Wednesday, May 16, 2007

KY Kurmudgeon Compliments Billy Harper

Billy Harper's latest campaign ad, which opens and closes with a spoof of incumbent Gov. Ernie Fletcher's bully-themed ads, is the most creative spot I've seen in this gubernatorial race. The silhouetted little boy in glasses and little girl in pigtails doing the "Did not," "Did too" routine in the opening and shaking the chain-link fence that separates them in the closing effectively gets across Harper's point about "two squabbling politicians (Fletcher and former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup) and a businessman named Billy Harper." And it makes that distinction with a light touch.

Unfortunately for Harper, the latest independent poll results suggest it may be a case of too little, too late. Harper disputes that, however. Previewing the ad for media grunts aboard his bus outside the state Capitol today, Harper said his own polling shows him "coming up rapidly" in the last week. He also expressed the opinion that a runoff in the Republican primary is "highly likely." I put that comment in the "wishful thinking" category.

Is a Republican runoff possible? Yes. Given the way Fletcher and Northup are slicing and dicing each other in attack ads, it is possible they will drive enough disgusted Republicans into the Harper camp to deny either of them the 40 percent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff. And Harper's new ad is an attempt to capitalize on that possibility. But "highly likely"? No. I still consider a Republican runoff to be an extreme long shot.

But, hey, if the Kentucky Derby has taught us anything over the years, it's that you can't overlook long shots. However, even if the long shot occurs and no candidate gets 40 percent of the Republican primary vote, I still don't see any way Harper can avoid being the candidate left out of ensuing runoff. In a way, that's too bad, because the barrage of negative ads we could expect from a Fletcher-Northup runoff almost surely would be devoid of the kind of lighthearted creativity evident in Harper's new ad.

Harper, Fletcher Release Final Ads

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

Billy Harper's campaign for governor has a new TV ad that lampoons his opponents for "squabbling," and says he is the only Republican who can defeat the Democrats in November's general election. Harper, a Paducah businessman, showed the ad to reporters today on his campaign bus. "When we started our campaign, we promised you we would run a positive campaign, and we have kept that promise," Harper said.

But Harper said his opponents in the May 22 GOP primary election -- Gov. Ernie Fletcher and former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup -- "have not kept the same standards and it has gotten a little negative in their behavior."

Harper's 30-second ad titled "Did Not" is to run statewide through Monday. It shows a young boy with glasses and a young girl with pigtails arguing by shouting at each other, saying, "Did not" and "Did, too."

It encourages voters to take a look at Harper and describes him as "a conservative businessman, a leader in education reform" and the only candidate to promise no new taxes.

It adds that he is the only Republican who can unite the party and defeat the Democrats.
Harper said he does not plan to run any other new ads unless he is personally attacked. He also declined to say if he has put more of his own money into the race or say how much of his own money he has contributed to his campaign. Though polls show Harper trailing Fletcher and Northup in the race, he said he will not drop out. In fact, he said, he has "a great chance" of winning the race. "I don't feel I'm a spoiler in any way," he said.

Harper also said he does not yet know if he will support whoever is the Republican nominee for governor and did not know if he will attend an event May 26 at the state GOP headquarters in Frankfort at the invitation of Kentucky's GOP congressional delegation to rally behind the party nominee. "I'm scheduled to be out of the country that Saturday," he said.

Fletcher's campaign manager, Marty Ryall, said he disagrees with Harper's assertion that he is the only candidate who can unite Republicans in the fall. "We're confident that Republicans will unite around Gov. Fletcher after Tuesday," Ryall said.

He said Harper's ad takes a predictable approach. "He still has a lot of ground to make up and we're comfortable with where we're at," he said.

Fletcher also released his final TV ad of the campaign, an upbeat 30-second spot that features a direct appeal to voters from Fletcher.

KY Progress Laments Squabbling

Got this message on my phone last night: Hello, I'm calling on behalf Anne Northup's campaign for governor. Ernie Fletcher's campaign is desperate and desperate candidates do desperate things. He has attacked Anne Northup's faith and now he is attacking Anne Northup's record on guns...

