Kentucky editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:
The Courier-Journal of Louisville on Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan refusing to turn over “sensitive personal data” to President Donald Trump’s commission on voting:
Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes did the right thing by refusing to turn over “sensitive personal data” to President Donald Trump’s commission on voting.
Besides names, party and voting history, the request from Kris Kobach, the commission’s vice chairman, included the last four digits of the voter’s Social Security number, felony convictions, military status and overseas citizen information if the state makes that information public.
In an interview with MSNBC last week, Grimes said there is “not enough bourbon here in Kentucky to make this request seem sensible. ... Not on my watch are we going to be releasing sensitive information that relate to the privacy of individuals.”
We agree with Grimes, who is skeptical of the commission created by Trump to investigate claims that millions of illegal voters participated in November’s elections. Trump lost the popular vote, and he claims all fraudulent voters cast ballots for Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent.
“The president created his election commission based on the false notion that ‘voter fraud’ is a widespread issue. It is not,” Grimes said. Scholarly research has debunked the claim of widespread voter fraud, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.
Grimes is not alone in resisting. Republican Connie Lawson, Indiana’s secretary of state, said state law does not permit the release of personal information but that certain voter information is public by law.
Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, a Republican, said state law does not permit release of the requested voter information.
Kentucky’s voter database can be purchased for use in scholarly and journalistic work, as well as for political (including political fundraising), or governmental purposes.
The commission can and should pay for the information that is publicly available.
This is some of what the commission would get: name, address, date of birth, party affiliation, sex, ZIP code, and unofficial five-year voting history of every voter in a precinct.
Kobach, if you want the information, please send a check for $450. Be sure to include your driver’s license number and the last four digits of your Social Security number.
Lexington Herald-Leader on a judge’s order about University of Kentucky HealthCare’s billing records:
Sometimes it’s hard to follow the legal wranglings over open records and open meetings.
But, in the case of University of Kentucky HealthCare and its billing arm, the Kentucky Medical Services Foundation, there are a lot of people who have good personal reasons to be interested in how it operates. They include anyone who:
Pays taxes in Kentucky;
Pays tuition at UK;
Has ever paid a medical bill at UK.
They’re the ones paying if KMSF is not spending the money it collects from the public and patients wisely.
They should join us in telling UK not to appeal Judge Pamela Goodwine’s stern order last week turning down almost all of UK’s stumbling legal theories about why its business should be secret. Goodwine did say UK is not required to release detailed attorney billing records.
At issue in this latest battle with UK over open records is a PowerPoint presentation to the UK board of trustees made by David Douglass, an attorney hired to help UK clean up a mess that arose from its 2013 purchase of a Hazard cardiology practice.
Ultimately, UK HealthCare and KMSF paid over $4 million to Medicaid and Medicare to clear up billing issues and another $1 million to Douglass’ Washington, D.C. firm.
Douglass made the presentation about his investigation of the billing problems, actions to clear them up and how to avoid them in the future at a dinner the night before a regular board meeting. Although the meeting was open to the public, the agenda did not indicate Douglass would make his presentation. Usually official business is not discussed at dinner meetings and no reporters were present.
The Herald-Leader requested the PowerPoint when it learned of its existence, but UK, citing attorney-client privilege, denied the request and said no minutes had been taken at the meeting. When the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office agreed with the paper that the discussion was not privileged, UK appealed to circuit court.
Goodwine opened her legal analysis asserting the “unambiguous purpose” of the law, “is the disclosure of public records even though such disclosure may cause inconvenience or embarrassment.”
She agreed that UK had violated the law by not keeping minutes. “There appears to be some intent on the part of the University to mislead the public about the nature of the ... ‘dinner’ meeting, implying that it was merely a social event,” she wrote.
Goodwine also wrote that UK’s contention that discussions with attorneys, even when no litigation is involved, can be claimed as privileged is “contrary to the plain language of the Open Meetings Act and would entirely subvert the act’s important purpose of preserving government accountability and transparency.”
The details of what went wrong in this deal may well be inconvenient and embarrassing for some at UK and KMSF. But, as Goodwine’s strong words indicate, that’s not a good enough reason to continue the expensive legal battle to keep them secret.
The public has a lot of skin in this $5 million mistake, and the right to know what happened. The UK board must tell the administration to open the records.
Daily News of Bowling Green on Gov. Matt Bevin announcing he won’t attend this year’s Fancy Farm picnic:
Since 1880, politicians and voters have flocked to western Kentucky for the Fancy Farm picnic.
It’s an old tradition in our state for politicians from both sides of the aisle to take political potshots at their opponents and other members of their party. Hundreds of people from all over the state and elsewhere travel there, not just for the delicious barbecue and the lovely atmosphere, but also to heckle the politicians on stage in the early August heat.
Anyone who has been to Fancy Farm knows it is a very fun-filled event that might get personal among politicians on the stage, where emotions can run a little high sometimes. But at the end of the day, it’s all in good fun and a wonderful fundraiser for St. Jerome Parish.
Politicians in Frankfort and Kentucky’s delegation in Washington, D.C., know that Fancy Farm always occurs on the first Saturday in August. Knowing this, politicians have a full year to keep their calendars clear for this annual event.
It is obviously a politician’s prerogative to not attend the annual event, but when a top lawmaker such as an attorney general or governor chooses not to attend the event, they deserve to be called out for it — especially after he or she previously made fun of someone for not attending the event.
Gov. Matt Bevin has announced that he will not attend this year’s Fancy Farm, citing a “previously scheduled commitment.” This is obviously Bevin’s right as he is the highest officer in the state, but his heated words in 2016 about Democrats who skipped Fancy Farm make our governor look somewhat hypocritical. In criticizing Democrats, Bevin said, “If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch.”
Words have consequences. Bevin’s top political adversary in Frankfort, Attorney General Andy Beshear, has announced he will attend the annual event after skipping it last year to attend his children’s play. While this newspaper doesn’t particularly agree with Beshear over his politics and the numerous lawsuits he’s filed against Bevin, we give him credit for attending the event.
Whatever Beshear says against Bevin will go unanswered, since the governor will not be attending. That is why we urge Bevin to reconsider his planned absence from Fancy Farm. Bevin is quick on his feet and we believe he would hold his own against Beshear. Bevin owes it not only to himself, but to those who helped put him in office, to return the slings and arrows from Beshear in kind. At the end of the day, it would show the voters he can handle the heat.
As governor, Bevin is the top dog. As top dog, we believe he should be speaking at Fancy Farm on the first Saturday in August.