- Associated Press - Monday, July 17, 2017

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky’s Democratic attorney general should not launch an investigation of the Republican governor if he intends to challenge him for re-election, a state ethics panel ruled Monday.

Attorney General Andy Beshear had asked the Executive Branch Ethics Commission if it would be proper for him to in investigate whether Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s purchase of a Louisville home from a campaign donor violated state law.

Multiple media outlets reported Monday that the commission voted 4-1 to tell Beshear it would be improper for him to investigate Bevin if he intends to run against him in 2019. The board is made up of three people appointed by Bevin and two people appointed by former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.

The commission said Beshear could refer the investigation to other law enforcement agencies.

Deputy Attorney General J. Michael Brown criticized the opinion, telling the Lexington Herald-Leader it has “a chilling effect.”

“I think you can’t force somebody in that position, particularly when you don’t know if there’s an actual conflict or you don’t know if there’s any personal interest involved,” he said.

Beshear is widely seen as a potential challenger to Bevin in 2019, although he has not said if he intends to run.

Beshear has said he is considering investigating Bevin’s purchase of a home in the Louisville suburb of Anchorage. Bevin bought the house and 10 acres from Neil Ramsey, a friend and campaign donor, for $1.6 million in March. The Jefferson County property valuation administration previously valued the entire property, which is 19 acres, at $2,974,000.

Bevin is challenging that valuation. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

Bevin and Beshear have clashed frequently during their terms in office. Beshear has sued Bevin four times over his use of executive orders, with two of the cases making it to the state Supreme Court. Beshear won the first case. Another case is scheduled for argument before the Supreme Court next month.

Bevin has said he did nothing wrong, dismissing the ethics complaints as “political mumbo jumbo.”

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