Criticisms of Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer and his use of state money continue despite him donating portions of his salary to charity.
On Tuesday, Farmer, who is running for lieutenant governor in the Republican primary, apologized for refusing to participate in furlough days, which helped fill the state’s budget deficit.
The Kentucky Democratic Party is pleased with that decision, but has ratcheted up its rhetoric that the former Mr. Basketball reimburse the state for spending over $1,500 for a four-night stay at a luxury hotel during a basketball tournament.
Democratic Party spokesman Matt Erwin says everyone in state government is making sacrifices and Farmer should return that money as well.
“It’s inappropriate for a steward of the taxpayer’s money to be spending $359 a night in a hotel that’s 28 miles from their house,” he says. “It’s an irresponsible use of money, it’s a foolish use of state resources and we do not think that Kentucky taxpayers should be holding the bill.”
In March, Farmer’s office spent $1,576 for him to stay at the Lexington Hilton during the Sweet 16 boys’ basketball tournament. Farmer has defended the expenses, saying he was promoting “Kentucky Proud”, a program that encourages citizens to buy local food products.
Farmer is running with state Senate President David Williams in the May 17 primary.
The campaign has not returned a request for comment.
The Williams campaign sent the following statement saying that Farmer’s expenses were justified while taking some jabs at Gov. Steve Beshear in the process.
From campaign manager Scott Jennings:
The Kentucky Proud Program is one of the most successful economic development programs in state history. A UK study showed that for every one dollar invested in it about $5 has come back to our farm economy. Clearly, the marketing strategy—the sponsorships, earned media, Richie’s appearances—are working!
Can we say the same for Steve Beshear’s economic development efforts? I’d argue he has spent far more and has clearly been less effective than Richie Farmer has been with Kentucky Proud. This program has generated millions of dollars inside our farm economy, it has really boosted and perhaps saved family farms, and is even now moving inside our school system. I think 60 systems are now involved in using Kentucky Proud products.
The bottom line is Steve Beshear has no agenda and no plan to improve the state’s economy. His only strategy is to smear, obfuscate, and distract…all in the hopes people will be fooled by these ridiculous attacks. I’ve got news for him—it ain’t going to work.