Beshear campaign, Kentucky Democratic Party return $202,000 linked to London mayor

Contributions were made on Randall Weddle’s credit card

By: - June 20, 2023 10:35 am

Randall Weddle, then a candidate for London mayor, listens as Gov. Andy Beshear helps celebrate the opening of WB Transport’s new warehouse in April 2022. (Screenshot with permission of WYMT)

Editor’s note: This story was updated Tuesday evening with additional responses.

The Andy Beshear for Governor campaign and Kentucky Democratic Party have refunded $202,000 in what they determined to be excess political contributions – money originally reported by the campaign and party as donations from numerous members of the family of London Mayor Randall Weddle and employees of a company Weddle co-founded.

Eric Hyers, manager of Beshear’s campaign, said Tuesday that the campaign recently determined all of that money was donated on a credit card of Randall Weddle and his wife, Victoria.

“Under Kentucky campaign finance statutes, an individual may donate up to $2,100 to the campaign and up to $15,000 to the Kentucky Democratic Party,” Hyers said in an email to Kentucky Lantern. “Donations above those limits from one individual are deemed to be contributions in excess of fundraising limits and must be refunded, which the campaign promptly did.”

Specifically, $12,000 in contributions to the Beshear campaign and $190,000 in contributions to the Kentucky Democratic Party have been refunded, Hyers said.

The contributions that have been refunded were first identified as being unusual in an April 17 report by the Lantern.

Andy Beshear (Photo by Arden Barnes)

That report noted that members of Weddle’s family and employees of WB Transport, a company co-founded by Weddle, comprised the biggest bundle of contributors to the Kentucky Democratic Party and the Beshear campaign since Beshear became governor in 2019: combining to give at least $305,000.

The Lantern noted that Weddle is a registered Republican and that none of the 19 listed donors who are members of his family or employees of WB Transport had ever before made a big political contribution.

Bundling of political contributions from persons related by family or by employment is legal as long as each contribution is voluntary and the contributor is not reimbursed for the donation. It is illegal for any  person to exceed the donation limits by making excess contributions in the names of other people.

Mayor Weddle himself was never listed by the party or Beshear campaign as a contributor, and he told the Lantern early this year he did not know how the huge contributions of his wife, friends, children, sisters, mother and other family members came about.

Weddle did not return phone calls made by the Lantern on Tuesday to his cell phone and the London Mayor’s Office.

Hyers said in an email response to the Lantern’s questions Tuesday that it was Randall Weddle himself who first “informed the campaign that contributions were made in excess of contribution limits on his and Mrs. Weddle’s credit card, and expressed a desire to remedy the situation.” Hyers did not say when Weddle did so.

London Mayor Randall Weddle

Sean Southard, spokesman for the Republican Party of Kentucky released a statement about the refunds late Tuesday that said in part, “This is the latest example in a long pattern of Andy and his family getting caught with corrupt campaign contributions or selling off government to the highest bidder. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a governor who doesn’t have to constantly play catch up with ethics and state law?”

Past instances where news reports raised questions of possible illegal excess contributions by a wealthy contributor in the names of straw donors have been investigated successfully by the Kentucky attorneys general.

Kentucky’s current attorney general, Republican Daniel Cameron, happens to be Beshear’s opponent in the November election.

In response to a question posed to Cameron’s office, Shellie May, the interim communications director for the Attorney General’s Office, released this short statement: “The Office of the Attorney General will consider all appropriate options in connection with the contributions in question.”

Hyers said that the refunds would be listed in reports filed with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance and the Federal Election Commission this week.

A new report filed Monday with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance by the Beshear campaign lists $2,000 refunds each to the following members of the Weddle/WB group: Jennifer Weddle, of Corbin; Lisa Weddle, of Knoxville; Phyllis McAdams, of Corbin; Michael Hacker, of Gray; David Owens, of Keavy; and Alecia Owens, of Indianapolis.

In his email, Hyers said the Democratic Party reports – not yet posted on campaign finance websites – will show refunds of $15,000 each to: Alecia Owens, of Indianapolis; Lisa Weddle, of Knoxville; Jennifer Weddle, of Corbin; Caden McAdams, of Corbin; Chrystal McAdams, of Corbin; Ashley Gray, of London; Robert Gray, of London; David Owens, of Keavy; Michael Hacker, of Gray; Carmen Weddle, of Gray; Nicholas Weddle, of London; Alexis Weddle, of London. The report, Hyers said, will also show refunds of $5,000 by the party to: Phyllis McAdams, of Corbin; and Tracy Owens, of Corbin.

The Beshear campaign released a statement Tuesday saying, “In addition to taking immediate steps to refund donations that were made in excess of contribution limits, we have taken proactive steps to prevent this from happening again…We have implemented an additional step in our compliance process. Under this new procedure, a member of our compliance team will manually sort all online contributions on a periodic basis to find any credit card that has been used to donate an amount greater than the contribution limits. In addition, we have conducted this additional step retroactively, and are satisfied that this is the only instance in which a credit card has been used multiple times by multiple users to make contributions in excess of Kentucky contribution limits.”

The Lantern’s April 17 report listed about $100,000 more in contributions from Weddle family members and WB Transport employees than the Beshear campaign and Democratic Party has refunded. Moreover, that report also highlighted scores of additional large contributions from persons who, like WB Transport, operate in that sector of the economy called “reverse logistics.” Some of those donors had past business connections with Weddle.  (Generally, reverse logistics refers to the process that takes the vast amount of products returned by buyers at retail stores or online outlets and moves the products for resale at some sort of discount outlet.)

But Hyers said In his email that the campaign has conducted a “thorough review” of all contributions to the campaign and party and found that no other contributions are excessive.

“Other than the contributions already refunded , we have not identified any additional contributions in excess of contribution limits that need to be refunded,” Hyers said.

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Tom Loftus
Tom Loftus

Tom Loftus is a native of Cincinnati and a graduate of The Ohio State University. His long career in Kentucky journalism includes four years as Frankfort bureau chief for The Kentucky Post and 32 years as Frankfort bureau chief for The Courier Journal. He is a member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame and a freelance reporter for the Kentucky Lantern.