Politics & Government

Web of business ties entangle Kentucky governor's office

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear's chief of staff, Adam Edelen, is a partner in private business deals with top lobbyist Bob Babbage, who represents a long list of clients wanting something from state government.

Edelen and Babbage are partners with Ralph Coldiron — a Beshear appointee at the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security — in Chartwell Land Co., which recently developed and sold a $660,000 home in Bourbon County.

Edelen and Babbage also co-own a new condo unit in downtown Lexington, in the Main & Rose building, which they bought a year ago for $257,100.

Edelen, 34, said his private deals don't influence his work for the governor, and vice versa, so there is no conflict of interest. Babbage, 57, said he gets no favors because of his private deals with Edelen and never tried to keep them a secret. Everyone in the governor's office knows about their connections, Babbage said.'

Not everyone agrees with Babbage and Edelen's assessment of the relationship. "This certainly creates at least a terrible appearance problem for the governor's office," said Richard Beliles, chairman of Common Cause of Kentucky.

Babbage lobbies the state's executive branch for more than two dozen clients who want state contracts or more favorable tax policies, laws and regulations. They include Motorola Inc., which is pursuing millions of dollars in radio-equipment sales through grants awarded by the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security, run by Beshear appointees.

Edelen joined the administration of the newly elected Beshear a year ago as head of homeland security before he was promoted to become the governor's chief of staff last summer.

He said he never sought an advisory opinion from the Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission on his deals with Babbage, as state officials sometimes do if there's a question about conflicts of interest.

Edelen's wife, Catherine, and Babbage share the Lexington condo for their separate professional offices. Catherine Edelen, an account executive with Apple Inc., sells computer equipment to the state Department of Education.

Read the full story at Kentucky.com