole lot different than a speech, position paper or newspaper guest editorial written for a politician by a staff member.

        But it does fall into the red meat that Democrats are throwing to voters in this race — that Mr. Westwood is a puppet who doesn't research bills and can't stand on his own two feet in Frankfort.

        Remember, Mr. Westwood has twice admitted to not fully reading bills before voting on them, including one that raised his own pension and another that hiked the salaries of county officials.

        Those issues will stick; the newspaper deal won't.

        Get well soon. Like surgery to remove his gallbladder and a benign tumor is going to slow down Jim Bunning.

        Mr. Bunning, the 68-year-old U.S. senator from Southgate, underwent the knife last week at the Mayo Clinic and is already back at home recovering, according to his spokesman.

        He's a guy who has faced down fellow Hall of Famers as a Major League Baseball pitcher and faced down political opponents and adversaries during his 23 years in politics. Don't look for him to be down too long.

        Even though he didn't feel or look his best during the recent Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, he still spent more time with Kentucky delegates than any other pol in the commonwealth's federal delegation. And he was the only congressman to stay with the delegates at their New Jersey hotel. Now that's dedication.

        More health news. Anybody seen Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmondson lately? Or maybe you saw him — you just didn't recognize him.

        Mr. Edmondson has lost more than 60 pounds on a version of the famous Atkins diet. He still eats meat but stays away from pasta, bread and soft drinks.

        Looks like Mr. Edmondson — who will be challenged in two years by Republican Eric Deters — is getting down to his fighting weight.

Patrick Crowley covers Kentucky politics for the Enquirer. He can be reached at 578-5581, or (502) 875-7526 in Frankfort.