Phillip M. Bailey

Political Editor

Phillip M. Bailey became WFPL's political editor in 2011, covering city, state and regional campaigns and elected officials. He also covers Metro Government, including the mayor's office and Metro Council. Before coming to WFPL, Phillip worked for three years as a staff writer at LEO Weekly and was a fellow at the Academy of Alternative Journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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Politics
4:15 pm
Mon June 17, 2013

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell Faces Political Threats Amid Legal Controversies

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell
Credit louisvilleky.gov

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell is rejecting a private ethics sanction from the Kentucky Bar Association.

As a result he is facing harsher penalties and increased scrutiny from critics, who are openly recruiting former Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Stengel to run against O'Connell next year.

In January, O’Connell wrote a stinging letter to Jefferson district court judges demanding they put a stop certain legal maneuvers in DUI cases. A number of judges and defense lawyers called O'Connell's letter "inappropriate," and asked for ethics sanctions to be filed.

The Courier-Journal reported this week an inquiry commission ruled on May 8 that O’Connell violated rules barring attorneys from contacting judges without the other side present.

Legal observers are surprised O’Connell made the matter public, and many critics acknowledge it has given momentum to efforts at recruiting Stengel to take on the incumbent county attorney in 2014.

"I don’t know if you want to call it arrogance, feistiness or defiance. But I think (O'Connell) has made it clear that he’s going to do what he wants and doesn’t care what anybody has to say or do about it," says defense attorney Christian Mascagni.

"I call tell you there are many private attorneys who would love Mr. Stengel to run against him. I believe that especially in light of what's come out now, if Mr. Stengel were to run—and we're all hoping that he will—I think he would be a very tough candidate for Mr. O'Connell."

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Politics
10:59 pm
Sat June 15, 2013

Noise and Notes: Bennie J. Smith's Long Shot Quest to Retire Mitch McConnell

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Bennie J. Smith

When Louisville musician Bennie J. Smith announced he was seeking the Democratic nomination to run against Republican Senator Mitch McConnell even he compared it to a David versus Goliath proposition.

A jazz musician and Danville, Ky. native, Smith is equal parts music promoter and human rights activist.

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Politics
1:05 pm
Fri June 14, 2013

Congressman John Yarmuth Scolds Lawmakers for Lack of Gun Control Since Newtown Massacre

Congressman John Yarmuth
Credit U.S. Congress

In a scolding statement, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., says it is shameful Congress has not enacted stricter gun laws in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Six months have passed since the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, where a lone gunman killed 20 children and six adults with a semi-automatic weapon.

The shooting sparked a fierce national debate about firearms and the Second Amendment, and a handful of states have either passed or are considering stricter gun laws since.

But gun rights advocates were able to block stricter laws from getting through the Democratic-controlled Senate.

"It is shameful that six months after Newtown, Congress has failed to enact a single gun-safety measure," says Yarmuth. "Nine in 10 Americans demand action to strengthen our gun laws, and I stand with them. It is long past time to enact meaningful reforms that help keep our families safe, our communities secure, and our country free from the daily toll of gun violence."

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Politics
11:00 pm
Thu June 13, 2013

Following Cuts in Mayor's Budget Plan, Non-Profits Ask Louisville Metro Council for More Funding

The Louisville Metro Council heard from over three-dozen organizations that were cut in Mayor Greg Fischer’s proposed budget.

Speakers representing ministerial foundations, arts groups and other non-profit agencies implored city lawmakers to add needed funding for their programs, which provide various charitable services.

Among those who presented their case before the council was Charles King, who is president and CEO of Project One President, which a summer jobs program for Louisville youth.

Joined by dozens of teenage participants, King says despite passing accredited reviews and receiving $80,000 from the city last year, Fischer’s proposal allocated nothing for the group in his new spending plan.

"The zero funding could not come at a worse time," he says. "Violence is rampant in our communities, and summer jobs represent violence reduction and public safety. Teen unemployment is at 24 percent and in impoverished communities it’s nearing 50 percent."

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Politics
8:55 am
Thu June 13, 2013

Louisville Tea Party Calls Mitch McConnell A Hypocrite for Defending NSA Surveillance

The Louisville Tea Party calls out McConnell
Credit Twitter

The Louisville Tea Party is blasting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for defending the National Security Agency's surveillance program while decrying a secret recording of his own campaign office.

Earlier this week, McConnell said the NSA obtaining the call logs for millions of Americans is legal, adding it has the proper congressional and judicial oversight.

McConnell acknowledged privacy concerns, but said the national intelligence director declassified enough information to downplay the public's concerns.

In a Twitter message sent out Wednesday afternoon, however, the tea party group representing Kentucky's largest city called McConnell a "hypocrite" for supporting the program.

"Hey @Team_Mitch, why do you get so upset when someone spies on you, but you want to spy on all of us?"

The online message makes reference to McConnell and his re-election staff crying foul over a liberal activist who recorded campaign strategy session.

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Politics
7:00 am
Thu June 13, 2013

Poll: Kentuckians Favor Senate Immigration Bill 3-to-1

A new poll shows a solid majority of Kentucky voters support the comprehensive immigration reform bill currently being debated in the U.S. Senate.