Seriously, isn't it time we got to the issues and beyond the nonsense? It seems to me the best way for us to have a fall campaign about differences on policy that really affect our state is to nominate Billy Harper.

Prime Evil Mud Slinging

I do not support Governor Fletcher. With that stated, his drinking is not relevant. His personal life is not relevant.

From Blue Grass, Red State:

As Governor, Ernie Fletcher has certainly enjoyed his fair share of alcoholic beverages. The Fletcher campaign says that "you can be a religious person and have an occasional alcoholic drink." Well, sort of.

Ryal Alessi caught up with Pastor David Carr, who runs the King of Kings Radio Network Inc. in Somerset, Glasgow and Cookeville, Tenn. Mr. Carr, a "religious person," said that "Any time you drink alcohol or you have parties with alcohol, for religious people, it's a negative."

For me, this raises what may be a more important question. Has Ernie Fletcher changed since back when he was a lay minister at Lexington Primitive Baptist Church? Many churches that I know of require the church leadership to abstain from alcohol completely to set a good example for the church body and the community, and to avoid giving the wrong impression to people who may not be familiar with the person, the church, or Christianity in general. I'm sure Lex PBC is no different. In his candidate profile from the Lex H-L on 4/23, Ernie Fletcher says he left the Lex PBC in 1994 after his faith became "a little more progressive."

Did Ernie Fletcher enjoy an occasional alcoholic drink while he was a lay minister? That would have almost certainly been a violation of church rules, although I haven't consulted the church. And what did he mean by "a little more progressive?" His faith has changed? Also, how often does Ernie Fletcher consider "occasional" when he's in Frankfort?

A Campaign For All Hours

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

The campaign of Republican candidate for governor Anne Northup apologized this morning for disturbing Kentucky Republicans with late-night automated phone calls Tuesday night. "It was a computer glitch by our vendor," said campaign spokesman Barry Peel. "We are profoundly sorry for any and every inconvenience."

Republicans across the state reported receiving multiple calls from Northup's campaign last night, many after 10 p.m. Peel did not know exactly how many people received the erroneous calls, but confirmed that the call went out statewide. "They have absolutely harassed me to death," said Barbara Bennett of Mt. Vernon, who reported receiving four calls from Northup on Tuesday, the last at 10 p.m. "I was putting my grandchildren to bed. I've already called them this morning and gave them a piece of my mind."

Both Northup and Gov. Ernie Fletcher have used multiple automated phone calls in recent days to attack each other on the issues of school prayer and the right to bear arms. "I'm a Republican and I will be voting Democratic this year," Bennett said. "The calls have just pushed me right over the limit."

Peel said he wasn't sure whether the campaign would continue using automated phone calls.

It was a computer glitch? Barry, craftsmen do not blame their tools. Your strategy was stupid. Robo calls do not even qualify as campaigning. They are immature, unimaginative, and pedestrian.

This “glitch” was another Anne Northup mistake. Her campaign has been a disaster. Now, her campaign is injuring our party. Shame upon you, Anne.

Blue Grass, Red State Abusing Their Delusion

Blue Grass, Red State Calls On Ernie Fletcher To Release Names of Donors To Secret Legal Defense Fund

With less than a week to go before the primary, Ernie Fletcher still has not told the Kentucky Republicans who will decide next Tuesday whether or not to renominate him who has contributed to his secret legal defense fund which pays legal fees stemming from Ernie Fletcher's indictment in the merit hiring scandal.

If Ernie Fletcher continues to keep the names secret, he is putting every Kentucky Republican in a very awkward position in the post-primary season should he win renomination. If Ernie Fletcher doesn't care what we think of him, why the hell should we renominate him? If Ernie Fletcher doesn't think we care about ethics, we have to tell him otherwise!

Fletcher, Wheeler Run Incestuous Campaign

Ernie Fletcher's attack dog Brett Hall has apparently confused himself with his lies. Hall sends out a political tabloid email regularly to Republicans in which he lies about the state of the Governor's race, invariably stating that Ernie Fletcher's campaign is going great and the Northup/Hoover campaign is constantly faltering. Conventional wisdom says Brett Hall wouldn't come back to Kentucky from New Jersey just to run a Treasurer's race, so he must be getting paid by one of Fletcher's slick consultants. Hall had been fired in 2006 for responding to a reporter asking if Fletcher was going to resign by saying, "Fuck no!" although Hall has claimed to be on Ernie Fletcher's payroll since the supposed firing. This morning, Hall confused himself and sent his newsletter from Melinda Wheeler's email address.

