By Patrick Crowley
Enquirer staff writer
The campaign of Republican state Sen. Jack Westwood is giving little credence to Democratic allegations that it broke Kentucky's campaign finance laws.
Westwood's handlers have labeled the accusations from the camp of Fort Mitchell Democrat Kathy Groob, the senator's challenger this November, as a "publicity stunt."
Scott Sedmak, Westwood's campaign manager, has refused to address specific claims that the campaign is inflating fund-raising numbers and inaccurately reporting financial information to state election finance officials.
Westwood is a two-term state senator from Crescent Springs who represents Kenton County's 23rd Senate District in Frankfort.
"The (campaign finance) reports we've filled out stand on their own, period," Sedmak said.
Sedmak said a letter detailing the accusations from Groob's treasurer, Barry G. Kienzle, is dated July 23. Sedmak said he did not receive the letter until July 27, a day after Groob's campaign faxed it to reporters.
"When the media gets the letter first," Sedmak said, "you know it's a publicity stunt."
But Groob's top advisers contend Westwood's campaign has not met requirements of state campaign finance laws, which require meticulous financial reporting on lengthy forms.
The forms must be periodically filed with the Registry of Election Finance in Frankfort. Providing inaccurate or incomplete information, particularly if done intentionally, can be violations of state finance laws.
"The overall quality and accuracy of your reports indicate a disregard of the law," Kienzle said in the letter. "Quite frankly, we expect better from an incumbent senator and an influential member of the Appropriation and Revenue and Education committees."
Groob said in an interview that if Westwood's reports are not amended, her campaign may file a formal complaint with state election officials.
"We believe they are not raising as much money as they claim," Groob said.
For instance, on April 14, Westwood held a campaign fund-raiser at the home of Edgewood businessman Pete Wenzel.
The fund-raiser was attended by Gov. Ernie Fletcher.
That evening, Westwood's campaign told reporters that about $50,000 had been raised. But a subsequent campaign finance report reviewed by Eric Gentry, Groob's political and fund-raising consultant, showed $30,575 was raised.
After expenses, the amount dropped to $26,903, Gentry said.
It is not uncommon for campaigns to include commitments for contributions when tallying cash generated by fund-raisers. For instance, a campaign may only collect $30,000 at the door but have commitments for another $10,000.
The number reported to the media is $40,000, though the total must eventually reconcile with campaign finance reports.
But the Groob campaign says it has also uncovered several other possible violations, including an underreporting of expenses for services that include banking, Web site development and political consulting.
Kienzle said Marc Wilson, a GOP consultant from Florence, is working for Westwood. But no payments to Wilson are recorded on Westwood's campaign finance reports.
Kienzle based the allegation on a listing of clients Wilson reported to a campaign consulting industry trade journal.
But Wilson said the magazine is incorrect and that he is volunteering on Westwood's campaign.
"I'm a volunteer ... and will continue to work tirelessly to defeat liberals like Kathy Groob from advancing in any form of government," Wilson said.
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