LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky Republican senatorial candidate Rand Paul wrote in a newspaper four years ago that he would have pardoned himself if he had been the state's scandal-plagued governor at the time.
Paul's opinion piece in the now-defunct Kentucky Post appeared shortly before a judge dismissed accusations that then-Gov. Ernie Fletcher, a Republican, had violated state hiring laws. The same judge had previously ruled that Fletcher could not be tried while in office.
Paul, a Bowling Green eye doctor who has charmed the tea party movement by eschewing politics as usual, confided in his Aug. 23, 2006, article that he sometimes daydreamed about "what I'd do if I were president or governor."
Weighing in on Fletcher's predicament, Paul wrote, "What would I do if I were governor? First, I'd have pardoned myself and everyone included nearly a year ago. Without a pardon the case goes on and on."
Richard Beliles, chairman of the nonpartisan watchdog group Common Cause of Kentucky, said Wednesday that Paul's pro-pardon stance would have been "good for an emperor, but it's hardly good for a public servant."
"If that's what he really thinks, he doesn't understand the concept of a public servant," Beliles said.
Paul campaign manager Jesse Benton said that dredging up the op-ed piece was an attempt "to make an issue where there is none," at a time the nation faces such critical issues as a mushrooming national debt. He said Paul used "light-hearted satire" when joking about daydreams.
Paul's article, written at a time when he was head of Kentucky Taxpayers United, also bemoaned the lack of vision on tax policy and advocated lowering the income tax.
Benton said the op-ed was an example of Paul's "consistent criticism of bureaucracy, status-quo thinking and do-nothing partisanship."
Paul's comments reflected a running debate among Fletcher supporters about the governor's appropriate response to the long-running investigation. On the eve of his appearance before a grand jury, Fletcher pardoned current and past members of his administration charged in the investigation but said he would not pardon himself.
Prosecutors dropped the misdemeanor charges in a deal in which Fletcher acknowledged evidence "strongly indicates wrongdoing" by his administration.
Now, Fletcher rarely makes public appearances. Efforts to reach him Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Fletcher called the investigation a political witch hunt, and Paul wrote that the GOP governor "has gotten no kudos" for not pardoning himself. Paul said he would have waged a "relentless" attack against then-Democratic Attorney General Greg Stumbo for what he labeled a "partisan prosecution of the case."
Paul said Fletcher had missed an opportunity to bring "any great vision of limited government to Kentucky," but said his fellow Republican didn't deserve "the leper status he's received for so-called misdemeanor violations of state employment hiring."
Paul, who is making his first run for elective office, has portrayed himself as the kind of political outsider needed to end runaway deficits and intrusive government.
Allison Haley, a spokewoman for Democrat Jack Conway, Paul's opponent, questioned how Paul could be expected to hold "Wall Street and Washington accountable ... when, if given the chance, he said he wouldn't even hold himself accountable."
Paul's article chided Republicans for being "fair-weather friends" toward Fletcher.
Paul, who advocates more limited government, wrote that he "would not have diddled around replacing Democratic bureaucrats with Republican bureaucrats. I'd have simply tried to get rid of as many bureaucrats as possible, Republican and Democrat."
Paul campaign: http://www.randpaul2010.com/
Conway campaign: http://jackconway.org/