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Bevin Launches Corruption Probe Of Former Administration (Updated)

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Gov. Matt Bevin is ordering his finance secretary and a private law firm to launch an investigation into his predecessor’s administration, alleging it allowed an atmosphere of greed and corruption to flourish.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday morning, the Republican painted a troubling picture of former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear’s tenure – drawing a straight line to Beshear’s son, the current Attorney General.

"We have learned through a U.S. Department of Justice press conference and media reports that the 'pay to play' method of conducting government was alive and well at the very highest levels of the past administration," the governor read from a prepared statement. "This method of government must stop."

According to Bevin, a growing chorus of state employees is complaining they were pressured to donate to Democratic campaigns, including the younger Beshear’s 2015 run for office. Tim Longmeyer, a former Beshear staffer accused of taking thousands of dollars in kickbacks, recently resigned from a deputy post in the Attorney General's office. Bevin said evidence exists linking Longmeyer’s “ill-gotten gains” to Beshear campaign coffers and he's calling on the top law enforcement official to return the funds.

Addressing state workers, Bevin said, "Your job does not require a political contribution from this administration or at any time in the future."

In addition, the governor questioned some no-bid contracts and benefits awarded under former administration.

The announcement turns up the heat on an already fraught political relationship. Bevin and the Attorney General are locked in a court battle over the governor's controversial mid-year cuts to state public colleges and universities. Meanwhile, former Gov. Beshear has launched a campaign to save kynect, the health insurance exchange that he created, while Bevin works to dismantle the portal.

Update (1:42 PM): Attorney General Andy Beshear has released the following statement:

"As the head of an office that is statutorily charged with investigating allegations of corruption, I agree that issues such as no-bid contracts should be carefully scrutinized, including the two no-bid contracts totaling $4 million awarded by the Bevin administration in its first three months. The appropriate agency, however, for investigating the governor’s allegations is the Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission, an independent agency, and not a cabinet that answers to the governor. The governor is once again overstating his authority under state law (KRS chapter 45). Spending taxpayer money on an outside contract when such allegations should be sent to the commission is wasteful.

"Over the last three weeks, I have stood before the public and answered any and every question regarding Mr. Longmeyer. United States Attorney Kerry Harvey has definitively stated to the public and the press that there was no involvement by me or my office. The sworn affidavit in that case also found there was no knowledge by any campaign related to any contributions. My campaign is awaiting a routine audit by the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, and will then donate any remaining funds to Common Cause, a government watchdog organization."

Update (3:42 PM): Former Gov. Steve Beshear has also released a statement:

"At some point, Matt Bevin has to realize there is a time to campaign and a time to govern.  Attacking me in an effort to distract the public from his Benefind debacle and his plan to strip away healthcare from hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians will not work. Today's accusations, which have absolutely no basis in truth, continue this pathetic spectacle.  There was never any attempt to pressure employees to make political contributions, and we followed both the spirit and the letter of procurement laws.  Furthermore, I made my tax returns public all eight years I was governor, something Gov. Bevin refuses to do even after promising to do so.  Kentuckians deserve better."

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.