The survey conducted by Harper Polling finds 63 percent of Kentuckians favor the so-called 'Gang of 8' legislation, with just 20 percent opposed. It also shows that 73 percent of likely voters support a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.

Members of Kentucky's federal delegation have been at the center of the immigration debate thus far, with  Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth working on the House version and Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul both saying the Senate bill will need to be changed.

But observers note the high percentage of those in the state who support the principles of the 'Gang of 8' bill illustrates the outcome is brighter than previous attempts to reform the system.

"When you look at a number like that when it's that high it makes you think there's a chance something can actually get passed. And when Kentucky members of Congress and our two senators see this kind of approval back in their home state and back in their home districts it’s going to increase the likelihood of them wanting to vote for it," says former Republican Secretary of State Trey Grayson, who is director of the Harvard University’s Institute of Politics.

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Politics
2:03 pm
Tue June 11, 2013

Trey Grayson Weighs-in on Tea Party Finding Viable Challenger to Mitch McConnell

Former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson
Credit harvard.edu

Former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson says Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell will likely have a primary battle, but questions if that candidate will provide a viable challenge.

In an interview with Politico this week, McConnell acknowledged he might have a GOP opponent but boasted "there is not any chance" he could lose such a race.

Tea Party leaders in the state have promised a challenger is forthcoming who will take on McConnell's positions from a more conservative viewpoint, but no one has stepped up at this time.

Grayson was a McConnell protégé who lost to Rand Paul in the 2010 Republican primary.

He says McConnell has done a good job of keeping the state GOP unified and made solid partnerships with libertarian and tea party leaning lawmakers.

"I think the question is there going to be somebody out there who can give him a real run for the money, and it doesn’t look like it. There’s certainly a group of folks—some tea party leaders and others, David Adams for example—who are trying to find a candidate who can take him on. And everyday that candidate’s not in the race it becomes that much harder of a proposition," he says.

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Politics
1:01 pm
Mon June 10, 2013

Congressman Thomas Massie: U.S. Intelligence Agencies Exploiting Patriot Act

Congressman Thomas Massie, R-Ky.,
Credit U.S. Congress

Joining nearly two dozen other members of Congress, Republican Thomas Massie is asking intelligence agencies to clarify their position on the Patriot Act in light of the National Security Agency obtaining millions of U.S. citizen's phone records.

The 2-page letter signed by 22 lawmakers was drafted by fellow GOP Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan, and it raises concerns that the NSA is using the law to "sweep up volumes of data about American's every day telephone calls."

It asks the NSA and FBI how long the agencies store the information and how many companies have been subjected to the order, among other questions.

Last week, the Republican lawmaker who authored the Patriot Act said the NSA went too far by collecting phone data on Americans, and has misinterpreted what the law was meant to do.

"I campaigned against the Patriot Act for this precise reason," Massie said in a statement. "It appears that the FBI and the NSA are exploiting the Patriot Act to authorize a dramatic and unconstitutional expansion of domestic surveillance."

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Politics
11:16 am
Mon June 10, 2013

Louisville Free Public Library Ignores East End, Councilman Says

Credit Louisville Free Public Library

Louisville's free public library system is ignoring East End residents and facilities according to one Metro Council member.

Statistics show libraries in neighborhoods such as St. Matthews, Middletown and Jeffersontown have some of the highest visitor and book checkout rates.

For instance, the St. Matthews location has approximately 435,000 checkouts per year behind only the main branch in downtown. But suburban patrons have complained they’re being underserved, and lawmakers representing the areas are raising their voices, saying the structures are too small and in need of major renovations.

"If you factor in the facilities or if you factor in square footage, practically anyway you look at it we get one half the service, the library space and one half the access. The people east of (Browns Lane) line, that is where the growth has been. In the census, some districts grew 30 percent," says Councilman Jerry Miller, R-19.

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Politics
1:25 pm
Fri June 7, 2013

Republican and Democratic Campaign Groups Pouncing on Kentucky U.S. Senate Race

Alison Lundergan Grimes and Mitch McConnell
Credit Kentucky Secretary of State/U.S. Senate

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes are being scrutinized by each others national political parties in a pair of stinging messages this week.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee put out dueling press releases on Friday, going after Grimes and McConnell respectively.

Grimes is being chastised by the GOP for comments made at the state Democratic Party's annual Wendell Ford Dinner. During her speech, Grimes alluded to need Democrat's support in the "coming months" and said voters are tired of McConnell's obstruction and misleading politics.

The NRSC said the dinner was a "liberal love fest" that shows Grimes backs President Obama's agenda.

"Alison Lundergan Grimes sounded like a Massachusetts liberal as she advocated for higher taxes on Kentuckians, more federal spending, and policies that will hurt middle class families and workers," NRSC spokeswoman Brook Hougesen said.  "The true inner Grimes was on full display last night - her views mirrored those of Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama and she showed no tolerance for those who disagree with her out of touch perspective. With such liberal views, it's no wonder Lundergan Grimes remains the most reluctant candidate in the country."

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