State Registry of Election Finance investigating Weddle campaign, gubernatorial donation complaints

Nov. 15—London Mayor Randall Weddle's excessive contributions to Gov. Andy Beshear's re-election campaign and the Kentucky Democrat Party may have been returned, but now the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance has launched an internal complaint into potential violations of Kentucky campaign finance law.

That, along with a prior complaint filed regarding Weddle co-sponsoring a gas giveaway during his mayoral campaign, have now been merged into one case.

"Given that the Registry is already conducting an investigation into the Weddle Campaign, the Registry has merged the Complaints into one case for consideration," the KREF notice released last week states.

The gas giveaway was held on Aug. 10, 2022 at Ruby Market, just past the Levi Jackson Park entrance on U.S. 25 — and directly across the road from Weddle's W.B. Transport warehouse. Weddle was running for Mayor at that point, although he stated at the time that helping Laurel County residents who were 55+ with $50 in free gas was not a political ploy. Instead, he said, the giveaway was a means to help the older population of the county — many of whom live on fixed and low incomes.

However, the timing of the gas giveaway in the midst of Weddle's run for London Mayor created some controversy. Douglas Phelps was one of those who felt the giveaway was a political stage for Weddle's campaign and he filed a complaint with the Registry of Election Finance after the incident.

Phelps confirmed Tuesday that his complaint is the one referenced in the combined complaint that is being reviewed by the Election Finance office.

Phelps said he videoed the gas giveaway — which had traffic backed up from KY 229 through Levi Jackson Park, north and south on U.S. 25 and along KY 1006 for hours.

"My complaint was about the gas giveaway," he said. "I videoed part of it and sent that in as part of the complaint."

Phelps' complaint is being merged with a later internal complaint from Registry Executive Director John Steffen. The documents included in the notice focus primarily on Weddle's financial contributions to Beshear's re-election campaign and contributions to the Kentucky Democrat Party. Contributions made by several of Weddle's family and business associates were within the realm of the contribution limits; however, all the contributions were charged to one personal credit card.

Under Kentucky law, individuals cannot make financial contributions over $2,100 to one candidate and contributions to executive committees cannot go over $5,000 per year. But numerous contributions from Weddle's family and friends were linked to Weddle and his wife's credit card, resulting in the Weddles receiving over $202,000 in refunds from Beshear and the KDP.

Steffen addressed that issue to Leslie Saunders, General Counsel for the KFEF, in a letter dated Oct. 30.

"Based on the information received from the Campaign and KDP, it appears the Weddles may have violated this provision by providing their credit card to other persons for the purpose of making contributions to the Campaign and KDP. Likewise, it appears that the contributions in question may also have resulted in violations of KRS 121.056(3) as well."

That statute specifically states: "No person shall give or conspire to contribute money or property to any other person for the purpose of making a campaign contribution."

Weddle was unavailable for comment on the matter Tuesday, as was Steffen.