BY AL CROSS
The Louisville Courier-Journal
FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Gov. Paul Patton's top aide, his labor aide and two Teamsters union leaders were indicted on charges of violating restrictions on campaign contributions and donors in Mr. Patton's 1995 election.
The indictment, which a special grand jury handed up Sept. 4, was unsealed Thursday under an order from the state Supreme Court. It alleges that campaign laws were violated by:
Lawyers for all four denied they violated the law. And some said they would challenge the indictment on constitutional grounds. The law at issue was changed by the legislature in 1996 partly because of concerns about its constitutionality.
- Andrew "Skipper" Martin, who is Mr. Patton's chief of staff and was manager of his 1995 campaign.
- Danny Ross, Mr. Patton's labor liaison, who ran a pro-Patton campaign for the Teamsters and the AFL-CIO between stints working for Mr. Patton when he was lieutenant governor and then governor.
- Lon Fields Sr., president of Louisville-based Teamsters Local 89, where Mr. Ross was based in the summer and fall of 1995.
- Bob Winstead, secretary-treasurer of Local 89 and recording secretary of the Teamsters' state council, through which the national union paid Mr. Ross for his campaign work.
The indictments come at a sensitive time for Mr. Patton, who is trying to help Kentucky Democrats win in the Nov. 3 elections while preparing for his own re-election bid next year.
Mr. Patton said in a prepared statement that he was disappointed by the indictment of "some members of my staff," but declined to say whether Mr. Martin and Mr. Ross would keep their jobs. "I will review the charges and the known facts regarding the allegations and react in the way that I feel is appropriate, considering the circumstances," he said.
November, 1991: Paul Patton, a former coal-mine owner and judge-executive of Pike County in eastern Kentucky, is elected lieutenant governor on the Democratic ticket. |
November, 1995: Mr. Patton defeats Republican Larry Forgy in one of the closest gubernatorial races in Kentucky history, 500,787 votes to 479,227. The race is also the first under Kentucky's campaign-finance laws, which places restrictions on how much candidates may spend.
December, 1996: Mr. Patton calls the Kentucky General Assembly into special session to pass a sweeping reform of the state's workers' compensation laws. The reform, however, angers organized labor, which helped elect him to office. Labor was opposed to the reform.
May 1997:The Kentucky General Assembly, in another special session called by Mr. Patton, passes a reform of the state's higher education system. University of Kentucky officials fight Mr. Patton's reform plan because it reduces the university's power.
May 1997: A special grand jury is appointed to look into allegations, originally made by Mr. Forgy, that Democrats and Mr. Patton broke campaign-finance laws in the '95 governor's election.
Thursday: Mr. Patton's chief of staff, Andrew "Skipper" Martin, labor liaison Danny Ross, and Louisville Teamsters Local 89 President Lon Fields and Secretary-treasurer Robert Winstead were indicted for allegedly scheming to circumvent campaign finance restrictions.
The indictment did not allege that anyone had violated the spending limit that Mr. Patton and Republican Larry Forgy adopted in return for partial public financing of their campaigns under a 1992 reform law. That was the focus of a 16-month investigation by a grand jury that ended its work on Sept. 4.
Mr. Forgy, a Lexington lawyer, said in an interview that if the allegedly illegal contributions are attributed to Mr. Patton's campaign, it would be well over the spending limit. But Mr. Forgy's lawyer and first cousin, former federal prosecutor Steve Pitt of Louisville, said Mr. Patton would have to be indicted for breaking the limit to face the ultimate penalty of removal from office and a ban on holding office for five years.
Mr. Patton has denied wrongdoing.
But Mr. Forgy said, "I feel that Skipper Martin and Paul Patton are virtually inseparable in what they know . . . The governor prides himself in being a hands-on administrator."
Mr. Martin and Mr. Ross were charged with five counts each, Mr. Fields and Mr. Winstead with four each. Each count is punishable by one to five years in prison. They will be arraigned Oct. 29 in Franklin Circuit Court.
The indictment alleges no specific facts, other than violations of laws that limit campaign contributions and a law that bars state appointments for people who make campaign contributions above the legal limit.
Mr. Ross' lawyer, Philip Shepherd of Frankfort, and Local 89's lawyer, Al Priddy of Louisville, criticized Mr. Chandler's handling of the investigation and the indictment and said their clients were innocent. Mr. Martin's lawyer, Tim McCall of Louisville, denied that his client knowingly violated the law, a necessary standard for campaign-finance prosecutions.
Defense lawyers plan to challenge the constitutionality of a key law cited in the indictment. They say the law, which was amended in 1996 but still applies to the 1995 race, violates the constitutional freedoms of speech and association.
"In this country," Mr. Shepherd said, "it is not a crime to work for and support the candidate of your choice, and that is exactly the conduct that the attorney general's office seeks to criminalize in this indictment."
Other than Mr. Patton, Mr. Ross was the only person identified in Mr. Chandler's motion to empanel the grand jury. Mr. Ross had denied that his work for labor groups was coordinated with Mr. Patton's campaign, but the motion said investigators "located extensive communications between the parties involved."
Four of the five counts say that those indicted acted "in complicity with others" who are not named. One of those counts charges that they arranged to contribute to Mr. Patton's campaign through another person, which is illegal.
The other count alleges a conspiracy between Mr. Martin, Mr. Ross, Mr. Fields and Mr. Winstead to make an excess contribution to Mr. Patton's campaign. In 1995, the contribution limit was $500.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.