A campaign finance expert says it doesn’t appear that former Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover violated any laws when he secretly settled a sexual harassment complaint.
A whistleblower lawsuit filed this week by a staffer for the House Republican Caucus claims Hoover used funds from campaign donors to settle with his accuser and to keep the matter out of court.
John Steffen, executive director of the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, says there’s a difference between campaign funds and campaign donors.
"If it's money contributed to his campaign, then that wouldn't be something he could use the money for," Steffen told WKU Public Radio. "However, 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.
The lawsuit filed this week says the settlement came from “prominent campaign donors.” Both Hoover and the woman who received the payout denies the settlement dollars were from political donors.
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. They also refused to disclose a copy of the settlement, so investigators could not confirm if the documents matched the settlement agreement.
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.