Kentucky Progress Lauds Harper

Governor Fletcher's campaign has scored a lot of points going after Anne Northup on school prayer. Today, though, they may have gone too far. A mailer that hit mailboxes this afternoon has a picture of Northup gleefully shovelling dirt next to a bold sentence stating "Anne Northup said an amendment to give our children the right to pray in school was 'Extreme.'"

The ad is effective. At first, I thought it was pretty funny. But while it probably helps wipe out Northup in the primary, it kills Fletcher in the general. Louisville Republicans especially will take this personally and sit on their hands in the fall. The only candidate who can take advantage of the current environment and win in the fall against a certain-to-be weak Democratic nominee is Billy Harper. Watch Harper's ads over the next week. It will be some of the best stuff you have ever seen.

Northup Broke Law?

From Conservative Edge:

At 7:45 A.M. on Thursday, May 10th, 2007, I made a request for a document from the Northup campaign, that would have been a valid request under Kentucky's open records law. The request was made to Northup press secretary Barry Peel, who said he would respond that day.

Now, at the close of business on Tuesday, May 15th, 2007, there has been no response at all from a legitimate member of the Northup campaign. ( Her supporters have certainly responded with contempt and sarcasm, but there has been no official response). Under Kentucky's open records act, all requests must be responded to with 72 hours, excluding hoildays and weekends. Technically, my request would have required a response by this morning, but I gave the Northup camp some extra time.

Responses could have included: We need more time. The document requested does not exist. There is an exception to the law that allows us to refuse the reuest. Your request must be in writing. We don't have the document, you can contact the facility that does. Or, finally: Here is your document.

The document in question would not likely have fallen under any open records exception, since it would have been prepared by a governmental agency regarding an ethics situation. Roll Call magazine had requested Northup obtain a written ethics opinion, concerning her arrangements with a Lousiville charity that Northup founded. Northup also appointed the charities director according to Roll Call magazine, and sat on its board of directors. The charity began receiving federal dollars that were earmarked from the appropriations committee of which Northup was a member. The COnservative Edge made a precise request for the written ethics opinion Roll Call had requested Northup obtain.

The request became relevant when Northup began touting her ethical purity late last month, and challenged Governor Fletcher's ethics. Obviously, Republican primary voters were entitiled to know what skeletons Northup might have regarding ethical short comings. Northup ran commercials featuring "ads that Democrats will run in the fall" against Fletcher. The Conservative Edge wanted to know what "ads that the Democrats would run in the fall" against Northup.

At this point, the Northup campaign does not have to follow the open records law. But aren't campaigns designed in part to show voters how the candidate would act if elected? As well, Northup has been pestering Governor Fletcher to answer her document requests and to explain his relationship to Bob Barr. We can't even get Northup to respond to a simple request. Is her attitude "do as I say, not as I do".

Many of Governor Fletcher's detractors complained about the Governor not being responsive to their needs when he first took office. It appears as though Anne Northup is not repsonsive to the needs of those whom she does not like or believes are beneath her. As Fletcher found out, that is not a good way to govern

The Purchasing Governor

This is unsurprising. Governor Fletcher opposes campaigning. Instead, he is seeking election via checkbook. Initially, he awarded various grants. One of them sans a reason. Now, this story arises. For unknown reasons, a Fletcher supporter’s project was delayed. The supporter complained. The Governor pressured. Miraculously, project approved. Governor Fletcher’s administration cannot survive one news cycle without corruption. Why should anyone support him?

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

After one of Gov. Ernie Fletcher's chief backers complained that the state had delayed approval of financing for one of his projects, the administration reversed its position and set a meeting date specifically to take up the issue.

