Attorney General Andy Beshear says he's still awaiting clarification from the Executive Branch Ethics Commission on whether his office can move forward with an investigation into the purchase of Gov. Matt Bevin’s suburban Louisville home.
The attorney general has made it clear, however, that he wants some kind of investigation into the sale of Bevin’s home in the Louisville suburbs. Critics have alleged the governor bought the house at a discounted price from a political donor.
The attorney general says there is still a lot of "smoke" surrounding the issue.
"We have got to get to the bottom of this because, from the outside, it at looks like a case of personal enrichment by the governor," the top law enforcement official told reporters Tuesday. "The facts have to be shown to the public in a very transparent way."
Beshear is asking the commission whether it would be appropriate for his office to conduct the probe. He has also wondered aloud whether the commission is truly independent under Bevin.
"Specifically I have some serious concerns that the ethics commission's authority has been severely diluted or perhaps co-opted by the governor himself," Beshear said.
He points to what he calls “severe” cuts to the commission, along with Bevin’s decision to overturn a previous executive order allowing more input on commission appointees by the attorney general or state auditor. The state's top law enforcement watchdog also objected to the hiring of an outside law firm to investigate allegations of corruption in his father, former Gov. Steve Beshear’s, administration.
Friday, the governor dismissed the controversy as political mumbo jumbo and chastised the media for "slandering" and "vilifying" good people who are trying to move Kentucky forward.
"You've flown your drones around the house. I appreciate that. You've flown your helicopters over the house. I appreciate that," Bevin said Friday at an unrelated press conference. "But are any of you real estate experts? Have you talked to people that are? Do you truly have a clue what you're talking about?"
Bevin offered a brief explanation of the price tag for the house, saying it covered a fraction of the land, none of the road frontage, and tremendous restrictions in easements.
A day after the comments, the governor took to Twitter to train his fire on Louisville Courier-Journal reporter Tom Loftus, who has been following the story. Loftus offered his account on Saturday, says he visited the house once in March to find out who lived there. Bevin responded by calling Loftus a “sick man” who was caught sneaking around his home and property.
Asked about the tweet, Attorney General Andy Beshear said: "I think those types of comments are beneath the office of governor. Those comments suggest criminal activity, which they teach you in law school is libel or libel per se."
WUKY reached out to the governor's office for comment, but did not receive any additional statements addressing the matter.
Kentucky’s Republican governor and Democratic attorney general are also trading barbs over an organization known as Common Cause.
Friday, the government watchdog group’s chairman, Richard Beliles, filed an ethics complaint seeking an investigation into allegations that Gov. Matt Bevin received a sweetheart deal on a Louisville house. In his response, the governor linked the group to the Attorney General Andy Beshear and one of his former aides, who pleaded guilty to bribery.
"What's interesting as well is that (the ethics complaint) is apparently being brought... by the very people who are funded by our attorney general using money that he received from Tim Longmeyer in contributions," Bevin said, adding, "Tim Longmeyer, who as a reminder since it wasn't covered very much, is actually now in federal prison."
Beshear chalks the accusation up to a “conspiracy theory.”
"The governor's claims are absolutely false. I didn't talk to Common Cause about this whatsoever," Beshear responded.
The two Kentucky leaders are also reacting to the recent act of vandalism against the Lexington Herald-Leader and threats made against a newspaper plant in London. Without naming names, Beshear said he has concerns that “heightened conflict” can lead to these types of situations.
"The press, like everybody else in Kentucky, deserves to be safe in doing their jobs," the attorney general commented Tuesday. "We, as public officials, need to make sure that we don't do anything to create the type of environment where that wouldn't be the case."
Gov. Matt Bevin, a persistent critic of the Leader and Louisville Courier-Journal, urged caution as the matter is investigated.
"Let's get the facts before we overreact. Too often there's a lot of innuendo and hypothesis and then people start reacting to that," he told the Leader.
Bevin labeled the actions “irresponsible and inappropriate” and said those responsible should be held accountable.
A number of windows were broken at the Lexington paper’s main headquarters. Lexington police spokesperson Brenna Angel said it’s early in the investigation, but the damage is consistent with small caliber bullets, like those from a BB gun or air rifle.