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)
FRANKFORT — Soon after Gov. Andy Beshear’s campaign committee and the Kentucky Democratic Party refunded $202,000 in excess contributions to him, London Mayor Randall Weddle began giving large contributions to promote the election of Democrat Pamela Stevenson for state attorney general.
On June 20, Weddle donated $2,000 to Stevenson’s campaign.
On June 26, he gave $100,000 to the Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA), a Washington-based group that funds a super PAC that is running an advertising campaign to promote Stevenson’s election as attorney general over Republican nominee Russell Coleman.
And on Monday, Weddle gave $40,000 directly to that pro-Stevenson super PAC which is called DAGA Kentucky People’s Lawyer Project.
That adds up to $142,000 given by Weddle to help elect Stevenson on Nov. 7.
It is by far the most donated by any person or corporation this year to the political committees supporting Stevenson. In fact, Weddle is the only Kentuckian who gave more than $5,000 to either the Democratic Attorneys General Association or the DAGA Kentucky People’s Lawyer Project this year, according to disclosure reports filed by those groups.
Weddle did not return phone calls made Friday morning by Kentucky Lantern to his cell phone and to the London mayor’s office.
Stevenson’s campaign, contacted later Friday, told the the Lantern it had no response.
Excess contributions controversy
Weddle is at the center of a controversy over the excess contributions he made to the Beshear campaign and the Kentucky Democratic Party, a controversy first brought to light by Kentucky Lantern.
On April 17, the Lantern reported that Weddle’s family and employees of a company he founded called WB Transport provided the largest bundle of contributions supporting Beshear’s reelection — at least $305,500 donated to the Beshear campaign and the Kentucky Democratic Party.
Weddle noted in that report that he personally had not made any donation to Beshear and said he knew little about how his wife, children, siblings, other family members and employees all came to give big contributions to the Beshear political causes.
For his part, Beshear initially defended the contributions during an April 20 news conference.
However, in the days following that news conference attorneys for the Beshear campaign and Democratic Party contacted the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance to inform the agency that they had learned from Weddle that $202,000 of the contributions attributed in initial reports to Weddle’s family members and employees were contributions actually drawn on a credit card belonging to Randall Weddle and his wife Victoria.
State and federal laws limit how much any individual can contribute to a candidate’s campaign committee or to a state political party. (The limit is $2,100 per election to a candidate committee and $15,000 per year to a state political party.) However, there are no limits on how much a person or corporation can give to organizations such as DAGA and DAGA Kentucky People’s Lawyer Project.
In the following weeks, the Kentucky Democratic Party and the Beshear campaign refunded $202,000 to Weddle for what they said were excess donations he made in the names of others.
And on June 19, Eric Hyers, manager of Beshear’s campaign, disclosed in a news release that the refunds had been made. Hyers said that the campaign and party accepted the excess contributions by mistake because the system used to process contributions did not detect that multiple contributions were made on one credit card. He said the party and campaign followed the guidance of the election registry in making prompt refunds and that safeguards were installed in systems that process contributions so that the problem could not recur.
Request for investigation
It is a crime to knowingly make excess political contributions in the names of straw donors. But Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who is running against Beshear in the governor’s race, is barred from conducting such an investigation under an Executive Branch Ethics Commission opinion that essentially says an elected official cannot investigate a person he or she is running against in an active campaign.
Cameron’s office asked the FBI to investigate the Weddle contributions to Beshear and the Democratic Party.
Kentucky Lantern on Friday asked the FBI office in Louisville if it was investigating the matter. The FBI replied with an email that said, “Department of Justice policy precludes us from either confirming or denying the existence of such an investigation.”
Stevenson, of Louisville, is a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives, and during her campaign is stressing her experience as a U.S. Air Force colonel and as a military attorney in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Through Monday her campaign reported it had raised $328,000. That’s far less than Coleman’s campaign, which through Monday reported raising $1,156,000.
But Stevenson’s message this fall is also being broadcast by the Kentucky People’s Lawyer Project, the super PAC affiliated with the Democratic Attorneys General Association. Through Monday, DAGA has given $750,000 to this super PAC. Otherwise, it has reported only two donations: the $40,000 from Weddle and $5,000 from one other donor.
In July DAGA filed a required list of its contributors and expenses for the first six months of this year with the Internal Revenue Service. That report shows DAGA raised nearly $7 million during the first half of this year. Most of that money came from large contributions of corporations across the country. The only large contribution it received this year from Kentucky was the $100,000 from Weddle. Asked about the large Weddle contributions, a DAGA spokesperson replied with a general statement saying, “We have all hands on deck to defeat Russell Coleman …”
Coleman, a former FBI agent, served as U.S. attorney in the Western District of Kentucky after being appointed by President Donald Trump.
Sean Southard, spokesman for the Republican Party of Kentucky, said, “It’s clear what’s happening here. Randall Weddle is trying to buy a ‘get-out-of-jail free’ card from Pam Stevenson. He already ran a successful pay-to-play scheme with Beshear so he’s trying to do it again.”
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.