Last week, B&P took a deeper look at, among other things, the campaign money that funded Phil Moffett’s victory in the 32nd House district GOP primary. At issue (in part) was whether Moffett, a prominent Tea Party leader, chose to remain neutral in the divisive Republican Senate Primary between Mitch McConnell and Tea Party candidate Matt Bevin because of the money that was funding his campaign.
Moffett was running against the most recent previous head of the Jefferson County GOP, the largest county Republican party in the state, and even though he was out raised and outspent by $8,000, Moffett won. Setting aside the $7,000 he gave himself, a third of Moffett’s campaign haul came from a trio of people who are extraordinarily close to the Mitch McConnell — Terry Forcht & associates, David Jones Sr., Cathy Bailey.
Forcht is the banker for Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, Jones is a longtime McConnell backer and funder, and Bailey was head of McConnell’s 2008 campaign and maintains very close ties to McConnell’s current campaign (meaning: her husband, Irv is heading up McConnell’s campaign committee). Together, those three gave a third of Moffett’s money.
There is, of course, more where that came from – including $2,000 from Sharon and William Flowers (Sharon’s already maxed out to McConnell in the Senate race); another $2,000 from Jim and Dorothy Patterson who’ve both heavily funded Mitch McConnell over the years, along with maxing out to Moffett’s Republican gubernatorial opponent in 2011.
There seems to be a very clear tie between top McConnell contributors and Phil Moffett’s Tea Party candidacy against an establishment GOP official in a contested State House primary during a divisive US Senate primary in which, it is obvious, the McConnell campaign was going out of its way to woo, coerce or coddle Tea Party forces within the state and nationally either into their camp or onto the sidelines. In Moffett’s case, he stayed very, very quiet on the sidelines, even as most of the rest of Kentucky’s Tea Partiers sided vocally with Matt Bevin.
On election night, Moffett’s victory over an establishment Republican was one of the only bright spots for the Tea Party in the primary.
There are many explanations, of course, but so far, Moffett never replied to B&P’s request for comment (sent before we published the previous article)… but he did talk to WFPL’s Phillip Bailey — or, more specifically, yelled at him and then hung up the phone. Here’s WFPL’s report from last week:
Kentucky state House candidate Phil Moffett said leading up to the May primary he was approached by both the McConnell and businessman Matt Bevin’s campaign for an endorsement.
Moffett remained neutral in the contest, but would not disclose who from either side approached him at that time. He also bristled at questions if money played a role in staying out of the Bevin-McConnell contest.
“Good lord,” he said. “Are you kidding me? This is ridiculous. You’re above this. You think for some reason I’ve been offered a bribe? That’s silly.”
The liberal-leaning news site, Barefoot and Progressive, focused one of its reports on Moffett for receiving hefty donations from Terry Forcht, the head of the Lexington-based Forcht Group, during his Republican primary race this year.
Forcht is among the top funders of McConnell’s campaigns and the contribution was seen as a big catch for Moffett, who defeated a more establishment candidate in May. He hung up with a reporter before being asked if the Forcht donation encouraged him to remain neutral in the Senate primary.
“Why would anybody care about my race, it’s a House race,” said Moffett. “This is silly, of course not. Who’s putting you on this kind of bull—? This is just crazy and it’s a waste of your time and mine.”
There’s a lot to ponder in that from Moffett, but perhaps the first question is his: “Why would anybody care about my race?”
And yet… some of Mitch McConnell’s heaviest funders, including three who are tied very closely to his campaign, gave big to Phil Moffett. Why did they care about his race?
To put Moffett’s response in a larger perspective, consider what InsiderLouisville’s Joey “Beans” Sonka learned when he spoke with John Kemper:
John Kemper — another Tea Party activist who was the Republican nominee for state auditor in 2011 — also told Insider that offers of future support were made to several in return for supporting McConnell or butting out of the race entirely, but he heard of nothing as “blatant” as the Sorenson payoff.
“There were people on the GOP side who played ball with McConnell not because they wanted to, but so they could do what they wanted to do in the future,” says Kemper.
Asked if he ever was offered anything by people close to McConnell, Kemper answered, “I’ll take the fifth on that.” He later added that because of the titles of those who talked to him, he believed they would have had the power to follow through on promises. Kemper says he chose not to play ball like unnamed others did because he was unwilling to compromise his beliefs for personal gain.
“If you wanted to go down that route, it’s only a matter of time before they take that away from you eventually,” said Kemper. “The more I’m around politics the more I learn about how people use power for their own gain. It’s disheartening that what should be an arena of ideas is all about their own power.”
To be perfectly clear, this type of behavior is not new in politics. It actually is politics. Kemper is correct that if money were given to Tea Party candidates in the form of campaign contributions, either now or in future races, there would be nothing untoward in that and it does not rise to level of what is alleged to have happened between Kent Sorenson and Mitch McConnell’s now-former campaign staff in Iowa in 2012. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with it. But if what Kemper describes is what Moffett took part in — and the description is not dissimilar — it does illuminate some of what the McConnell campaign was up to… and it may ultimately play into the 32nd District State House race.
There, Moffett is running against a strong Democrat, Ashley Miller, and the race is expected to be close. With control of the Kentucky state house in the balance, it would be amusing if the presence of Karl Rove’s banker helped to swing the election in Miller’s favor, and more amusing if what appears to be the McConnell campaign’s special interest in this race ended up costing the state Republicans control of the House — but in the end, Republicans in the State of Kentucky already know one overriding truth: the only thing that matters to Mitch McConnell is Mitch McConnell, and if he can win while they lose… he won’t be shedding any tears for them.