Millionaire Spends Big Bucks Defeating DA Who Investigated Sexual Abuse at His Shady Nursing Home
An enormous amount of attention has been paid to the impact that unlimited corporate spending will have -- is having -- on our political system. But what about our judicial system? District attorneys are elected, as are judges in many jurisdictions.
Alan Grayson painted the clearest picture of what the Citizens United decision looks like in the real world when he said -- and I'm paraphrasing -- 'a lobbyist can now walk into my office and say, 'I've got 2 million dollars to spend in the final weeks of this race. I can spend it for you, or for your opponent -- the choice is yours.' Now that's real power.'
There are laws preventing a person with deep pockets who's involved in a criminal investigation from making such an overt threat to a DA. But the same message could be delivered more subtly. And DAs and judges often seek higher elected office. So a shady business with lots of cash on hand could promise to invest heavily against an elected District Attorney in every race he or she might take on in the future. That would be a threat with some weight, and it means we could see the purchase of not only political influence, but also "prosecutorial discretion" -- and DAs have lots of it -- as a result of the Citzens United ruling.
We're getting a peek at what that looks like in Kentucky, as a deep-pocketed right-wing businessman and major funder of Karl Rove's American Crossroads super-PAC is investing heavily to kill the senate campaign of District Attorney Jack Conway, a Democrat who's investigated his shady nursing home.
Here are some details from ABC News:
In the bitter U.S. Senate race in Kentucky, a local millionaire has helped launch a barrage of ads attacking the Democratic candidate – a candidate who, as the state's attorney general, is prosecuting the businessman's nursing home for allegedly covering up sexual abuse, records show.
The businessman's name is Terry Forcht. And like many super-wealthy conservative donors who are quietly stoking the GOP's mid-term election surge around the nation, the extent of his investment in the 2010 campaign is both vast and, for now at least, largely unknown.
In addition to donating personally to Republican Rand Paul's upstart campaign, Forcht is the banker handling funds for American Crossroads. The conservative group was founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove and has, through its non-profit arm, American Crossroads GPS, channeled millions into this year's campaigns without identifying its donors.
Forcht heads nine community banks, owns 18 radio stations, a newspaper, a monthly and a printing company, heads a real estate brokerage, and operates a chain of nursing homes. One published report said Forcht held extensive interests in 93 separate businesses, some of which are subject to federal regulation. But in spending to elect Paul to the U.S. Senate, Forcht is not only advocating for an ally in Washington.
He is also seeking the defeat of Conway, the same man who, as the Kentucky attorney general, has been leading an aggressive and very public prosecution of a Forcht-owned nursing home for allegedly covering up the scandalous sexual abuse of an elderly resident. The case was brought after the nursing home allegedly failed to report to authorities, or even tell the 88-year-old victim's family, that she had been sexually abused by another resident.
State records reviewed by ABC News show that Forcht is both the chairman and the registered agent for the Hazard Nursing Home, where the alleged incident took place. As such, Forcht was to be summoned to appear in a Kentucky court last month, state officials said. Forcht's company and its administrator have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The case has been big news in Kentucky, with the lurid details of the elderly woman's abuse played out in state and local newspapers. Conway issued a press release upon bringing the charges, saying he wanted to make a public example of Forcht's nursing home. The charges, he said in a press release, were intended to "send a message to nursing home operators and administrators that they have an obligation to notify authorities if a resident is abused while in their care."
Conway was trying to "send a message" to fly-by-night nursing home operators, and it appears that Forcht is sending one right back. It's a dangerous message, with the potential to be heard by other District Attorneys who have political aspirations and are investigating other questionable businesses.