Group That Bashed Beshear In TV Ads Pays Fine

Jun 11, 2013

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- An independent political group that backed Republican David Williams' failed bid for Kentucky governor has paid a $4,500 fine as part of an agreement to settle allegations it tried to shield the identity of its major contributor - who turned out to be Williams' father-in-law at the time.

The fine was part of an agreement between the group, Restoring America, and the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance in Frankfort.

Bankrolled largely by Terry Stephens, Restoring America spent money on TV and radio ads in the 2011 campaign that attacked Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and promoted Williams' candidacy. Beshear went on to win a second term, defeating Williams by a wide margin.

Stephens - a prominent businessman in Russell Springs - was Williams' father-in-law then.

Williams and his wife, Robyn William, announced in September 2012 that they were divorcing after nearly a decade of marriage.

Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Dan Logsdon filed a complaint with the registry accusing Restoring America of failing to accurately report its contributions and expenditures in a report filed barely a month before the November 2011 election.

This past March, the registry found probable cause to believe that Restoring America's treasurer unintentionally violated state law by failing to identify Stephens as the group's contributor in the pre-election report, and that he neglected to disclose all campaign expenditures.

Stephens' identity as a big contributor to Restoring America was eventually revealed in advance of the election.

Before that, however, Franklin County Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate had issued a restraining order requiring the Restoring America ads to be taken off the air because the group hadn't reported who was providing its financing. That changed later that week when Restoring America filed an amended report identifying Stephens as its sole donor.

Earlier this year, the registry and the political group entered into a conciliation period that resulted in last week's agreement that included the fine.

Logsdon said Monday he was pleased with the penalty.

"This Republican committee worked hard to hide its donors from the public, and the fine issued to the committee's treasurer shows that these kinds of secretive, shady groups have no place in Kentucky politics," Logsdon said.

Eric Lycan, who represented the political group, said Restoring America was pleased to resolve the matter.

"Restoring America believes it fully complied with both federal and state law, and followed the best precedent available in what is a frustratingly complex regulatory environment," Lycan said. "This agreement with the registry allows Restoring America to move beyond 2011 and continue its mission to advocate across the nation for candidates who believe in free enterprise and limited government."

Restoring America's treasurer did not admit to any violation as part of the conciliation agreement with the registry.

The registry had previously dismissed allegations of improper coordination between Restoring America and the Williams campaign.

Stephens had said he gave money to Restoring America Inc., trusting that the group would support conservative causes, and perhaps his son-in-law's campaign.

Williams resigned from the Senate late last year when the Democratic governor appointed him as a circuit judge in southern Kentucky.

Restoring America is one of a growing number of so-called 527 groups, named for the IRS code that authorizes them, getting involved in elections in Kentucky and nationally.

While such groups can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, they are prohibited from coordinating with the candidates they support.