A Donald Trump-backing Kentucky Republican introduced six bills in his first week as a legislator that could help his liquor business and another that could erase his boat debt.
C. Wesley Morgan, a Richmond liquor industry lobbyist and a freshman lawmaker, was the sole sponsor of six bills that would help other liquor dealers, reported the Lexington-Herald Leader.
The 66-year-old Morgan, the chief executive of the Liquor World chain and vice president of the Kentucky Association of Beverage Retailers, said his business background qualified him to file bills related to liquor sales.
“In order to fix industries, you have to go inside and get people who are familiar about what the problems are inside that industry,” Morgan told WLEX-TV.
He said that was no different than doctors and lawyers sponsoring bills related to medical issues or tort reform.
“My focus is on jobs and making it easier to do biz,” Morgan tweeted to the Herald-Leader. “Having years of experience in liquor industry, I know where to cut tape. The real story here is that desperate wholesale liquor lobbyists are worried their monopoly is going to be busted. Shame on them!”
Morgan’s bills would essentially limit who can sell liquor and how cheaply — and he also wants to change a rule he was accused of breaking last year.
He was charged with violating a prohibition on transferring liquor to stores owned by the same person, but in different counties, which he said is outdated and unnecessary.
“You shall not transport for the purpose of resale,” he told WLEX. “That was intended for bootlegging. The whole statute was written as intended for bootlegging.”
Ethics watchdogs expressed concerns that Morgan, who frequently posts pro-Trump messages and “birther” conspiracy theories on his Facebook page, presents a clear conflict of interest.
“When he ran for the House, Mr. Morgan should have been running to help, first, the people of his district, and second, all of the people of the commonwealth,” Richard Beliles, chairman of watchdog group Common Cause of Kentucky. “But it looks instead like he ran to help himself.”
A seventh bill he introduced last week would end Morgan’s legal dispute with a marina over unpaid fees that resulted in the seizure of his boat, reported the Courier-Journal.
That bill would prohibit marinas from interfering with a boat owner’s right to take possession of his watercraft and repeal a state law that allows marina owners to enforce liens on boats.
Morgan is currently involved in a lawsuit with Lee’s Ford Dock, which took possession of the lawmaker’s houseboat over nearly $28,000 unpaid moorage fees.
He sued the Lake Cumberland marina in August, arguing that he had paid all he owed and accusing Lee’s Ford Dock of wrongly seizing the boat and chaining it to a dock.
Morgan asked the court to order the marina to release his boat, but a judge denied that motion last month.
Morgan defeated Democratic state Rep. Rita Smart last year after promising to reform tax laws and the state’s pension system, and he also vowed to fight drug addiction and crime.
He helped the GOP retake the Kentucky state house for the first time in 95 years.
Kentucky lawmakers are allowed to act on legislation that affects their business, but only if it’s not specific to their business only.
State law places much of the burden on voters to enforce those ethical constraints.
“We assume that his constituents knew what he did for a living when they elected him,” said John Schaaf, executive director of the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission.