Did Jeff Hoover Violate Campaign Finance Laws? It's Unclear

Dec 6, 2017

Former House Speaker Jeff Hoover
Credit LRC.GOV

An ongoing investigation into sexual harassment in the Kentucky legislature still hasn’t determined who paid to settle the claims and for how much. Former House Speaker Jeff Hoover and his accuser are denying the hush money came from political donors.

A lawsuit filed this week by an employee for the House Republican Caucus claims the secret settlement came from “prominent campaign donors.” John Steffen heads the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, which oversees how candidates raise and spend donations. He said that after reading the complaint it doesn’t appear that Hoover broke campaign finance laws.

"Everything seemed to say that campaign donors had given him the money, not campaign funds that were used for that purpose. In that case, there wouldn't be a campaign finance issue."

Steffen says it would have been illegal for Hoover to use money contributed to his campaign, but if someone who’s a typical donor was to give him money just outright, Hoover would not have violated campaign finance laws. The Legislative Ethics Commission has been asked to subpoena a copy of the settlement and determine if any part of it was paid for by political donors or lobbyists, which would be a state ethics violation.

"If it's money contributed to his campaign, then that wouldn't be something he could use the money for. But if an individual that's a typical donor to his campaign was to give him money just outright, that's outside the scope of campaign finance laws."

State officials have confirmed taxpayers did not pay the settlement. House Republican leaders hired a law firm to find out who did, but the investigation was inconclusive. Hoover and other GOP lawmakers involved in the scandal provided documents showing they took out loans from banks and family members to pay the settlement, but the amounts were redacted. Acting House Speaker David Osborne has asked the Legislative Ethics Commission to use its subpoena power to obtain a copy of the settlement and determine if any part of it was paid for by 
political donors or lobbyists, which could be a violation of state ethics law.