Sunday, September 24, 2000

Jack Westwood

Taxpayers funded pat on back

        About that constituent newsletter/campaign piece that the Senate Republican leadership office in Frankfort sent out on behalf of Sen. Jack Westwood, who just happens to be running for re-election this fall: Bad move.

        What were the Republicans in Frankfort thinking (or were they thinking?) when they decided to make one of the worst campaign moves we've seen this season, right up there with Al Gore making up stories about his mother-in-law's medicine?

Jack Westwood
Jack Westwood
        Unless you're one of the 1,331 people who live in Mr. Westwood's Kenton County Senate district and received the mailing, you haven't seen it.

        I have. It practically screams “Vote For Me” under the guise of keeping constituents informed.

        The flier lists 10 projects and items that Mr. Westwood takes credit for inserting into the state's budget, including $200,000 for a youth sports complex in Covington and $10,000 for a leaf collector in Elsmere, which must have one heckuva problem with leaves.

        While it's true that Mr. Westwood voted for the budget, he also voted against the funding mechanism, a $178 million telecommunications tax increase.

        So he is trying to have it both ways — taking credit for the projects even though he voted against the method to pay for them — a true trait for a campaign piece.

        Then there's the claim under “Legislative Accomplishments” that Mr. Westwood “stopped approx $700 million in new taxes.” Such a tax package never came up for any kind of vote during this year's legislative session.

        The Senate Republican leadership did oppose Gov. Paul Patton's tax plan, which would have included those new taxes, but again, it's dubious for Mr. Westwood to take credit for definitively stopping the measure.

        And finally, under the same “Legislative Accomplishments” heading, Mr. Westwood lists that he received 100 percent ratings from two business groups, the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

        Legislative accomplishments? Come on, he's tooting his own horn like he's on the road with Al Hirt.

        The mailer cost $439.23, not exactly the Teapot Dome scandal, but it's still taxpayer money.

        Democrats jumped all over the move, slapping Mr. Westwood with an ethics complaint. It was filed by Nathan Smith, a Democrat who briefly worked in the campaign of Mr. Westwood's opponent, Independence resident Jaimie Henson.

        Are the Democrats seizing on this for political gain? You betcha. It's Christmas morning, and they've been handed a nice, neatly wrapped package.

        Before Mr. Westwood's supporters pop all the vessels in their heads, I'm not suggesting for a minute that this in any way will turn the race in favor of Mrs. Henson.

        She's still a relative unknown running in a district that is a Republicans' dream.

        But Mrs. Henson and her campaign are on a roll, not just with the ethics complaint but with a string of statements taking issue with votes Mr. Westwood did and didn't make in Frankfort.

        Some GOP leaders have been moaning about the Democrats' campaign against Mr. Westwood.

        Crying is not the answer. Go on offense like the Democrats have. But don't use taxpayers' money to do it.

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