FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron directly solicited donations for his gubernatorial campaign from executives with a Kentucky drug treatment organization that his office began investigating last year, according to an attorney for the organization.
The request for contributions occurred during a call Cameron made early this year to a representative of Edgewater Recovery Centers, Edgewater attorney Michael Denbow told The Associated Press. A Cameron campaign official made a follow-up call to the same representative, and there was an exchange regarding a possible fundraiser that ultimately never occurred, he said. Denbow declined to identify the Edgewater representative who received the calls.
Several Edgewater executives later donated thousands of dollars to Cameron’s campaign during the spring primary campaign. The donations have since been refunded by the campaign. But the timing of the solicitations, coming as Edgewater was under investigation, raise questions about their propriety.
“They were directly solicited by Daniel to give to his campaign,” Denbow, speaking on behalf of the company, told the AP in a phone interview Friday. “And I think Edgewater thought it was probably very prudent to make sure that they preserve their ability to work with whomever was successful in November … to help further Edgewater’s goals.”
Edgewater directed questions about the matter to Denbow.
In his response, Cameron told the AP in a statement issued Sunday that his “approach” to the Edgewater-related campaign donations has been to “review, recuse and refund.”
Cameron recused himself from the Edgewater investigation in May, immediately after learning of the contributions, according to his office. The donations were first reported by The Daily Beast. Cameron’s office didn’t comment on the status of the case. Edgewater denies any wrongdoing in the matter.
Cameron’s campaign acknowledged it discussed a possible fundraiser with individuals representing Edgewater.
“There were preliminary conversations about hosting an event,” Cameron said in the statement. “Once we were made aware of a conflict, the event was canceled. When they later made online contributions, I recused myself and the contributions were refunded.”
Cameron is challenging Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear in November in one of the nation’s most closely watched elections this year. The matchup in Republican-trending Kentucky could offer something of a preview of voter sentiment ahead of 2024 campaigns for president and control of Congress.
Campaign fundraising allegations have surged to the forefront of the bare-knuckled contest in Kentucky.
Last week, Cameron’s office asked the FBI to investigate an infusion of campaign donations — linked to a single credit card — that flowed to the Kentucky Democratic Party and Beshear’s campaign. The governor’s campaign and the state party moved to refund more than $200,000 in donations that they determined to exceed limits set by law.
Cameron pounced on the Democratic-related matter to sharply criticize the governor. In his statement Sunday, Cameron accused Beshear of taking “illegal campaign contributions” and declared that political candidates “owe transparency and accountability to the people they represent.”
But Cameron’s campaign also finds itself on the defensive regarding campaign finances.
Edgewater has been under investigation since 2022 by the Office of Medicaid Fraud and Abuse in the attorney general’s office. A case number indicates that the investigation started last year, Denbow said. Edgewater received a subpoena for information in early March as part of the probe, he said.
Cameron’s call to the Edgewater representative occurred before the subpoena was served, Denbow said. In that call and in the follow-up call by a Cameron campaign representative, there were “no promises or threats,” he said. “They reached out to solicit campaign funds.”
“The investigation was ongoing, but I certainly do not think there was any mention or acknowledgement by Daniel in his communications about that,” Denbow added.
There was “no quid pro quo” intended when Edgewater’s executives donated to Cameron’s campaign, the attorney said. And it was Cameron’s campaign that decided to refund the donations this month, he said.
“It’s my understanding it was done after Daniel recused himself from the investigation and then they made that determination,” Denbow said. “We’re unaware of the basis for it.”
Edgewater Recovery Centers offer alcohol and drug abuse treatment for men and women, according to its website. Edgewater is a state-licensed behavioral health organization offering “multiple levels of care,” with facilities in a handful of Kentucky communities, the website says.
Bruce Schreiner, The Associated Press