Gov. Matt Bevin has a credibility problem of his own making.
Bevin too often retreats to "trust me" when questions arise that he doesn't want to answer.
Most recently, his administration has remained mum on a deal that appears to have netted him a $3 million home on 10 acres in one of Louisville's priciest suburbs for the bargain price of $1.6 million.
Although both parties in the transaction are limited liability companies, the selling LLC in this special transaction was owned by Bevin supporter Neil Ramsey, whom Bevin appointed to the board of the Kentucky Retirement Systems last summer when he overhauled that body. Ramsey and his wife gave Bevin's campaign and the Republican Party in Kentucky a total of $24,000 in 2015 and 2016, plus another $15,000 toward Bevin's inauguration, according to reporting by the The Courier-Journal's Tom Loftus. While it appears the Bevin family has moved into the home, the purchaser is Anchorage Place LLC, whose ownership is not identified in public records.
So, to recap: Ramsey supports Bevin's bid for governor; once elected, Bevin appoints Ramsey, the president of an investment company, to a board that oversees $16 billion in investments; Ramsey then sells a home he's restored that's on the tax rolls for $3 million for just over half that value, apparently to Bevin.
A reporter got wind of this, was told the Bevins had moved to Anchorage, checked the transactions in the property records, drove to the Louisville suburb and was met by a state trooper who is a member of the governor's security detail. But neither the trooper nor the governor's office nor Neil Ramsey would verify that the Bevin family lives there now, nor respond to telephone calls or questions (when put directly in person) about the transaction.
Why does this matter? As one online commenter snarled, "I suppose buying a new house now somehow is a capital offense." Of course it's not. Governor or not, Bevin doesn't need public consent to buy and sell houses and move his family as he chooses.
But, when a governor gets what seems to be a very special deal from an investment professional he has appointed to a very powerful position with control over billions in investments, it is the public's business.
Unfortunately, this secrecy has become both a pattern with Bevin and at odds with his own pledges to conduct a totally above-board administration. The day he was sworn in Bevin broke a campaign promise to release his tax returns if elected.
What Bevin did do after taking office was continue raising money for the campaign that put him there. The Herald-Leader's John Cheves reported that in November 2016 Bevin's campaign accounts were still open and he had raised more than $325,000 since being elected the previous November. "The report speaks for itself," a Bevin spokesperson said when asked about the fundraising.
All of this is disturbing, considering Kentucky's history with the volatile mixture of murky money and powerful political office.
With this governor, it's also troubling that, blinded by self-interest or arrogance, he cannot see the need to respond to legitimate questions while asserting his right to demand answers from others.
Only months after taking office, while alleging a "pay-to-play method of conducting government" existed under former Gov. Steve Beshear, Bevin declared that any questions about such dealings "must be answered in an open and transparent way."
Agreed, governor. Give us some answers.