Ethics Questions About State Lobbyists Remain Unanswered

The question of whether a registered lobbyist can serve on Kentucky’s State Board of Elections remains unresolved.

Stephen Huffman is a registered lobbyist for HCM Governmental Relations in Lexington.  Last year, he was appointed by Gov. Steve Beshear to the State Board of Elections.  Executive Branch Ethics Commission Director John Steffen says the appointment creates a conflict of interest, because Huffman works for an entity that lobbies the executive branch, including the governor

“We have addressed those type of conflicts by basically saying we can’t tell you want to do in your private capacity, but we can say you’re going to have to recuse so much in your official capacity,” says Steffen “that your service is basically rendered meaningless on the board.”

But the ethics commission voted to defer any action on the matter, because no one has publicly complained about Huffman’s service on the Board of Elections.

The ethics questions raised about the presence of a registered lobbyist on Kentucky’s State Board of Elections won’t be resolved.  The Executive Branch Ethics Commission deferred action on the matter, because no one has filed a public complaint about Steven Huffman’s service on the elections board.  After the vote, member David Denton admitted the ethics commission basically punted.

“I think we have just kicked the can down the road, but nonetheless,” Denton says “at least we can be addressing a concern that comes from someone that we’re looking over, as opposed to just putting it out ourselves.”

Ethics Commission Director John Steffen had raised the conflict of interest issue because Steven Huffman works for H-C-M Governmental Relations in Lexington, which lobbies the executive branch of government, including the governor who appointed Huffman.

By Tony McVeigh

Veteran broadcast journalist Tony McVeigh has been covering Kentucky politics since 1986, reporting for Clear Channel Communications before joining Kentucky Public Radio in 2004. His stories are aired by seven KPR affiliates, whose signals blanket the Commonwealth and parts of surrounding states. McVeigh began his broadcasting career at WRFC in Athens, Georgia, while earning a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Georgia. He has extensive anchor/reporter experience, including stints with South Carolina Network and Georgia Radio News Service in Atlanta. In 2007 and 2008, McVeigh was named Best Radio Reporter in the Kentucky Associated Press Awards. He also picked up consecutive AP Awards for Best Political Coverage. McVeigh won four Kentucky AP Awards in 2009, six in 2010 - including Best Political Coverage and Best Hard News Feature - and three in 2011. His coverage of the 2007 Kentucky governor's race topped the Political Reporting category of the Society of Professional Journalists Green Eyeshade Awards of 2008. In 2009, McVeigh placed second in Courts and Law Reporting in the Atlanta-based competition for journalists in 11 Southern states. McVeigh is also the proud recipient of an Individual Liberty Award from the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. The Brunswick, Georgia, native is a die-hard UGA football fan who enjoys photography, astronomy, live music, hiking Kentucky's Red River Gorge and exploring the state's beautiful back roads. McVeigh and his big, fat, black cat Simon, reside in Frankfort, KY.