London Mayor’s Political Donations Evoke Questions of Campaign Finance and Ethics

Beshear returns $202,000 in excessive contributions linked to mayor’s credit card

LEXINGTON, KY — London Mayor Randall Weddle, a Republican, is entangled in an intricate web of campaign finance controversies that is now also ensnaring Governor Andy Beshear and the Kentucky Democratic Party.

Flyer promoting a gas giveaway by London Mayor Randall Weddle.

The questions began last year when, as a mayoral candidate, Weddle sponsored a free gasoline giveaway just months before the 2022 election. This benevolent gesture, a seemingly philanthropic affair hosted at Ruby’s Market just beyond the London city limits, drew throngs of attendees, particularly senior citizens. However, its timing and method of execution drew scrutiny and eventually a complaint, which is currently under investigation by the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance (KREF).

The complaint, authored by Charles Douglas Phelps, alleges that Weddle’s gas giveaway was tantamount to purchasing votes. In his grievance, Phelps vividly depicted what he saw as a flagrant disregard for campaign laws and lamented the audacity of the candidates involved.

The gas giveaway was not the only incident in question. Phelps’ complaint also alleges that Weddle provided limousine rides to the polls and gifted city and county departments with various items. His legal representatives, from the prominent law firm Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, have contested the allegations, insisting that Weddle was abroad at the time and that the event was “purposefully disconnected” from the campaign.

But now, a darker cloud hangs over Weddle. An investigation initiated by Kentucky Lantern discovered that contributions totaling over $202,000 were made to Governor Beshear’s campaign and the Kentucky Democratic Party on a credit card belonging to Weddle and his wife, Victoria. This led the Beshear campaign and the Democratic Party to refund these contributions, citing compliance with campaign finance laws.

Eric Hyers, Beshear’s campaign manager, confirmed that the refunds were issued after they realized the contributions exceeded the limits set by Kentucky campaign finance statutes. These refunds are set to be documented in reports to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance and the Federal Election Commission.

The donations initially appeared to be from Weddle’s family members and employees of WB Transport, a company he co-founded. However, they were later found to be charged to Weddle’s credit card. Weddle, curiously a registered Republican, alerted the campaign of this issue himself, wishing to “remedy the situation”.

The Governor’s campaign has sought to distance itself from the controversy, emphasizing that it acted swiftly to refund the excess contributions and has implemented additional compliance measures to prevent recurrence.

Critics argue that these incidents exhibit a deeper issue of campaign finance ethics within Kentucky politics. Sean Southard, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Kentucky, characterized this as part of a larger pattern of dubious campaign contributions associated with Governor Beshear.

With the Kentucky Attorney General, Daniel Cameron, indicating that his office will be evaluating “all appropriate options” in relation to these contributions, Mayor Weddle’s legal entanglements could have wider ramifications.

As both local and state political landscapes in Kentucky continue to be punctuated by questions of campaign finance, ethics, and transparency, the citizens of the Bluegrass State will be watching with great anticipation.

For now, Mayor Weddle remains silent on the issue, with an employee at London city hall stating he was unavailable for comment.

Gov. Andy Beshear Team Kentucky Update 5.18.23
Beshear’s May 18 Team Kentucky update featured London Mayor Randall Weddle.

Photo: Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear presents a check to London Mayor Randall Weddle on May 18, 2023. Earlier this week, Beshear returned over $200,000 in campaign contributions linked to the mayor. (Screenshot from Andy Beshear YouTube channel.)