John Cheves

KRS and Beshear, facts and spin, smoke and fire

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May 27, 2011

Ever since John Cheves’ story on Tuesday about former KRS head Mike Burnside claiming that Gov. Steve Beshear set up two business meetings with KRS and political supporters, both sides of the aisle have been in overdrive spinning it.

One side says that this is corruption of Nixonian proportions and Team Beshear eventually will have to resign or go to jail. The other side says that Mike Burnside is just a disgruntled employee who went out to the press to smear Beshear, doing a sloppy job trying to paint him as an unethical crook. I’ve been trying to shift through this spin over the last few days, because I honestly didn’t know what to make of it.

Well, here are my thoughts. First of all, the charge that Mike Burnside is just a disgruntled employee looking to smear the man who fired him in the media by pushing this story is false. Burnside did not contact John Cheves, John Cheves contacted him. Cheves asked him about those meetings, which he learned from elsewhere, and Burnside answered. Burnside may very well be “disgruntled”, but he’s not shopping this story around to Kentucky media. Burnside may very well have been neck deep in shady practices at KRS, but he only answered the questions asked of him. So a large part of this KDP spin is off base.

On the other hand, there truly is nothing “criminal” that Burnside has revealed in the story (nor did Cheves intend it to be perceived that way, I’m guessing). However, it is kind of shady, perhaps unethical, and does lead to suspicions of what else might have been happening behind the scenes that we don’t know about. Especially since Burnside just answered what was asked of him. But at this point, it’s just that: suspicions.

There is little doubt in my mind that there is a raging fire deep in the belly of Kentucky Retirement Systems, and that it has been burning for a long time now. We’ve been starting to detect the smoke through stories over the last year, and Cheves’ story this week provided a better view of it (the revolving door with lobbyists, political ops, and favors). But at this point, the only people that are going to find out where the fire started and by whom are the SEC, Crit Luallen and Billy Joel. Who’s the villain? Beshear? Fletcher? Burnside? Riddle? Many others? All of the above? Don’t know. The only thing I’m nearly certain of is that something is there, and somebody’s going down. And until then, the spin will most definitely continue.

Jim Bunning: pathetic con man

December 20, 2008

John Cheves once again showing why he’s the best journalist in Kentucky.

U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., set up a charitable foundation in 1996, the year he entered baseball’s Hall of Fame. Every year since, he has been the fund’s biggest recipient.

The non-profit Jim Bunning Foundation, which collects the money the former pitcher gets from autographing baseball memorabilia, has taken in more than $504,000, Senate and tax records show.

Of that, Bunning has earned $180,000 in salary for working a reported hour a week.

By contrast, the foundation has given $136,435, or about one-fourth of its income, to churches and charitable groups around Northern Kentucky. The largest sums went to local Catholic churches Bunning has attended.

Records show that Bunning is the foundation’s sole employee and the only person to draw a paycheck from it.

Conway 2010, baby…

Read Cheves

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November 2, 2008

John Cheves has a great article up that you should go read. Of particular note is the observation that North Carolina’s demographics have changed (i.e., smarter), hence Obama and Kagan’s lead in the polls right now.

True, yet I’d say the competence of the state party leadership is a big factor at play…

Mitch McConnell is starting to look like Tippi Hedren

October 16, 2008

Mitch McConnell has already been haunted by a giant chicken this week.

Now… it’s a vulture.

Welcome to Mitch McConnell’s Hitchcock Nightmare:

“The Vulture” is a top McConnell supporter


The third-largest campaign donor for Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is a $14 billion New York City hedge-fund firm led by a man — nicknamed “the Vulture” — who squeezes distressed companies and countries for their last dollars, and who boasted that the current U.S. economic crisis is “the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Paul E. Singer and his employees at Elliott Management gave $87,500 to McConnell’s campaign as of June 30, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. They gave at least $66,000 more to McConnell’s political action committee, called Bluegrass PAC.


McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, supported much of the agenda for which records show that Elliott lobbied Congress, including limits on the damages injured people can recover when they sue corporations; new bankruptcy rules making it harder for people to escape debt; and a bar against higher taxes for wealthy hedge fund managers.

Elliott spokesman Scott Tagliarino said Wednesday that the company did not want to discuss its relationship with McConnell.

“No, we would have no comment,” Tagliarino said.

The McConnell campaign did not return calls Wednesday.


Looking for losers

Although he is reclusive and seldom gives interviews, Singer talked at length for a profile in Bloomberg Markets magazine last February.

In that interview, Singer said he had been making a fortune off of the collapsing American economy by buying credit-default swaps tied to the debt of big banks, including Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase.

Singer said that, beyond the housing crisis, he looked forward to a wave of corporate bankruptcies across the United States during the next two years, which would allow him to move in and pick off the remains cheaply.

“Our primary goal is to find bankruptcy situations where our ability to control or influence the process is the driver of value,” Singer told the magazine. “That’s our favorite.”

There also is more money to be made in the failure of subprime loans that helped trigger the housing crisis, Singer added.

“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime,” he said.

Let’s rev up that new campaign ad, Lunsford Camp!!!

(also, who is going to snatch up rising star investigative reporter John Cheves? NYT? WaPo? The New Yorker? The guy is an absolute pro and should be able to work wherever he wants in the coming years…)

Crit Luallen, superhero

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August 18, 2008

What John Cheves is to journalism, Crit Luallen is to Frankfort. They both seek out corruption, and then stomp it into a million pieces.

Fitting that Cheves would write this big profile of Crit in Sunday’s Herald-Leader. Here’s a taste, but you should read the whole thing.

Luallen’s auditors return to the same counties year after year – sometimes with FBI agents or state police to protect them from local hostility – as voters replace the old crooks with new crooks.

Her work helped convict Knott County’s judge-executive for corruption. But he hangs onto his job as he awaits sentencing. His predecessor, Donnie Newsome, himself the subject of scathing audits, kept his $67,000-a-year post while in prison for corruption. Citizens gave him a hero’s welcome on his release, with a honking motorcade to escort him back into Hindman.

The legwork for Luallen’s audits is done in the field by accountants like Bobby Bowling, her lead auditor for southeastern Kentucky, where corruption seems ingrained.

Bowling flatters, cajoles and leans on officials to get them to hand over financial records that could incriminate them – assuming they maintain any records, or haven’t altered or destroyed them, as they sometimes do. (By law, they must document their spending, and they must open their books to auditors – but there’s the law and there’s reality.)

Not everyone is a fan of oversight. In 2006, Knox County Judge-Executive Raymond Smith indignantly compared Luallen’s auditors to ”Nazi storm troopers assaulting a Jewish community in World War II.“

This year, Smith pleaded guilty to fraud for falsifying records to conceal the county business he kicked to himself and his family. Luallen’s audits caught him.

When he’s stonewalled, the resourceful Bowling goes hunting for documents at banks, vendors and others with whom officials do public business. He chats up secretaries and janitors, folks who overhear things.

”If the people responsible for the problems you’re looking at are still there and in charge of everything, it can get pretty hostile,“ Bowling said. ”You always hope when new people get in that it will change things. But it hasn’t happened yet.“

When scum of the earth like Raymond Smith compare you to Hitler, you know you’re doing something right.


July 17, 2008

A day after indicting great investigative reporters like John Cheves as amateurs, Bluegrass Report comes up with the self-described earth-shattering expose that David Williams is corrupt and there are shenanigans in KY Transportation contracts.


In other news, Jim Gooch is a tool of King Coal. And the sky is blue.

John Cheves could do this blindfolded with his right arm tied behind his back before breakfast.

(and what’s up with the Houchens worship?)

(and to clarify, not saying this is a bad post at all, but what’s with all that ridiculous hyperbole preceding it???)




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