One day after Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced his candidacy for next year’s gubernatorial election, the Kentucky Democratic Party announced Thursday it filed an ethics complaint against the Republican officeholder.
In a statement on Twitter, the KDP said the attorney general “has politicized the office by investigating a political opponent,” which the party said violates state ethics rules.
The KDP filed the complaint with the Executive Branch Ethics Commission.
In February 2003, the commission issued an advisory opinion that an attorney general investigating a political opponent served as a conflict of interest.
That opinion came as then-Attorney General Ben Chandler investigated nursing homes connected to businessman Bruce Lunsford. Both were running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
The commission, in that ruling, said the attorney general must either close the case, refer it to another agency or resign from office.
“The commission believes if the Office of the Attorney General continues to investigate this matter, unspoken or implied pressure may exist or appear to exist for the employees conducting the investigation,” the opinion stated.
Chandler eventually referred the case to federal prosecutors.
Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, told reporters during his Thursday afternoon press conference that it’s an opinion sitting attorney generals have followed ever since.
In 2006, then-Attorney General Greg Stumbo announced he would not run for governor as his office was investigating then-Gov. Ernie Fletcher. Stumbo would later become Lunsford’s running mate in the 2007 race. That ticket lost in the Democratic primary.
Beshear, who served as attorney general before beating then-Gov. Matt Bevin in the 2019 election, said he sought the commission’s advice regarding an investigation into Bevin purchasing an upscale home from Neil Ramsey, a Bevin campaign donor and Bevin appointee to the Kentucky Retirement Systems’ Board of Directors. When the commission advised Beshear that it would be a conflict to investigate and run for governor, Beshear said Thursday that he referred the case to federal authorities.
“This is a rule that everybody else has followed, and this attorney general has broken,” Beshear said. “The ethics commission made it really clear.”
The governor also told reporters he believes the attorney general has ongoing investigations into his administration. That includes one regarding the removal of the Jefferson Davis statue from the Capitol. Beshear said his office had nothing to do with awarding the contract to the firm that took down the statue. Beshear also added that his office received a request from the attorney general’s office for information on an investigation late Wednesday after Cameron filed paperwork to run for governor.
Both Beshear and Cameron’s Communications Director Elizabeth Kuhn said the governor’s office notified the attorney general about a possible ethics complaint when the investigation into the contract began.
“The Office of the Attorney General remains committed to doing its job and meeting its statutory duties: tackling the opioid epidemic, protecting the vulnerable, ensuring compliance with state law, fighting federal overreach, and serving Kentuckians in all 120 counties,” Kuhn told The Center Square in a statement. “Consistent with its obligations, the Office regularly defends against litigation brought by the governor in our duty to defend the rule of law. Moreover, last year the Office investigated a referral from the Government Contract Review Committee pursuant to (state law). At that time, the governor’s office used the threat of an ethics complaint in an apparent attempt to prevent this Office from investigating. The Office was not deterred in following the law without fear or favor.”
This article was originally posted on Kentucky Democrats file ethics complaint against Cameron