KY-Sen: Mongiardo Tanking Amidst Accusations of Corruption
by Nathan Empsall, Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 06:32:40 PM EDT
Repeated abuse of public funds. Refusal to debate substance. Tanking polls.
As Jerome highlighted earlier this week, Kentucky Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo's campaign for Senate is falling apart at the seams. Attorney General Jack Conway has pulled into a dead heat with Mongiardo in the state’s Democratic Party, cutting the latter's lead from 45-27 to 35-32 in just five weeks, according to SurveyUSA. In addition to that poll, Conway won the Kentucky Young Democrats straw poll 57-37.
Conway’s surge is attributable to a number of reasons. Bloggers and the MSM alike have paid the most attention to Mongiardo’s opposition to health insurance reform. His language about the bill – a bill not a single one of the Senate Democrats he hopes to call “colleagues” opposed – is virtually identical to that of Repub Leader Mitch McConnell.
But the tightening in this contest may actually have more to do with alleged corruption than health care. Mongiardo’s campaign has been a haphazard train wreck for weeks now. For starters, Conway has won just about every debate against Mongiardo, of which there have been several. At the most recent, Conway said Mongiardo should return his $30,000 housing allowance given that he’s been living with his in-laws and used it to purchase land zoned for subdivision development. Mongiardo refused to address the substance of Conway’s challenge, saying only that “Jack Conway is a desperate man. He’s not done the work it takes to build a winning campaign, and now with five weeks left to go, he finds himself down by 18 points, and this is what he’s got.” No, sir. Three points.
As that exchange indicates, Mongiardo’s been caught red-handed in several scandals. The housing flap is just the beginning. As the Lexington Herald-Leader reports, “Mongiardo outspends Conway while traveling on public’s dime.”
Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo has spent more than four times as much in taxpayer money on travel expenses as his primary opponent in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, Attorney General Jack Conway.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reviewed travel-expense documents obtained under the state’s Open Records Act covering more than two years since the two men took office. They show that Mongiardo billed the state $33,000 for trips, including conferences and visits across the state. The Kentucky Democratic party reimbursed the state for one $4,000 trip. It cost at least $23,600 more for state troopers assigned to Mongiardo’s security detail to go with him.
Conway, meanwhile, has charged taxpayers $7,247 for travel costs — mostly on a handful of trips for conferences for prosecutors and attorneys general, according to the records… “A public office is a public trust,” Conway said. “If the state is going to pay for my travel, then it needs to be related to a legitimate government purpose — one in which I am actually working for this office.”
Other costs bring Mongiardo’s total state bill to $57,000. He claims that in this economy he only eats at “moderate restaurants,” but those moderate restaurants include EB Green’s Steakhouse in Buffalo (one of the country’s best steakhouses) and Old Ebbitt Grill in DC, one of the two poshest restaurants this blogger has ever been to. Conway, on the other hand, turned in his business car when he started running for Senate because "I didn't want anyone to question whether I was campaigning in a state car.”
Conway’s campaign has sent out a number of aggressive press releases about these and other scandals (for example, Mongiardo says the campaign paid for a trip to cosmetic surgery convention in Vegas but his campaign manager said the state paid for it), and even launched a website called The Real Daniel Mongiardo.
But it’s not all negative – while Mongiardo has been stuck defending the defenseless, Conway has been out front on health reform, net neutrality, and financial regulations, saying in one statement, “As Kentucky small businesses are struggling to get loans and hundreds of thousands of working families are trying to make ends meet all across the Commonwealth, it's outrageous that Senator McConnell is defending Wall Street and threatening to block financial reform regulations.”
The latest result? Lexington Teamsters Local Union No. 651 endorsed Conway this week. As Jerome says, "It's pretty clear whom is the progressive in the primary." Help the Conway campaign beat Mongiardo in next month’s primary.