Thursday, September 21, 2000

Senator's mailing brings complaint

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FORT MITCHELL — Republican state Sen. Jack Westwood has been accused of breaking legislative ethics laws by allegedly using taxpayer money to mail campaign information to Kenton County voters.

        The complaint was mailed Wednesday to the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission in Frankfort by Fort Mitchell Democrat Nathan Smith, who received the mailing at his manufactured-home business.

        The action is another indication of the growing political heat in a local Senate race that could play a role in deciding which party controls the General Assembly's upper chamber in Frankfort. The GOP now has a 20-18 majority; but 14 Senate seats, including Mr. Westwood's 23rd District seat, are contested this year.

        “I filed this complaint because it's wrong to use taxpayer money to promote yourself,” Mr. Smith said Wednesday. “What I received was nothing more than a blatant campaign piece. That's not right, whether it is being done by a Democrat or a Republican.”

        Marc Wilson, Mr. Westwood's campaign manager, denied any wrongdoing and said the complaint was politically motivated and inspired by supporters of Mr. Westwood's opponent in the November election, Independence Democrat Jaimie Henson.

        “Desperate people do desperate things,” Mr. Wilson said Wednesday.

        At issue is a mailing the Senate Republican office in Frankfort sent to constituents in Senate districts across the state, including some of those where a GOP candidate is not running for re-election.

        The mailing carries some generic information about the legislature and also includes a page about accomplishments Mr. Westwood takes credit for while serving in the legislature.

        “This (mailing) was totally constituent information, which is something good legislators do, communicate with their constituents,” Mr. Wilson said.

        The mailing was sent to, among others, members of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Smith is a member.

        “It's blatant politics,” Mr. Smith said. “I mean, come on, the (legislative) session ended six months ago and the election is about a month away. Why do we get a legislative update now if this wasn't politics?”

        Mr. Smith briefly worked in Mrs. Henson's campaign but has not been active for nearly a year.

        The ethics commission had not received the complaint as of Wednesday. It could do nothing or force Mr. Westwood's campaign to pay for the mailing.

        Meanwhile, Kenton County Republican Chairman Greg Shumate issued a statement criticizing Mrs. Henson for supporting Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore while disagreeing with his support of abortion rights.

        Democratic consultant Kim Geveden, who is working on Mrs. Henson's campaign, said, “Al Gore has about as much to do with this race as George Bush or Bob Dole or any other national political figure.

        “This race isn't about national politics,” Mr. Geveden said.


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