LEXINGTON, Ky. – A Democratic lobbyist has been convicted of bribing Kentucky’s No. 2 law enforcement officer in a case voters are likely to see in political ads for next year’s race for governor.
A federal jury said James Sullivan was trying to bribe Deputy Attorney General Tim Longmeyer in March of 2016 when he put $1,000 in the cup holder of Longmeyer’s SUV in the parking lot of a Panera Bread restaurant. At the time, Sullivan was trying to get the attorney general’s office to hire some outside law firms to represent the state in proposed litigation. But Longmeyer had already been busted by the FBI on unrelated charges, and he recorded the exchange with a camera hidden in a day planner.
“I’ll do more if I can just get something going,” Sullivan told Longmeyer in the recording. “I just hope we can be successful going down the road together.”
Longmeyer was the chief deputy for Attorney General Andy Beshear, who is a potential Democratic candidate for governor in 2019 when Republican Gov. Matt Bevin can run for re-election. Authorities said Beshear did not know about the bribe, but that has not stopped Bevin and his GOP allies from using it to portray Beshear’s office as corrupt. The trial also exposed details of Longmeyer’s scheme to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks from a state contract involving the employee health insurance plan. Much of that money was funneled to Democratic political candidates.
“Kentucky is turning over a new leaf and the refusal of Democrats to rid themselves of these tainted donations would send a signal to voters that, if returned to power, they will usher in a new era of corruption and pay-to-play government,” Republican Party of Kentucky spokesman Tres Watson said.
Andy Beshear has vowed to return all of the donations he received from Longmeyer and others involved in the scheme but said he is waiting for state campaign finance officials to conclude an audit of his 2015 campaign account. A spokesman for Beshear has noted the attorney general co-operated with authorities in the investigation and appointed a special prosecutor that resulted in state charges for Longmeyer.
Sullivan showed little emotion as the verdict was read in the courtroom. He later hugged friends and family in the courthouse hallway. He declined to comment through his attorney.
Sullivan will remain free on bond until his scheduled sentencing on Sept. 6. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. But it could have been worse. The jury found Sullivan not guilty on three other charges that he bribed Longmeyer during his tenure as secretary of the Personnel Cabinet under former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, Andy Beshear’s father.
Sullivan made multiple cash payments of more than $1,000 to Longmeyer during this period. At the time, Sullivan was a lobbyist for a company that held a million-dollar contract with the state and Longmeyer was the official in charge of overseeing and signing that contract. But Sullivan said the payments were friendly loans to help Longmeyer buy Christmas presents, a ski trip for his family and liquor for a political fundraising event. Longmeyer said they were bribes, telling jurors he made sure the company kept the contract in the face of political pressure from a Beshear administration official to award the contract to a political donor.
But Longmeyer wore an orange prison uniform and shackles around his ankles during his testimony, and Sullivan’s attorney portrayed him as a desperate criminal seeking to win a lighter sentence by making up allegations so prosecutors could go after Sullivan.
“Mr. Longmeyer was not being truthful,” said Thomas Hectus, Sullivan’s attorney. “I think it’s obvious the jury came to this conclusion.”
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andy Boone and Will Moynahan. A spokesman for U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky did not respond to an email seeking comment.