Louisville businessman Ed Hart says Mayor Greg Fischer misled donors about how their contributions to his inauguration were spent, according to documents filed with the Kentucky Registry of Election.
The paperwork was submitted to the state agency a month after an initial complaint was filed by Metro Council candidate Curtis Morrison. The case alleges Fischer pulled a “bait and switch” by soliciting funds for last year’s mayoral inauguration, then using them to help retire his personal campaign debt.
Attorney Jennifer Moore, who is representing Fischer, said in a response to Morrison’s complaint that all of the checks were deposited and reported properly. Moore points out that Hart and others made their checks payable to “Greg Fischer for Mayor” and not the inaugural celebration.
In a letter to the mayor and KREF officials, however, Hart wrote he was told to do that by the mayor’s campaign staff and is disappointed Fischer is misleading the public.
“Rather than admitting our contributions were used for the wrong purpose—whether unintentionally or not—you have instead mounted a spurious defense to a complaint on this matter,” he says. “Essentially, your defense consists of accusing me and the seven other individuals in our group of donors of not telling the truth.”
Hart has sent the state campaign finance agency a timeline of events and several exhibits, including e-mail messages between the group of donors and the mayor’s campaign fundraiser, Tommy Elliott, who instructed them to write checks to the campaign instead of the inauguration.
“Although our checks were written after the inauguration was held, because we had been listed as host sponsors in the official inauguration program, we had no reason to believe that our contributions were not going to be used for their intended purpose,” says Hart.
KREF has not scheduled a hearing on the issue.
For the past month, Fischer has been heavily criticized for accepting donations to pay off his nearly $250,000 in campaign debt while in office. The controversy has included the mayor accepting funds from lobbyists who represent Insight Communications, a cable company that is currently in tough negotiations with Metro Government over a franchise agreement.
In an interview with WFPL last month, the mayor said the matter has been transparent and legal, adding he will continue to raise the funds despite growing criticism.
“Obviously I’ve decided that’s fine. It’s certainly permissible. If there are any conflicts of interest there we won’t accept the money associated with those funds,” said Fischer.