Five donors donated $5K to Boone County GOP within days of giving $25K to Jessica Neal recount

Mark Payne
Mark Payne
Mark Payne is the government and politics reporter for LINK nky. Email him at [email protected]

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Five donors each donated $5,000 within days of the Boone County Republican Party giving $25,000 to the Jessica Neal Recount Bond, according to semi-annual reports from the Kentucky Registry for Election Finance.

That contrasts initial reports that the $25,000 came from one private donor, a donation that would have violated state election laws.

Jessica Neal, a Senate District 24 candidate, requested a recount for her second-place finish in the May 2022 Republican primary. A Campbell County judge issued the bond, the mechanism for funding a recount, at more than $57,000. 

In August, LINK nky reported on two conflicting explanations about the origin of a $25,000 donation made to Neal’s recount bond. 

The first, provided by Emily Shelton, a Boone County Republican Party precinct captain and the Republican member of the Boone County Board of Elections, said the large donation came from one donor with the request that the money be given to Neal’s recount bond. 

“It was a donation made to the GOP with the understanding that that’s what the donor wanted us to use it for,” Shelton said at the time. 

But Chet Hand, chairman of the Boone County Republican Party, denied the donation came from one individual and said Shelton’s statement was false. Hand didn’t respond to a request for comment for this article. 

“All of the statements put forth in the previous Link NKY article regarding the BCRP donations are categorically false,” Hand said at the time, though he declined to be interviewed for the story. “We are very aware of the KREF (Kentucky Registry for Election Finance) regulations regarding contribution limits. We have not accepted any donations in a calendar year, from any single donor, in excess of the $5,000 individual maximum.” 

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Shelton further confirmed she was in the meeting and heard the money came from “a donor.” 

The party filed its semi-annual report on Jan. 30, which shows the money came from five separate donors within one week of the party giving to Neal’s recount bond.

Here’s the timeline:

  • July 27, 2022: The Boone County Republican Party filed its semi-annual report with the Kentucky Registry for Election Finance. Its ending balance was $18,017.68. 
  • July 29: Neal announced via social media that her recount would start on Aug. 8, but the amount of the bond was unknown at that time.
  • Aug. 1: Husband and wife Jim and Maria Brueggemann each made a $5,000 donation to the party. The Brueggemann family owns Bavarian Waste in Boone County. The Brueggemanns didn’t respond to requests for comment for this article. 
  • Aug. 4: The party held a special meeting, and under those meeting minutes, there was a call to take action on election integrity efforts. 

“Chairman Hand gave an update regarding the specific purpose of the meeting, to take action on recent donations to support our election integrity efforts, and consider the recommendation from the BCRP Election Integrity Committee,” the report says. 

  • Aug. 5: Judge Daniel Zalla set the recount bond at $57,368 to be paid by Aug.8; the party officially donates $25,000 to Neal’s campaign. 
  • Aug. 8: Three more individuals donated to the party in the amount of $5,000. Kevin and Bridgette Ehly are the first two. Bridgette ran for the House seat in District 59 and lost to House Speaker David Osborne (R-Prospect) 68% to 32%, but still wanted a recount. A judge dismissed her recount petition
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Bridgette and Kevin also donated $2,000 each directly to Neal’s campaign on Aug. 2, which totaled $4,000. 

Separately, on Aug. 2, Sen. Adrienne Southworth (R-Anderson) donated $2,000 and her husband, Christopher, donated $1,900 to Neal’s campaign. Then Southworth’s campaign made two more donations under “Southworth for Senate” of $200 each, on July 31 and Aug. 2, directly to Neal’s campaign.

The third $5,000 donor, Adrian Miron, is the owner of BMW Louisville. Miron hasn’t made any other donations to Kentucky candidates, according to KREF records, but did confirm he made the donation to the Boone County Republican Party and further said he can do anything he wants with his money. 

“I don’t have any comments, man,” Miron said. “I’m a Republican, and that’s it.” 

Also on Aug. 8, Neal took to social media to say she raised enough money to post the bond. 

“I am THRILLED to share with all of you that I posted the bond amount of $57,368 with the Campbell County Circuit Court Clerk this morning,” Neal wrote on Facebook. “None of this would have been possible without your generous support. Thank you!!!”

Neal’s recount only lasted two days, and she was refunded $38,825.07 after it was determined the vote count hadn’t changed and she had still lost the election. On Dec. 16, 2022, Neal’s campaign gave back $17,500 to the Boone County Republican Party.

John Steffen, the executive director of KREF, said the donations don’t appear to violate any Kentucky election laws. 

“The contributions were within the allowable limits,” Steffen said. “Once they give the money to the executive committee (BCRP), the executive committee is free to do what it wants with it.” 

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In Kentucky in 2022, individual donors coudn’t give more than $2,000 to a candidate in a calendar year. Executive committees, which are how county parties are classified, can provide an unlimited amount. 

There are laws, however, against circumventing these rules under Kentucky Revised Statute 121.150(9). 

“No person shall contribute funds to a permanent committee, political issues committee, or contributing organization for the purpose of circumventing the contribution limits of subsection (6) of this section.” 

Subsection six outlines the contribution limits for candidates. 

There are also rules about pass-through donations. 

“No person shall make a payment, distribution, loan, advance, deposit, or gift of money to another person to contribute to a candidate, a slate of candidates, committee, contributing organization, or anyone on their behalf,” reads KRS 121.150(12). 

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