Mongiardo turns up attack against Conway - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Mongiardo turns up attack against Conway


Democratic U.S. Senate contender Daniel Mongiardo ratcheted up the attacks on his main rival Tuesday, filing an ethics complaint claiming Attorney General Jack Conway "violated the public trust" by accepting campaign contributions from utility interests.

Conway campaign spokeswoman Allison Haley called the accusations "false and baseless" and belittled the complaint as "a political stunt" just two weeks before Kentucky's primary election.

Mongiardo, the state's lieutenant governor, said Conway has accepted more than $70,000 in campaign contributions from utility companies, their executives and lobbyists. Mongiardo has pounded away at Conway on the matter because the attorney general, through his Office of Rate Intervention, routinely weighs in on whether rate increases are warranted in cases before the Public Service Commission.

"It is a clear conflict of interest for Attorney General Conway, who is supposed to negotiate rate increases on behalf of Kentucky ratepayers, to have accepted over $70,000 in campaign contributions from utility companies he is negotiating with," Mongiardo said.

Haley countered that in his two-plus years as attorney general, Conway has saved Kentucky consumers more than $100 million from proposed utility rate increases.

Mongiardo's complaint also pointed to Conway's role in a pending rate case involving Atmos Energy that Mongiardo claims would reap personal financial benefits for Conway. Mongiardo said Atmos Energy is a business partner of Kinder Morgan, a Texas natural gas company in which Conway has invested millions.

"The better Atmos Energy does, the better Kinder Morgan does, the better Jack Conway does," Mongiardo said.

Haley accused Mongiardo of "throwing out conspiracy theories" that don't "check out."

In the Atmos Energy case, Conway's staff was involved in negotiating a settlement that proposes a $5.9 million rate increase for Atmos. The proposed settlement is scheduled to come before the PSC next week for review. Atmos' initial rate request was significantly higher than $5.9 million.

Atmos Energy distributes natural gas across a broad section of western and central Kentucky. Mongiardo's attack is the latest in a series of salvos with Conway in a hard-fought campaign for the Democratic nomination to run for the seat of retiring Republican Sen. Jim Bunning.

Dana Nickles, general counsel with the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, said she could not confirm or deny whether Mongiardo had filed the complaint because the process is confidential.

The commission's next meeting is scheduled for May 14 -- just four days before the primary. Nickles said it would be likely that a complaint filed Tuesday would come up at that meeting.

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