A Kentucky legislative employee who appeared in a video supporting Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes has been fired for violating a policy forbidding political activity.
Charles Booker, 29, of Louisville worked at the Legislative Research Commission as an analyst for just over a year.
Last week, he appeared in an online Grimes ad starring his wife, Tanesha, which accused Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of losing touch with poorer voters.
As WFPL first reported, Booker has worked for top Louisville Democrats such as Councilman David Tandy, and state Sen. Gerald Neal as well as a re-election campaign for Congressman John Yarmuth.
The LRC would not comment on the reason behind Booker's dismissal, but he told The Courier-Journal's Tom Loftus it was for engaging in a partisan election.
From The C-J:
Booker said he was a late addition to the video. “At the last minute I was asked to be in it…And I did that. I expected there to be a response, but I didn’t think it would rise to the level of me losing my job. But that’s okay.”
“I’m proud of my wife. I’m proud of the message she sent for West Louisville. And I’ll have to deal with the consequences.”
The LRC Personnel Policy Manual emphasizes that its employees must be non-partisan in order to serve all 138 legislators.“Any outside political activity that impairs an employee’s relationship with legislators, lessens the employee’s ability to perform effectively and fairly for all legislators, or lessens the degree of confidence and trust that legislators have in the employee will have a corresponding effect upon the employee’s ability to serve on the LRC staff,” the policy says.
In response the Grimes campaign argues Booker "didn't get involved in legislative politics" and "simply shared positive sentiments about Alison."
Booker makes a brief appearance in the 3-minute video, which follows his wife and daughter through the city's predominately African-American neighborhoods.
Asked how Booker ended up in the ad and if the campaign knew he was a state employee, a Grimes spokesman responded by blaming McConnell and his GOP allies in the state Senate for targeting Booker and violating his free speech rights.
"The bullying tactics of Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in the state Senate are disgusting," says Grimes senior adviser Jonathan Hurst. "Charles exercised his First Amendment rights and spoke out in support of his community and family in west Louisville, and the GOP's retaliatory behavior is appalling."
The LRC consists of researchers, attorneys, secretaries and other employees who provide a variety of services to state lawmakers. It is run by a 16-member panel consisting of Democratic and Republican leaders.
Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, is co-chair of the LRC and a strong McConnell supporter. But a Stivers spokeswoman vehemently denies the Grimes campaign's accusations.
"Our general counsel was informed (Monday) of Mr. Booker's firing; Senate leadership was in no way involved in the matter," says state Senate Republican caucus spokeswoman Jodi Whitaker. "To insinuate otherwise is absurd and untrue."