No coordination, says Kelly Craft of $1.5 million gift from husband’s trust to PAC

Candidates react to new finance reports

By: - April 19, 2023 5:51 pm
Kelly Craft holds up a copy of young adult memoir “All Boys Aren’t Blue" by George M. Johnson while speaking to reporters after the KSR debate. (Kentucky Lantern photo by McKenna Horsley)

Kelly Craft holds a book she criticized during the KSR debate on Wednesday. (Kentucky Lantern photo by McKenna Horsley)

LOUISVILLE — Republican candidate for governor Kelly Craft said the $7 million she has loaned her campaign shows she’s “all in” while saying there’s no coordination between her campaign and the super PAC promoting her election that received $1.5 million from her husband Joe Craft’s trust.

Kentucky law prohibits coordination between a candidate’s campaign and groups making independent expenditures, such as Commonwealth PAC, which is supporting Kelly Craft. Joe Craft, a coal company executive, is frequently described in media reports as a billionaire.

“I don’t coordinate with my PAC,” the candidate told reporters after a gubernatorial debate in Louisville Wednesday. “I don’t coordinate at all. And what I’ve been focused on is criss-crossing this state and meeting as many Kentuckians as possible.” 

I have made it very clear. I am all in and I’m going to go all out because this is not about me,” Craft said. “And what matters is what happens right now, today. We have to focus on defeating Andy Beshear because I’m going to set the bar high for this state. I’m tired of being in the lower 10. We’re going to be in the top 10 with Kelly Craft as governor.” 

In response to media reports Wednesday, Commonwealth PAC gave the following statement: “A contribution is not coordination. The Commonwealth PAC operates independently and follows the rules. Unlike the $1.5 million in dark-money contributions propping up committees backing Daniel Cameron, the Commonwealth PAC clearly discloses who is funding its mission.”

Tuesday was the deadline for statewide candidates to file campaign finance reports with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.

While Craft has spent the most by far, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles had the most cash on hand — $903,231 — of any of the Republicans as of March 31.

When asked about Craft’s husband’s money funding the PAC, Quarles said: “It’s none of my business.”

Quarles said his campaign is “in great shape” having spent no money yet on television ads. Those will come, he said. Quarles has reported total monetary receipts of  $1.2 million and $49,126 in in-kind contributions.

“We have more money, cash on hand than any other Republican in this race,” he said. “We have a grassroots network that is second to none, and we are poised to win this primary, and we’re polling at a great percentage and we haven’t even spent $1 yet.”

 A recent poll shows Quarles running third behind Craft and frontrunner Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who did not attend the Wednesday event sponsored by Kentucky Sports Radio.

Cameron has raised $405,520 in 2023, bringing his total to $1.37 million. He reported an ending balance of $593,458, according to his report

Somerset Mayor Alan Keck remained optimistic Wednesday despite a recent FOX 56/Emerson College showing him polling at 0.6%. The poll did not say what regions of the state it sampled voters from. 

“We’re still in the game. We’re still getting great feedback,” Keck said. “Every single day I’m picking up steam and picking up new supporters.” 

Keck has reported total receipts of $311,716 and has a balance of $54,139.

Harmon, who reported total receipts of less than $100,000, is looking toward more debate forums, meeting Kentuckians individually and at digital ads on sites like Facebook. 

“We’re going to continue to do what we’ve always done, which is run like it’s up to me, pray like it’s up to God and we will accept his will, whatever it is,” he said after the debate. 

Incumbent Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear has brought his fundraising total to $6.6 million, with $5.9 million of that still on hand.

“Governor Beshear has consistently delivered for Kentucky families while leading the Commonwealth through challenging times–that’s why poll after poll shows that he remains one of the most popular governors in the country,” said campaign manager Eric Hyers in a Tuesday press release. “Governor Beshear has worked hard to grow the economy and deliver on promises like the Brent Spence Bridge project – with no tolls – all while leading with compassion and a focus on doing what’s right. While GOP candidates attack one another in an increasingly nasty primary, Democrats, independents and many Republicans are coming together to support the governor’s reelection bid so he can keep working to improve the lives of all Kentuckians.”

This story was updated with a comment from Commonwealth PAC. 

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McKenna Horsley
McKenna Horsley

McKenna Horsley covers state politics for the Kentucky Lantern. She previously worked for newspapers in Huntington, West Virginia, and Frankfort, Kentucky. She is from northeastern Kentucky.