February 20, 2007

City Strobe

Henry, Trouble still close personal friendsDemocratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Henry is no stranger to controversy. The former lieutenant governor to sex-scandal-plagued Paul Patton had to pay the federal government $162,000 in 2003 to settle a lawsuit claiming he’d fraudulently billed the government for Medicare and Medicaid payments while working at the University of Louisville. Now the media (WHAS-TV reporter Mark Hebert broke the story) is picking up on Henry’s latest apparent foible: raising and spending campaign money in a way that might be illegal.Henry set up an exploratory committee in 2003 to contemplate making a 2008 run for Sen. Mitch McConnell’s seat, and used it to raise money until October, which was well after he began telling people — including reporters — that he wanted to run for governor. Some who donated money to his campaign are claiming Henry told them he’d set up an exploratory committee for governor, which is illegal in Kentucky. A former Henry staffer, Leslie Holland, emerged to tell Hebert that she was paid out of money he’d raised in the Senate account. Henry denies this; Holland basically called Henry a liar. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported over the weekend that Henry received four contributions from companies and nine checks of $4,000 or more; the former is flat-out illegal, while the latter exceeds the amount one is allowed to donate to a campaign. The chairman of the Senate state government committee, Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, told the AP he thinks Henry violated at least the spirit of the law. Henry collected about $200,000 in his Senate exploratory account, according to Hebert’s report. He said he spent about $25,000 of that and plans to refund the rest.Meanwhile, Henry appears to be the frontrunner in the seven-deep field of the Democratic primary. According to last week’s Bluegrass State Poll, conducted by The Courier-Journal, Henry has the most name recognition (59 percent) and the highest favorability rating (46 percent) among registered voters. —Stephen GeorgeFrequent Feiler milesQuick, match this list of famous Biblical sites with their claim to fame:A)Mount Ararat in Turkey B) Palestinian territories C) Israel D) Egypt E) Sinai F) Mount Nebo in Jordan1) Moses overlooked Promised Land here; 2) patriarchs traversed through here 3); Abraham buried wife here; 4) Noah’s Ark thought to have landed here after flood; 5) Israelites fled here from bondage; 6) Joseph rose from slavery here.Now imagine traveling to these sites. Bruce Feiler, author of noted books such as “Walking the Bible” and “Abraham,” did, and he chronicled the journey in his latest book, “Where God Was Born,” which critics have described as an archeological detective story coupled with a personal spiritual journey. In the new book, Feiler, who is lauded for his work in uniting Muslims, Christians and Jews, takes readers to biblical sites unseen by Westerners for many decades.He’ll be in Louisville Tuesday night at 7 p.m. to discuss his work. The free event takes place at the Cathedral of the Assumption, 433 S. Fifth St., and it’s co-sponsored by the Center for Interfaith Relations and Carmichael’s Bookstore. For more information, call 896-6950. —Cary Stemle (Answers: 1-F, 2-C, 3-B, 4-A, 5-E, 6-D)Republicans squelch Iraq debate, Peoples’ voice once againLast week on Capitol Hill, House Democrats — with the help of a few Republicans — passed a nonbinding resolution opposing President Bush’s plans to send 21,500 more American troops into the civil war his preemptive war doctrine started in Iraq. The resolution was largely symbolic, as it didn’t hold the president to anything; it was meant to send a message, based largely on the overwhelming voter opposition to the Iraq war showcased by November’s historic elections, where both houses of Congress flipped to Democratic majorities. The message: The People don’t buy the president’s war anymore. Well, Mitch McConnell doesn’t care what the people think when it comes to Iraq. The senior U.S. senator from Kentucky, who is Senate Minority Leader, orchestrated a take-down in the Senate to stop debate on the resolution, failing by a mere four votes. The soft-spoken McConnell, who doesn’t have any children to send into the Middle East meatgrinder, is known to work well behind the scenes; this move drew criticism even from uber-conservative columnist Robert Novak, who said (through an interpreter; it’s not clear Novak is actually human) it made the Republicans look like obstructionists. Louisville’s freshman House rep, Democrat John Yarmuth, voted for the resolution, offering a speech on the House floor last Thursday that called for some sanity from the administration (and the majority of Congressional Republicans) on Iraq. “Tomorrow we will be voting on what may be only a non-binding resolution, but it is a resounding and unequivocal expression of the national will,” Yarmuth said. “This is not simply a group of Congressmen and women explaining their votes; it is the echo of an overwhelming majority of Americans who are demanding a new direction in Iraq. It is the sound of scores of people like me, who were sent here by citizens to turn the ship of state around.” Kentucky’s 4th District U.S. rep, Republican Geoff Davis, exemplified one-half of the Republican point of view on the resolution with this, from his House floor speech: “This non-binding resolution serves no purpose other than pacifying the Democrats’ political base and lowering morale in our military.” The other half of their argument says the resolution is weak and meaningless, which stands in stark contrast to the fear-mongering that claims the resolution would undermine the military’s mission, lower soldier morale and give comfort to the enemy. Some Congressional Democrats have since said they intend to find another way to block Bush’s plan, perhaps by cutting off funding for the surge. Here’s to hoping for some guts … finally … on Iraq. —Stephen GeorgeMitch to party on with the Pres LEO noted recent chatter about an impending trip to River City by President Bush and, after calling a few Republicans, learned the commander-in-chief is tentatively scheduled for a March 2 fundraiser for Sen. Mitch’s 2008 Senate campaign. Staff at Sen. McConnell’s offices here and in Washington, D.C., would neither confirm nor deny reports about the event and referred LEO to the White House, which also took the coy approach. In 2002, McConnell’s campaign raised nearly $6 million, according to The Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan, non-profit research group. While the Kentucky Democrats do not yet have a candidate for the race, Allison Haley, the party’s communications director, says she “guarantees we’re gong to field an excellent candidate.” Party on. — Elizabeth Kramer Get your daily Strobe at The Lip: LEO’s News Blog, at www.leoweekly.com. 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