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Kentucky Governor Faces Grand Jury

January 23, 1998

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) _ With his job potentially at stake, Gov. Paul Patton testified Friday in front of a grand jury investigating whether his 1995 campaign violated spending-limit laws.

Patton’s election could be nullified if the nine-month probe concludes he directed his campaign to skirt Kentucky’s $1.8 million spending limit by coordinating activities with unions and a voter-turnout group.

The first-term Democratic governor, who won the election by only 21,560 votes, denied any wrongdoing on Thursday and declined to answer questions when he entered the grand jury room Friday.

The investigation has centered on whether unions and the A. Philip Randolph Institute, a black voter-education group that is financed largely by organized labor, improperly coordinated their election efforts with Patton’s campaign and thereby put the campaign over the spending limit.

Numerous union officials and representatives of the institute have been among the 72 witnesses to appear before the grand jury. Many of those officials have been granted immunity from prosecution for their testimony.

Candidates in 1995 agreed to limit spending to $1.8 million, with $1.2 million coming from a state subsidy. Weeks after the campaign, Republicans filed a complaint alleging collusion between unions and the Democrats.

The GOP gubernatorial candidate, Larry Forgy, has complained that Democrats ``bought votes all over Kentucky.″

A judge is considering whether the grand jury can even indict anybody or whether it must turn its work back over to the Registry of Election Finance, the agency that oversees campaign spending laws.

Attorney General Ben Chandler, a Democrat whose office is overseeing the investigation, has been mentioned as a possible challenger to Patton in 1999. His office has recommended that the grand jury’s work go back to the registry.

Republicans have argued the grand jury is duty-bound to act. They have warned that the registry board, composed of executive-branch appointees, cannot be counted on to act independently.

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