Sunday, February 16, 2003

Fund-raising invitations to Ky. civil service workers questioned

The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - Although state law prohibits candidates from soliciting funds from civil-service employees, six attorneys say they were invited to a fund-raiser for Attorney General Ben Chandler.

The attorneys, who work for the attorney general's office, said they received invitations to a Jan. 30 fund-raiser for Chandler's gubernatorial campaign.

Chandler's campaign says it doesn't know how the civil-service employees came to get the invitations because they aren't on the list of people whom the campaign has asked or intends to ask for money.

"It was totally inadvertent, and we apologize for that," campaign manager Mark Riddle said.

The employees are in the merit system, Kentucky's version of civil service, which is designed to protect them from political pressure. None said they felt pressured, but one, Drew Richardson, said of Chandler, "I thought the invitation showed he did not understand the merit system."

State law prohibits anyone from soliciting a contribution from a merit system employee, and a violation is punishable by six months to a year in jail and, for public officials such as Chandler, forfeiture of office.

However, there is no penalty unless the violation is willful, and that would be difficult to prove, so "it kind of sounds doubtful" that charges should be brought, said Franklin County Commonwealth Attorney Larry Cleveland of Frankfort.

Chandler's Democratic campaign said another merit system employee in Chandler's office, telemarketing investigator Paul Wingate of Frankfort, received fund-raising mail from the gubernatorial campaigns of state Rep. Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, and U.S. Rep. Ernie Fletcher, R-Ky.

Fletcher's campaign manager, Daniel Groves, said Fletcher had not targeted state employees.

Richards' campaign manager, Jerry Anglin, said campaigns could check their fund-raising lists against lists of state employees and those who hold ranking jobs outside the merit system. Richards' campaign has not done that, but "it needs to be done," Anglin said.

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Fund-raising invitations questioned