Kentuckians are no stranger to political corruption and vote-buying. Everyone in the Commonwealth gives an eye roll to news of money changing hands to get such-n-such candidate out of whatever race they’re in – because it’s everyday, it’s political reality.
What’s not everyday is when a candidate for U.S. Senate comes forward to admit his opponent tried to buy him out of the race. That’s exactly what Democrat-turned-Independent Ed Marksberry says happened with Alison Lundergan Grimes.
And he put it in writing for us.
In a 15-page missive, Marksberry recounts the story of his candidacy, detailing the inner workings of of the Kentucky Democratic Party, focusing on what led to his current status as an Independent candidate. It’s a bit lengthy (HELLO?! We live in a bullet-point world), so we’ll just highlight the juicy bits for you. The complete document will be available at the end of the story.
Marksberry on why he became a candidate:
My first interest in running came from the fact that no “prominent candidate” would step up to take on McConnell, it is coming up on a year since I made public my intentions. I was hoping that Crit Luallen or the governor would take on Mitch, but, we can’t blame them for it.
So I put together a plan of running to attack Mitch on the main problem of the political process and that’s the money it takes to run a campaign. Since Mitch owns Citizens United, it should be easy to communicate this to the working class people of Ky, coming from a regular “Joe” as myself, if I had just a little support from my former Democratic Party, my thoughts were it might push a prominent candidate to step forward.., like Ashley Judd (who probably wouldn’t win, but hell, she would have definitely gave a voice to the Liberal Progressives,) Matthew Barzun or Alison Grimes.
Now remember, at this time, nobody thought Mitch was as vulnerable as the media says he is today, but I was game and ready to help out anyway I could.
Then came the attacks against Ashley from my own party and man, it opened my eyes up to the fact that the two factions were still alive in Ky, that would be the Lundergan vs Beshear faction.
I did my best to expose the nonsense
On his first interaction with Alison Lundergan Grimes’ father, Jerry:
Moving a bit forward, I contacted Jerry Lundergan and told him that I thought Alison could beat Mitch and that if they decided to run against Mitch I would be able to help them covertly (that’s another story). I must confess, I really didn’t think Alison could beat Mitch at that time, but hell, it certainly wouldn’t be a career ending move, in fact, she would be considered the hero for doing it.
He told me to call him later and I did and when Bill Clinton came to Owensboro for a fundraiser, I spoke to Jerry briefly about the plans I had and I talked to Dale Emmons shortly about it. I could tell by the look in Dale’s eyes that she was definitely running.
On the exclusivity of the Kentucky Democratic Party:
I don’t know how many calls I got from those that knew about my campaign but couldn’t understand why the media wasn’t reporting on it, I tried to explain as shortly as I could about the disconnect that not only the media, but the leaders of our party don’t care about the common folks. Yes they preach that they are for the little guy, but in reality it’s about who can raise big bucks and playing up to the King Makers.
The State Democratic party has become nothing but a “inner circles and wealthy donors” party, just like the GOP.
On Alison Grimes’ candidacy:
Well the Alison charade ran for several months and our own political leaders were starting to put the pressure on Alison to make a decision. I had heard form a very prominent Democrat that he had a friend who received a call from Alison and she told him that she was running. I really didn’t think at the time she would because they hadn’t even secured their domain names in case she decided to run. But as we found out later, her future campaign would have more rookie mistakes. I spoke briefly to Alison about the call I made at the Shelby County dinner and told her that we may be calling the same people out West and that we should talk later about this. She agreed and told me to call her office and talk to Terrance (might have misspelled his name) and she added that they would be talking to me in a couple of weeks (note; if my memory is correct, the Shelby County Dinner was a few weeks before she officially made her announcement). Anyway, I never got that call and I left a message with her assistant to call me about the possibility that we were calling on the same (possible) donors, he didn’t call back either.
My thoughts about Alison’s decision or non-decision showed she cared more for her political career and that she was “Indecisive”, not a good trait for a US Senator.
On Grimes’ continual campaign missteps:
First we have Alison Lundergan Grimes comes out to say she is running and we finally have the “Prominent Candidate” that we needed. Her announcement wasn’t what anyone would have expected, given the resources and support she had. But we would find out early that Alison’s team didn’t have their legs under them yet and to be honest, to date they still continue to amaze us with buffoonery and missteps.
Though unexpected, it’s interesting to read a candidate’s thoughts. Even more interesting to hear details of his interactions. But things get much more juicy.
In highlighting the KDP’s violation of its own bylaws in initially promoting Grimes, Marksberry shares details of longtime Lundergan confidant Jonathan Hurst:
That weekend I texted Jonathan Hurst in Alison’s camp. I texted that I thought that Alison should denounce what the KDP had done.
He texted back immediately that they had nothing to do with it, yaaddaa yaaddaa yaaddda.
I told him to call me Monday and we would talk.
Moday’s phone conversation started as usual with Jonathan, he’s always complementally trying to say he’s on your side of whatever, then he carefully turns the subject around to suit his boss.
