Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear

Anne M. Eberhardt

Beshear Sticks With Gambling Amendment Plan

Defends Republican senator accused of having a conflict of interest.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said Jan. 31 he expects a casino gambling amendment to be introduced “in a few days,” and again accused Republican Sen. President David Williams of attempting to derail the process.

Beshear, a Democrat, made the comments in an interview with the Associated Press. He claimed Williams is “intimidating senators, including some in his own party”—a reference to Republican Sen. Damon Thayer, who worked with the governor on the casino amendment language and said he probably will introduce the bill in the Senate.

Thayer, who chairs the Senate State and Local Government Committee, was the subject of a Jan. 31 Lexington Herald-Leader article in which the Rev. Hershael York, a friend of Williams, criticized Thayer for not revealing the clients for whom he consults. Thayer, a former racetrack and Breeders’ Cup executive, does some work for horse industry clients.

Beshear said Thayer has no conflict of interest on the gaming legislation. He said Kentucky has a part-time legislature, and many lawmakers have full-time jobs in fields such as teaching or law that overlap with legislation.

Beshear said Thayer, who has come under fire from the horse industry in previous years, has “demonstrated time and time again he is a person of integrity.” He called the comments from York a “cheap shot.”

Thayer has successfully sponsored horse industry-related bills in the past, including one that created the Kentucky Breeders' Incentive Fund, but never was publicly accused of having a conflict of interest despite his consulting business.

Thayer told The Blood-Horse Jan. 30 he wouldn’t comment on the status of the gambling amendment until a later date. He did, however, comment on the latest developments on his page the evening of Jan. 31.

“My interest in the gaming issue is based solely on my strong belief that the people of Kentucky—after decades of debate—deserve to make the final decision," Thayer said in his statement. "Once and for all, the people—not the politicians—deserve to decide whether Kentucky will pursue expanded gaming.

“I do public relations and marketing work for private companies that don’t have lobbyists. They are simply businesses that need services in my area of expertise. I am a part-time legislator who, like most of my colleagues, has a regular job outside of politics.

My line of work in no way affects my legislative activities or political principles. I have filed all of the required paperwork with the Legislative Ethics Commission and pride myself on following all laws, regulations, and disclosure requirements. I have a strong record of fighting for transparency in government and campaigns, and I will continue to fight for those principles.

"These attacks on my character and integrity are unwarranted. I think it is clear that most people in Kentucky want to vote on this long-debated issue, and I am proud to help facilitate that desire.”

Williams and Beshear have gone back and forth verbally since last November, when Beshear defeated him by about 20 points in the race for governor. Williams has repeatedly said he wouldn’t stand in the way of a General Assembly vote on a constitutional amendment.

Beshear said a delay in the filing deadline for the 2012 general election could push back introduction of the gambling amendment because some lawmakers may be hesitant to vote on it before the filing deadline.