Thursday, January 11, 2001

Bring on the crow and ketchup




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        It's about time for lunch on Wednesday, and would I love to roll up to the Sandwich Block for one of its fantastic soup and sandwich specials.

        But, no, I'm having a nice big helping of crow, hold the beak, please, and a slice of humble pie courtesy of state Sen. Jack Westwood.

        Mr. Westwood would never call to say, “I told you so.” He has too much class for such a crass move.

        Some of his supporters, well, that's a bit of a different story. They've been filling my voice and my e-mail. But that's OK, because — and man does this hurt to say — I deserve it.

        They were gently reminding me of a column I wrote back in late September, just after Kenton County Democratic Party operative Nathan Smith filed an ethics complaint against Mr. Westwood.

        Mr. Westwood was in the midst of a tough re-election campaign against Independence Democrat Jaimie Henson. He and some other state Senate Republicans sent a newsletter to people living in and around their Senate districts.

        The mailing listed, among other items, Mr. Westwood's legislative accomplishments. It hit mail boxes about six weeks out from the Nov. 7 election.

        The Democrats went off.

        With the help of some other key Kenton County Democrats, Mr. Smith, who does not even live in Mr. Westwood's district, fired off his complaint to the Legislative Ethics Commission. It accused Mr. Westwood of using taxpayer money to campaign.

        “It's blatant politics,” Mr. Smith said at the time. “I mean, come on, the (legislative) session ended six months ago and the election is about a month away. Why do we get a legislative update now if this wasn't politics?”
       

Feeding frenzy
        Did I mention a press release on the complaint actually went out before the complaint was even filed?

        Oh yeah, the Democrats smelled blood. And like a good media vampire, I took a big whiff.

        I was all over Mr. Westwood and the Republicans, practically saying in a Sept. 24 column that Mr. Westwood was guilty until proven innocent.

        Which is exactly what happened last week.

        The Legislative Ethics Commission cleared Mr. Westwood, saying he did not intentionally violate the state law against using public money for a political campaign.

        The commission also called the mailer “questionable” and said some guidelines are needed over what kind of information lawmakers can send to voters and when it can be sent.
       

Political heat
        Even a few Republicans close to Mr. Westwood — as well as some GOP officials in Frankfort — privately admitted that the mailing probably wasn't the greatest idea in the history of Kentucky politics.

        But it hardly matched the outrage from Democrats, who acted as if Mr. Westwood had himself set fire to the Hindenburg.

        And how about the Democrats accusing somebody of playing politics?

        Please. Right in the middle of that same Senate campaign Gov. Paul Patton and a group of female Democratic lawmakers from Louisville and Lexington came all the way to Northern Kentucky to hold a news conference on what's called the Gender Equity bill — which Mr. Westwood did not support.

        The move was clearly designed to put some political heat on Mr. Westwood. Of course, it — like the ethics complaint — failed as far as political strategy goes. Mr. Westwood won in a race the Democrats did make closer than expected.

        “The action before this body is purely political,” Mr. Westwood's attorney, Rick Robinson, argued in a brief he filed with the commission.

        For the most part he was right on. And I wasn't.

        So pass the ketchup. Crow doesn't go down as easily as a bowl of California Medley soup.

       Patrick Crowley covers Kentucky politics for The Kentucky Enquirer. He can be reached at 578-5581, or by e-mail at pcrowley9@home.com.

       



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