Reds president holds fundraiser for Democratic NKY congressional candidate

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

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The president and chief operating officer of the Cincinnati Reds was in Covington on Tuesday as one of the hosts of a fundraiser for 4th Congressional District Candidate Matthew Lehman. The Democrat is challenging incumbent Republican Congressman Thomas Massie.

Phil Castellini, and his wife, Britt, hosted the event for Lehman. The event was co-hosted by Amanda and Guy van Rooyen, and Steve and Nora Fink.

Guy van Rooyen, the president and CEO of the Salyers Group, which owns Hotel Covington where the event was held, said that he met with Massie back in 2012, when Massie had first been elected. Van Rooyen said that his company wanted a tariff removed that would have allowed it to employ more than 200 people, but he characterized Massie as silent and dismissive.

“The lack of care was something that I noticed right away,” van Rooyen said before introducing Lehman.

Ahead of the event, Lehman criticized Massie, who is seeking is sixth two-year term representing Kentucky’s Fourth Congressional District. Lehman also criticized the Libertarian movement, referring to it as anti-government radicalism and an anti-democracy movement. Massie is often associated with it.

“In this area, we have a corrosive, uncompromising, extremist element that is taken root in parts of the Northern Kentucky Republican party,” Lehman said. “It is a group that cynically calls themselves the liberty caucus. They’ve dedicated themselves to electing anti-government, anti-democracy radicals to office. Unfortunately, our incumbent congressman is emblematic of this group and in support of this insurgent candidates.”

The Castellini family doesn’t typically support Democratic candidates, with Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear being the notable exception, with a $2,000 donation in January of 2022 from Phil’s father, Bob, owner and chief executive officer of the Reds.

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However, according to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance records, the Castellini family donated $14,000 to former Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin in 2019. The donations came from Phil, Susan, Bob, and R.H., with all of them listing 312 Elm Street, Cincinnati, Ohio, as their address.

Beyond that, they have donated to Northern Kentucky candidates in the past, including Sen. Wil Schroder (R-Wilder), Campbell County Judge/Executive Steve Pendery, and Kenton County Judge/Executive Kris Knochelmann. Occasionally, they donate to Republicans throughout the state, including Kentucky House Speaker David Osborne (R-Prospect).

The Castellini Company, a fruit and vegetable wholesaler, is located in Wilder. Bob serves as CEO of Castellini in addition to principal owner and chairman of the Reds.

Lehman said that Phil is obviously interested in candidates that aren’t “going to embarrass Northern Kentucky.”

“Some of this stuff has gone too far on the radical right, and I think that’s what we’re seeing right now,” Lehman said, referring to why the Castellini’s are supporting Democratic candidates.

Castellini didn’t speak during the event and wasn’t available to answer questions.

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