And how the Lundergan/Grimes crew internally viewed him as a threat (or buttered him up to believe they felt that way):
Then the conversation turned to the obvious about how I knew it would be hard to take on Alison, and I wanted them to kick McConnell’s ass. I offered him the ideas I gave Jerry and Dale earlier about how I could help them defeat McConnell.
His wheels started turning and he said something like, I would be a great asset to their campaign especially in Western Ky and he complimented me on how he likes how I think outside the box.
He said to give him a few days and we would talk again about a possible position on their team.
Finally, on the offer to buy him out:
In the middle of building our case, I get a call from someone close to Jerry. And no I will never reveal their name to anyone. Editor’s note: their name isn’t important to the story, they’re a middleman party chair.
We met and I was told that Alison’s campaign would like to ask me to consider stepping out of the race.
They said that Jerry really liked me and that Jerry takes care of his friends. And if Alison wins, there could be a favored owed to me. Whatever that means, I don’t know, but I took it that if I ever needed some help in the future, I could call in my political equity with him.
I explained that I really liked Alison and that my campaign was no threat to her and it would be healthy for the Party to have my Liberal Progressive voice in the debate.
This person’s response was that they wouldn’t be reaching out if they didn’t think I was a concern for their campaign.
I had a lot of respect for Jerry, but just like all Democrats, we don’t agree on everything, but if we did, we would just be Republicans.
I wanted nothing more than McConnell to be defeated and I talked about some ideas I had to rebuild the precinct chairs and re-energize the base that the party needed.
I talked about the conversation that Jonathan Hurst and I had about maybe a spot in their campaign for me. But there was a little problem I had with just stepping out and I really didn’t care to be the one of a thousand standing in line after the possibility of Alison defeating McConnell, waiting for a favor. Especially, since most of these people standing in line were probably rich and looking out for their sons or daughters some type of position.
Besides, I had skin in this game; I had debts and a loyal campaign manager who had been with me since day one.
My manager worked hard and so did others on our campaign. They were expecting a job through the primary and possibly the general election. I couldn’t just leave them in the cold.
He goes on:
I proposed the following, if they would agree to find a spot on their campaign for my manager and payoff my web designer debt, I would happily abide in their request.
I still would have to talk to my manager about the idea, but I looked at it as a win-win situation.
One other thing I wanted them to be aware of was that I would not be able to immediately withdraw from the race because I wanted the opportunity to sue the KDP and if I was no longer a candidate, there would be no legal “Standing” grounds to sue them. But I would immediately stop active fundraising, because it would be wrong asking for money, knowing I was about to get out of the race.
I got a call later saying that it was deal and to send in my campaign managers resume.
He even shows signs that some in Grimes’ world knew what they were doing could land them in potentially hot water:
I called Jonathan Hurst, thinking he was in the loop on it and I wanted to know where to send my campaign managers resume to. I don’t remember exactly what was said, but evidently he didn’t know anything about the agreement. He started to panic and said something to the fact that they couldn’t do it because the McConnell team would accuse them of buying me to get out of the race. He was going to have to talk to Jerry immediately.
Of course McConnell would use it against them, but trust me; it would be forgotten news in a few weeks anyway. That’s how these big campaigns work, they throw so many stones at each other, by the end of the election they could gravel a two mile road with the stones thrown.
Shortly I get a call from the person that I had met with and they said that they didn’t know what was going on but there was panic on the other side and this person suggested to lay low, but also, it was my campaign and I should do whatever I thought was best.
I felt bad for this person grief or whatever they went through with trying to help. They didn’t deserve the stress and it pissed me off that they used them as a go between.
Shortly after this, I get a call from Jonathan and he apologizes about it and said not to worry, he panicked and everything is worked out. He asked me to send in the resume and they would still have to approve it and they would, but they just didn’t know what position they would put my manager in.
We had a deal, we didn’t have a deal, and then we had a deal.
I didn’t like what I just witnessed; they showed a lack of being cool under pressure and made me feel like a cheap prostitute.
Marksberry also shared details about a face-to-face interaction to discuss the planned payoff:
We had a pleasant greeting I sat down in their office and asked so what did you want to talk about?
Their words; “They want to ask you to step out of the race and they understand you have some debts with your campaign and they can take care of it if you want, the money is there and they can make it happen if you want to.”
I leaned way back and looked at the ceiling, right then I knew what I had to do.
I said, “it’s not about the money, it’s the principal”
They (the person) said “you don’t know how much pressure we’ve been getting to get you (me) out of this race, a ton of pressure”.
Here we go again with either the KDP or Alison’s camp putting pressure and stress on others to get me out of the race.
That’s that. An actual U.S. Senate candidate coming forward to specifically detail what Alison Lundergan Grimes’ handlers are alleged to have done in attempting to buy him out of the race. Complete with promises to pay off campaign debt and give someone a job.
We reached out to the Grimes folks for comment but haven’t heard a peep.
If you’d like to read Marksberry’s entire story, click here for the PDF. The document is unedited – save removing a bunch of random indents and empty space. It’s riddled with watermarks to prevent a handful of lazy folks from claiming it as their own.