Tuesday, August 29, 2000

Complaints against Patton dismissed

Election finances questioned

By Mark R. Chellgren
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — The Registry of Election Finance dismissed a list of complaints against Gov. Paul Patton's 1999 campaign on Monday, including an allegation it hid contributions until after a disclosure deadline.

        Kathy Lyons, the lieutenant governor nominee of the Reform Party last year, said the decision reinforced her opinion that the registry was a captive of the Patton administration.

        “They said it's OK to break the law if you're the winning candidate,” Ms. Lyons said after the decision.

        Ms. Lyons and others complained that Mr. Patton and several newspapers should have reported the value of editorial endorsements and that Kentucky Educational Television did not meet its obligations by broadcasting only one candidate debate.

        The most serious allegation had to do with the late reporting of campaign contributions.

        The 1999 gubernatorial election was the second conducted in Kentucky under partial public financing of campaigns. Candidates who raise a maximum of just over $600,000 can receive $2 in public money for each dollar they get in contributions. In exchange, the candidates have to abide by certain rules, such as limiting their total expenditures, partici pating in KET debates and abiding by reporting and fund-raising rules.

        One of the rules prohibits candidates from taking any campaign funds in the last 28 days before the election and requires them to report all contributions by the time of the 28-day report.

"Lost faith'
               The Patton campaign, however, deposited thousands of dollars in contributions two days after the 28-day deadline and did not disclose the funds until later.

        “Therefore the governor has arrogantly violated the law knowing that he could get by with it,” Ms. Lyons said during an appearance before the registry Monday. “The public has lost faith here because every complaint that has come before this board is dismissed.

        “And when you get nitpicking, the governor removes members of this board,” Ms. Lyons said.

        Treasurer George Helton said the Patton campaign chose to close its books at the end of September 1999, two days before the Oct. 2 reporting deadline. Attorney Ed Logan said it was like filing an appeal in a lawsuit two days before the deadline for doing so.

No jurisdiction
               Registry member Judith Boggs, who was just sworn into the job on Monday, disagreed with the other members and said the 28-day deadline was not open to much interpretation and the law required all financial transactions to be reported through that cutoff.

        KET attorney Barbara Edelman said the public finance law requires candidates to participate in televised debates, but leaves the decisions on their conduct to KET. In any event, the registry agreed with Ms. Edelman that it had no jurisdiction to tell KET what to do.

        As it had at its meeting in May when it dismissed similar complaints, the registry said the First Amendment guarantees the rights of news organizations to cover and comment on campaigns without government interference.

        Ms. Lyons said she will turn her complaints over to the attorney general's office.


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