Friday, November 10, 2000

Campaign indictments back


Patton aides accused of finance law improprieties in 1995

By Mark R. Chellgren
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — An appeals court reinstated indictments alleging that Gov. Paul Patton's top aide and others intimately involved in his 1995 election conspired to skirt campaign finance laws.

        In a 2-1 decision, Judge Joseph Huddleston said Thursday that Andrew “Skipper” Martin, Danny Ross and two former officials of the Teamsters union in Louisville were veteran politicians who knew the rules on campaign finance. The decision overturned a lower court ruling that the finance law was too vague and infringed on constitutionally protected free speech and association.

        The indictment, returned after a lengthy investigation conducted by Attorney General Ben Chandler's office, alleges the men plotted to exceed the campaign spending limits in place for the first time in the 1995 election.

        Mr. Martin ran Mr. Patton's campaign and has been his chief of staff. Mr. Ross was Mr. Patton's labor liaison when Mr. Patton was lieutenant governor and kept the same job in the governor's office. Lon Fields and Robert Winstead were officers of Teamsters Local 89.

        The indictments allege Mr. Ross left the state payroll for a short time during the campaign and went to work for the Teamsters even though he really was still working on Mr. Patton's campaign. It also charged that Mr. Fields and Mr. Winstead were rewarded for their help when Mr. Patton appointed them to important state positions.

        A special circuit court judge threw out the indictment before there was a trial.

        Frankfort attorney William E. Johnson, who represents Mr. Martin, said he would likely ask the panel to reconsider its ruling.

        “Because if we're right, that puts the case to rest,” Mr. Johnson said.

        He said the ruling did not address any question of guilt or innocence, but only the constitutional attacks the defense made on the statute.

        Phillip Shepherd, who represents Mr. Ross, said a trial would be a waste of time and money until the underlying questions about the campaign finance law are resolved. “It's important to get the law clarified before there is a trial,” Mr. Shepherd said.

        A spokesman for the attorney general's office said the decision would have to be reviewed.

        Judge Huddleston, joined by Judge Wil Schroder, said the law was clear enough to understand and not restrictive.

        “The appellees had fair warning that the activities in which they allegedly engaged were illegal,” Judge Huddleston wrote. “They were experienced political operatives.”

       



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