In an op-ed dated May 2, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear demonstrated both breathtaking hypocrisy and a fundamental lack of comprehension of Kentucky law. Beshear suggests that the Bevin administration should stop defending the Commonwealth in court against a judgment that, unless overturned, will cost Kentucky tens of millions of dollars not appropriated in the current budget. The lawsuit concerns the state’s termination of kinship care, which was a program that paid relatives to look after children who would otherwise go into the state foster care system. The Attorney General misleads readers by ignoring the fact that the lawsuit in question was filed well before Governor Bevin took office. Even worse, the Attorney General fails to mention that the lawsuit arose out of decisions made by former Governor Steve Beshear…his father.
Perhaps the numerous scandals in Attorney General Beshear’s first 16 months in office have distracted and prevented the younger Beshear from understanding basic facts about the case. Beshear’s handpicked Deputy Attorney General is now a federal inmate serving a seven-year sentence for taking kickbacks from government contracts and fleecing Kentucky taxpayers out of millions of dollars. After 25 years of government service, a well-respected legal expert on government transparency quit the Attorney General’s office after she complained that Beshear often put political considerations above the law. More recently, a state judge refused to dismiss a sexual discrimination lawsuit filed against Beshear by a former female attorney in the Attorney General’s office. There are several other scandals and embarrassments for the Attorney General as well.
In any event, Beshear needs a history lesson. In April 2013, due to a projected budget shortfall of approximately $86 million, Governor Beshear directed the Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) to implement a moratorium on new kinship care approvals. This action by Governor Beshear was accomplished through the enactment of a regulation that carries the weight of law. In 2015, a plaintiff who would have potentially received benefits under the old kinship program sued Governor Beshear’s administration.
Oddly enough, I don’t recall Andy Beshear arguing that his father should have dropped the state’s defense of the lawsuit back then. But then again, Andy Beshear would probably not be Attorney General today without his father’s help raising $3 million for his campaign in 2014 and 2015.
The Beshear administration defended the case and won in the federal district court. Subsequently, the federal court of appeals reversed the district court. In response, Governor Bevin is doing what he is constitutionally obligated to do: defending Kentucky law by asking the Supreme Court to reverse the court of appeals.
Finding a loving home for every child in the state’s foster care system is a top goal of the Bevin Administration. Governor Bevin passionately supports extended family members who step up to provide primary care for those children who need it. That’s why, in 2016, he sought funding that would allow the kinship care program to be reinstated. Unfortunately, after a thorough and thoughtful review, and in a very challenging budget year, that funding did not materialize. In that same year, Governor Bevin requested budget cuts throughout state government that would have freed up dollars for important programs like kinship care. Those cuts included a voluntary 4.5 percent budget reduction from all constitutional officers. Unsurprisingly, Attorney General Beshear was the only statewide-elected official that refused to participate.
Attorney General Beshear even goes so far as to criticize the Bevin Administration for the law firm “hired” to defend Kentucky against the lawsuit as it moves through the courts, failing to mention the firm is representing Kentucky at no cost to the taxpayer. Meanwhile, despite the fact that his office has more than 80 taxpayer-funded attorneys, Beshear testified recently that he needed the authority to pay fees in excess of $20 million for outside law firms.
For Beshear to lambast the Bevin administration for a moratorium his father’s administration implemented and defended in court is the height of hypocrisy. The Attorney General, of all people, should have an understanding of Governor Bevin’s obligation to uphold Kentucky law. Former Governor Beshear’s moratorium is current law. One would like to think that the Commonwealth’s Attorney General would be above writing such an inaccurate and misleading op-ed attacking a governor who is actually trying to make our foster care system better for Kentucky children and their families. Apparently, that is not the case.