NATIONAL NEWS

Judge clears former Kentucky secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes of ethics charges

Apr 30, 2024, 10:16 AM

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Former Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes has been cleared of ethics charges stemming from allegations that the one-time Democratic rising star abused her access to voter registration data to benefit herself and fellow Democrats.

Franklin County Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled Monday that Grimes legally accessed the data while “acting in the scope of her public duties” as secretary of state.

“It is unclear how the commission can penalize the commonwealth’s chief election official for having access to voter data, or downloading it to a flash drive when it has failed to identify any illegal or unethical use of such data,” Shepherd said in his order.

Grimes had faced a $10,000 fine after the state Executive Branch Ethics Commission said that she committed ethics violations by improperly ordering the downloading and distribution of voter registration data. The judge’s reversal of the commission’s order means Grimes won’t have to pay the fine.

Jon Salomon, one of Grimes’ attorneys, said Tuesday that the ruling vindicated Grimes.

“Secretary Grimes should have never been investigated for simply doing the job that Kentucky voters twice elected her to do, and the court has appropriately cleared her of all charges,” he said in a statement.

The commission said Tuesday that it is reviewing the matter.

Grimes was seen as a rising political star when she was first elected secretary of state in 2011. She launched a high-profile challenge against longtime Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2014 but was soundly defeated. She rebounded to win reelection as secretary of state in 2015, when Republicans claimed most statewide offices. The only other Democrat to win that year was Andy Beshear, who was elected attorney general then and is now in his second term as governor.

The ethics commission’s allegations against Grimes stemmed from activity in 2015 and 2016. Grimes was accused of failing to follow government processes in downloading and sharing voter information.

She was accused of acting unethically by instructing her employees to download voter information onto flash drives while she was running for reelection and sharing voter registration information for state House districts, all without complying with open records rules or collecting fees.

Shepherd ruled that the allegations were “arbitrary and without the support of substantial evidence.” The judge said there is no law or regulation that prohibited her from accessing or sharing the information.

He noted that the long-running matter drew “exhaustive” investigations from the ethics commission and the state attorney general’s office, after which “there was no allegation concerning any substantive violation of any statute or regulation regarding the integrity of the voting rolls.”

Republican Michael Adams succeeded Grimes as Kentucky’s secretary of state. Adams’ office on Tuesday noted the changes made to state law in response to the allegations against his predecessor.

“Because of the scandals that preceded Secretary Adams in this office, the General Assembly in 2019 limited direct access to the voter file, and our administration has followed the letter and the spirit of the law,” Adams’ spokeswoman, Michon Lindstrom, said in a statement.

The judge also ruled that the ethics commission failed to meet the statute of limitations when bringing the claims against Grimes.

The commission’s charges followed a 2019 series from the Lexington Herald-Leader and ProPublica. The two news organizations published stories on Grimes’ conduct as secretary of state.

National News

FILE - Former President Barack Obama speaks in Athens, Greece, June 21, 2023. Democrats at the high...

Associated Press

Obama’s dilemma: Balancing Democrats’ worry about Biden and maintaining influence with president

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Barack Obama has a delicate balance to strike: how to weigh the mounting opposition to President Joe Biden continuing his campaign with his loyalty to his former running mate. In recent days, Obama has taken calls from congressional leaders, Democratic governors and key donors in which he has shared their […]

23 minutes ago

Vice President Kamala Harris arrives for an Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote Town Hall, Sat...

Associated Press

Majority of Democrats think Kamala Harris would make a good president, AP-NORC poll shows

WASHINGTON (AP) — As President Joe Biden faces a growing drumbeat of pressure to drop his reelection bid, a majority of Democrats think his vice president would make a good president herself. A new poll from the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that about 6 in 10 Democrats believe Kamala Harris would do […]

26 minutes ago

Associated Press

How bootcamps are helping to address the historic gap in internet access on US tribal lands

There’s a home movie theater with orange walls and plush recliners at the top of a steep hill on Matthew Rantanen’s ranch in Southern California. But on a recent afternoon, people weren’t flocking to the room to watch a movie or to escape the scorching heat, they were shining a beam of light through more […]

32 minutes ago

Associated Press

Thousands celebrate life of former fire chief killed at Trump rally, private funeral set for Friday

FREEPORT, Pa. (AP) — Thousands of mourners paid their respects at a Pennsylvania banquet hall Thursday to the family of a former fire chief who was shot and killed during the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump. Trump sent a note of condolence hailing Corey Comperatore as a hero, a copy of which was […]

33 minutes ago

Associated Press

Christian homeless shelter challenges Washington state law prohibiting anti-LGBTQ+ hiring practices

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Lawyers for a Christian homeless shelter are scheduled to be in a federal appeals court Friday to challenge a Washington state anti-discrimination law that would require the charity to hire LGBTQ+ people and others who do not share its religious beliefs, including those on sexuality and marriage. Union Gospel Mission in […]

35 minutes ago

FILE - U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., listens during a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee...

Associated Press

University of Florida president Ben Sasse is resigning after his wife was diagnosed with epilepsy

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — University of Florida president Ben Sasse announced late Thursday that he will leave his position of nearly two years to focus on taking care of his family after his wife was diagnosed with epilepsy. In a post on the social platform X, the former U.S. senator from Nebraska said that “after […]

2 hours ago

Judge clears former Kentucky secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes of ethics charges