Editorial Cartoon

Over the past several days, weeks, months and, yes, even years, Kentuckians have been introduced to a litany of those responsible for standing in the way of Gov. Matt Bevin’s unprecedented attempts to reshape the Commonwealth in an image which better suits those who sit in smoke-filled backrooms, those who really call the shots of who is and isn’t among the chosen few.

For those who might not have heard the phrase “smoke-filled room,” it can be traced back to 1763 in Boston when a small group of men — yes men — met behind closed doors to select candidates for office. During those meetings, the room was filled with cigar smoke that was so thick, it was difficult to see from one end of the room to the other. Sadly, the decisions made in those rooms were made in secret without any concern for anyone. Worse yet, not much has changed and those smoke-filed rooms still exist today.

Fast forward to today and one easily imagines those who would never have been chosen as candidates in those smoke-filled rooms. One could easily imagine that anyone who would dare interfere with Bevin’s newly defined vision of the Commonwealth would never be among the chosen few worthy of being anointed to represent the party. And undoubtedly, there is little doubt that among the litany of those who would have been rejected as candidates in these modern smoke-filled rooms would be those who have been subjected to the unhinged attacks by Bevin, and, oftentimes, his cronies, like hard-working, dedicated teachers; members of the state judiciary; members of the legislature, including members of his own party; recipients of Medicaid and even those who run Kentucky’s rural hospitals and healthcare clinics.

Of course, if that wasn’t enough, it now appears that those in attendance in these smoke-filled rooms have decided that even Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton, who very honestly was the reason Bevin was elected in the first place, would be — and had to be — rejected and replaced with a candidate who will rubber stamp any and all policies which Bevin and his cronies choose for Kentucky. What is abundantly clear is that if you disagree with this man, or his cronies, you can expect the unexpected, you can expect the knock on your door, or worse yet, a deluge of leaked stories intended to destroy your reputation.

In the case of Hampton, it should be obvious to even the most casual observer that as a successful business women, military veteran and supporter of public education, that there are those in the leadership of the party who fear that she might just decide to run against one of the party’s leaders. While one never knows what could happen in a statewide political race, one thing is certain, and that is if Hampton decided to throw her hat in the proverbial ring, she would be a formidable candidate, someone who would be, and should be, feared by the party establishment.

So, one is left to ask that rhetorical question of who actually sits in these smoke-filled rooms; who are these self-appointed, power brokers who decide the next slate of candidates who the party loyal will be forced to vote for in the next election. Well, without listing those names, it is easy to imagine the names of those will be in attendance, and it is certain that among those invited to attend these secret meetings will certainly not include a teacher, a state judge, members of the legislature who fail to fall into line with the demands of the governor, and undoubtedly, you will not find any women, let alone a successful woman, military veteran with the name Jenean Hampton sitting at the table.

In the end, should there be any wonder why Kentuckians are fed up with this corrupt political system? Should there be any wonder why many party loyalists will simply decide to stay home and sit out the general election this November? Of course not! Sadly, nearly 200 years after Andrew Jackson first spoke about corruption in the House of Representatives, we find ourselves at a crossroad where we will have to choose from the list of those anointed in these smoke-filled rooms, otherwise we will be left with the Hobson’s choice which Jackson talked about when he said, “I weep for the liberty of my country when I see at this early stage of its successful experiment that corruption has been imputed to many members of the House of Representatives, and the rights of the people have been bartered for promises of office.”

So, as I often do, I would invite each of you to join me on my imaginary mountaintop, a place where we can watch all of those who believe they can make decisions in smoke-filled rooms out of political intrigue and chicanery, decisions which are motivated mostly out of personal greed, not out of concern for Kentuckians; a mountaintop where all Kentuckians can shout loudly that enough is enough, that it is time to clear out those smoke-filled rooms and conduct the business of the people in the light of day. 

Mark Wohlander, a former FBI agent and federal prosecutor, practices law in Lexington, Kentucky and throughout the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. His other columns and Liberty prints are available at fivesmoothstonesky.com

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