London Mayor Randall Weddle, whose family and associates contributed more than $300,000 to the Kentucky Democratic Party and Gov. Andy Beshear’s re-election campaign, traveled to the State Capitol on Thursday to join Beshear in announcing a nearly $1.4 million grant to the City of London to pay for new sidewalks along Main Street in the city’s downtown.
The grant was one of five Transportation Alternative Program grants totaling $4.8 million announced by Beshear at his weekly press conference.
Beshear and Weddle were not asked about the massive bundle of political contributions during Thursday’s press conference.
The two officials said the grant pays for a needed improvement of pedestrian safety and convenience along a busy nine-block stretch of Main Street.
“This is tremendous for our community and we’re grateful for your administration,” said Weddle, who posed with Beshear for a photograph of the presentation of a giant ceremonial check.
Last month, Kentucky Lantern reported that Weddle’s family and employees of a company he co-founded have contributed at least $305,000 to the Kentucky Democratic Party and the Beshear re-election campaign since late 2021 – by far the largest bundle of contributions from any group of related donors to the Beshear political committees in that period.
Weddle, a registered Republican, himself did not contribute. But his wife gave $32,000, his son gave $17,000, his daughter $16,500, his mother $7,000, his mother-in-law $7,000, a sister $17,000, another sister $15,000. Other relatives also gave, as did many others associated with WB Transport, a freight-hauling company in London co-founded by Weddle.
None of the 19 donors in the Weddle/WB Transport group had ever before made a large political contribution, according to records of the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance and the Federal Election Commission.
Since the flow of contributions from the Weddle/WB Transport group began in late 2021, Beshear spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of a 200,000-square-foot warehouse of WB Transport in April of 2022, and in June of 2022, Beshear appointed Weddle to the Kentucky Transportation Center Advisory Board. The Kentucky Transportation Center website says it is an organization housed on the University of Kentucky campus that conducts multidisciplinary transportation research and has a strong working relationship with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
Weddle did not return a phone message left for him early Friday at the Mayor’s office.
Beshear has repeatedly said that contributions have no effect on his decisions as governor. Soon after Kentucky Lantern’s story was published last month he said, “We’ve had support from Democrats and Republicans, thousands and thousands and thousands of people across Kentucky and across the United States. But all of those have been voluntary, and nothing has or ever will be promised for any type of donation.”
On Friday the administration replied to Kentucky Lantern’s questions with data and a statement from the Transportation Cabinet about the Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) with the data showing that 36 such grants totaling about $24 million have been awarded since Beshear became governor.
But in response to a question about the grant following the contributions, Sean Southard, spokesman for the Republican Party of Kentucky released a statement that said, “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Andy Beshear and Joe Biden. It’s deeply concerning to see Andy Beshear engaging in the Biden-Beshear family tradition of influence peddling.”
The statement from the Transportation Cabinet said localities in Kentucky compete for these federally funded TAP grants and that recipients are chosen by the Transportation Cabinet staff. The staff makes its decisions, according to the cabinet, based on “factors like federal program eligibility, overall project cost, if funding will help complete an existing TAP project, and potential conflicts with planned state highway projects.”
The grants reimburse a local government for 80% of the cost of a local project that improves “non-motorized forms of transportation,” the cabinet said. The grants are commonly used for building sidewalks and bike trails.
Beshear said Thursday that the area getting new sidewalks in London includes London Elementary School, city hall, the county courthouse, a community center, three churches and many businesses.
Other grants announced by Beshear on Thursday: $2,318,400 to Scott County; $576,000 to Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government; $376,609 to City of Greensburg; and $170,554 to Boyle County.
The $305,000 in contributions from the 19 people with family and/or business ties to Weddle is just part of about $700,000 donated to the Kentucky Democratic Party and the Beshear campaign in the past 18 months from new Kentucky donors who — like those affiliated with WB Transport — work in the reverse logistics industry.
“Reverse logistics” is a term applied to the processes — repairing, shipping, warehousing, reselling, etc. — that follow merchandise after it has been returned by customers to the retailer. These processes have a goal of retaining as much value as possible for resale by wholesale, liquidation, or “pallet sales” stores.
Written by Tom Loftus. Cross-posted from the Kentucky Lantern.