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WPSD 6 reports on governors press conference

Kentucky's Governor is once again showing his less than transparent stripes by "declin[ing] to identify friends and political supporters who buy prime tickets to the Kentucky Derby made available by Churchill Downs each year for the governor’s guests."

This, Tom Loftus states in an article that appears in the May 2 Kentucky Lantern, "is unlike his predecessors."

Gov. Andy "Beshear’s four immediate predecessors — including his father Gov. Steve Beshear — withheld the names of the official economic development guests but released lists of names of others who were able to buy the tickets from the governor’s batch. In each case, many of the tickets wound up in the hands of political donors, lobbyists and other supporters."

The retired Courier Journal investigative reporter writes:

"The Louisville racetrack sets aside large numbers of Derby tickets for sale at face value to Kentucky elected officials, including hundreds to the governor’s group -- many of them coveted hard-to-get prime seats.

"One purpose is to allow the state’s chief executive to entertain corporate executives considering investments in the Bluegrass State on that one day of the year when Kentucky shines in the national spotlight."

"Those governors took some heat from ethics watchdogs who questioned why Churchill Downs — a major political contributor and potent lobbying presence in Frankfort — needed to give the governor control over enough hard-to-get tickets to take care of his friends."

"But Beshear’s office says it has no lists of friends and supporters who got those tickets last year. Like his predecessors, Beshear has set-up a nonprofit corporation to broker his ticket allotment and manage his Derby events 'for the promotion of economic development in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.'

"Beshear’s nonprofit — called First Saturday in May Inc. —  declined to say how many tickets it purchased from Churchill last year and declined to release records showing who it sold those tickets to."

Governmental ethics experts have no "serious" problem with the underlying practice, reports Loftus, but question "Why [Beshear is] not letting us know what other governors have let us know?” One expert suggests that "[i]f this sort of information is not released it raises an appearance that something nefarious may be going on."

And lest there be concern that Beshear has a political
monopoly on Derby tickets, Loftus notes:

"Churchill Downs has long made tickets available for sale to not just the governor, but also to all 138 state legislators, the statewide elected officials other than the governor, Kentucky’s members of the U.S. House and Senate and Louisville’s mayor."

This is a subject about which Loftus has professional knowledge. In 1988, the Kentucky Attorney General affirmed Loftus's right to "the names of persons who stayed at various hotels at state expense, in connection with the 1988 Kentucky Derby activities, and the list of names of persons who attended pre and post Kentucky Derby parties at the Governor's Mansion."

In that appeal, then-Governor Wallace Wilkinson denied Loftus's original request for "The number of tickets and the cost of the tickets purchased by the state for the 1988 Kentucky Derby [and] a copy of any lists of the recipients of such tickets." Lawyers for Wilkinson explained that no public funds were expended on Derby tickets. The appeal went no further, and the otherwise disputed records were presumably disclosed.

Thirty-six years later, we are confronted with a governor whose unwavering support for anti-transparency legislation, and apparent avoidance of his duty to disclose public records freely disclosed by his predecessors, make his professed commitment to Kentucky's open records laws increasingly difficult to defend.…