Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has gotten thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from partners in his choice of a law firm to appeal a federal order to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages.
Attorneys from VanAntwerp, Monge, Jones, Edwards & McCann gave $11,250 to Beshear in the last several election cycles, according to campaign finance data from the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.
Lawyers at the Ashland, Ky., firm donated money to state House, Senate and gubernatorial campaigns, giving $23,150 to Democrats—which includes the amount given to Beshear; more than any other candidate —and $13,400 to Republicans.
A spokeswoman for Beshear declined to comment.
Beshear’s office announced on Thursday that the firm had been selected after a request for proposals from several law firms to represent the state in an appeal of U.S. District Judge John Heyburn’s order. Heyburn’s ruling struck down portions of the state’s 2004 same-sex marriages ban, writing that it violated the equal protection clause in the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment.
Attorney General Jack Conway declined to appeal Heyburn’s ruling, prompting Beshear to seek outside counsel.
The law firm also gave money to politicians on both sides of the marriage equality issue:
• $4,750 to former Gov. Ernie Fletcher
• $1,500 to GOP Senate President Robert Stivers
• $1,500 to former Republican Senate President David Williams
• $1,250 to Conway
In an email blast, Martin Cothran of the conservative Family Foundation of Kentucky, criticized Beshear for hiring the firm.
“First, we have an attorney general who was charged with defending the rights of Kentucky’s voters on this issue and waited until after a judge ruled against him to reveal that he agreed with the other side,” Cothran said. “Now, we have the governor appointing a law firm whose partners donated to his campaign.”
Seven firms applied with the governor’s office to handle the appeal, according to documents obtained from the Kentucky Finance & Administration Cabinet. One of the companies, paralegal services firm Training Grounds LLC, was deemed “non-responsive,” and another, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP, withdrew its application.
Two of the firms, Duncan PLLC of Washington, D.C., and Liberty Counsel, Inc., of Lynchburg, Va., were deemed “grounded in a singular ideological viewpoint,” according to a March 13, 2014 letter of determination filed by the cabinet.
“The interests of the Commonwealth are better served by representation unencumbered by an articulated ideological position on the legal issues to be decided,” the letter continued.
VanAntwerp, Monge, Jones, Edwards & McCann scored higher than the remaining three applicants, and was awarded a contract worth as much as $100,000. The attorneys will be paid at a rate of $125 per hour, with associated earning $90 per hour and $40 per hour for paralegals.
The letter concluded “VMJEM is a long-established Kentucky firm with relevant state and federal court experience, including significant experience in the Sixth Circuit [Court of Appeals].”