Wednesday, March 01, 2000

Vote negates ethics ruling on Derby tickets

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — The House voted to allow Gov. Paul Patton to continue providing hundreds of scarce Kentucky Derby tickets to political supporters and others, negating a recommendation by a state executive commission to stop the practice.

        The vote came Monday through an amendment offered by House Democratic floor leader Greg Stumbo of Prestonsburg at the request of the Patton administration.

        The amendment allows executive-branch officials to give sporting-event tickets to others who pay face value for them.

        In October, the state Executive Branch Ethics Commission suggested that Mr. Patton stop the practice of offering his 553 Derby tickets to friends and political supporters after a man was arrested on charges of scalping one of those tickets outside Churchill Downs.

        The practice of selling the tickets at face value to people of the governor's choice has been followed by five previous governors.

        Mr. Patton and Churchill Downs have said the tickets are useful in showing off the state to economic-development prospects.

        But records kept by the administration show that the biggest bloc of tickets goes to Mr. Patton's political supporters and other prominent Democrats, the Courier-Journal has reported.

        Mr. Stumbo sees nothing wrong with that.

        “The governor's got a few friends he's got to take care of, and I'm an Andrew Jackson Democrat. I believe to the victor goes the spoils,” Mr. Stumbo said, recalling the 19th-century president's institution of the policy that government favors go to the winners of an election.

        The commission said allocating tickets to economic-development prospects is advantageous to the entire state, but allocation to political supporters is not.

        Crate Luallen, secretary of the governor's Executive Cabinet, said Mr. Patton intends to continue past practice and wanted the amendment because “we thought it was important to clear up any ambiguity between the governor's position and the statute.”


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