The Kentucky Private Activity Bond Allocation Committee then gave the Northern Kentucky condo development, called the Ascent, a green light on Nov. 7, 2005 --in time for Fletcher to appear with that supporter, William P. Butler, in a groundbreaking ceremony nine days later. Documents obtained by the Herald-Leader through the state open records law show that attorneys from the state's Finance and Administration Cabinet initially wanted the committee to hold off on approving any bonds for projects until a court case involving the committee was settled.

But three days after Butler, the president and CEO of development company Corporex, sent his letter to the governor's office, one of the finance cabinet lawyers responded to the project's representatives that the bond committee would consider the Ascent after all at the Nov. 7, 2005, meeting. Fletcher said he didn't influence any decisions about the Ascent. "We didn't do anything unusual for that project," he said Friday. "But I'm not familiar with the details of that at all. I'm sure I probably saw the letter, but we get thousands and thousands of them."

Fletcher spokeswoman Jodi Whitaker later called back to say that Fletcher "didn't recall" seeing the letter. Fletcher described Butler, a Democrat who has been one of the governor's top campaign fund-raising chairmen, as a "good friend" and key supporter. But he noted that he has had to say no to Butler before, such as declining to push for $17 million in state funding for a market place development in Covington that Butler wanted.

In the case of the Ascent, a $55 million tower that includes 72 condos, Fletcher said it was good for Covington and the state. Fletcher attended the "cloudbreaking" ceremony for the finished building last month. "If anyone comes with a good project like that ... we'll do everything we can to make sure that those projects are accommodated," Fletcher said. "That's been my direction to the cabinet, regardless of who it is."

However, in the fall of 2005, the timeline for the Ascent project became a point of controversy. Starting on Sept. 13, finance cabinet officials exchanged e-mails with the attorneys handling the financial approvals for the Ascent and a Newport project known as SouthShore. Although neither project was built with state funds, they needed the bond allocation committee's approval for financing.

At one point, the projects' attorney, Dean Spoor, wrote that the Ascent "is requesting a hearing date before the end of October" because an initial groundbreaking ceremony that was to include the governor and local officials already had been scheduled for Oct. 26, 2005. "We do not want to be presumptive in having a groundbreaking before KPABAC has a chance to hold its hearing," Spoor wrote.

One finance staff member, Jason Hamilton, wrote in an e-mail to colleagues, "I don't like it when counsel tells me when we are going to have our meetings."

On Sept. 21, Joseph B. Howard, then the executive director of the finance cabinet's legal services office, wrote to Spoor saying that a case pending in the Kentucky Court of Appeals would delay any decisions by the bond committee indefinitely. A Franklin Circuit judge had ruled in March 2005 that the bond committee failed to do proper groundwork in making a decision about another Northern Kentucky project.

"Therefore, it may be some time before we get clear direction from the court as to KPABAC's actions in economic developments such as yours," Howard wrote to Spoor. Five days later, Butler wrote to Fletcher asking for the bond committee to act on the Ascent project "by special meeting."

"This position on the part of Mr. Howard ... has serious ramifications not only to our project, but to the state at large," Butler wrote. "We do not understand a policy that would stop all work simply because of a filing of a complaint on which there has been no ruling."

On Sept. 29, Howard sent another letter saying the board would indeed meet on Nov. 7, 2005, to consider the applications for both the Ascent and SouthShore projects. Howard, now an attorney in private practice in Lexington, declined to discuss the reversal, saying only "the documents speak for themselves."

F. Thomas Howard, director of the cabinet's office of financial management, said Friday that Joseph Howard's initial response to delay any committee decisions was a "knee-jerk reaction."

After finance cabinet officials discussed the situation further, they decided they shouldn't put everything on hold, Thomas Howard said. In a statement, Butler said he tries to reach the highest levels "whenever the state is making a mistake."

"There is probably no connection between my letter to the governor and the conversations between finance and the bond attorneys," Butler said. "But if there was, the governor acted correctly, as the Ascent project is putting Kentucky on the map."

Thomas Howard said he never saw Butler's Sept. 26, 2005, letter and wasn't aware of any pressure put on the finance cabinet by the governor's office or administration officials. But he said he couldn't remember specifically who gave the final order to move forward with the bond committee's public hearing on the Ascent. "I don't recall how exactly that decision was made," he said. "I just honestly don't remember."
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