WAVE 3 News finds new business connection between Bevin, political ally

WAVE 3 News finds new business connection between Bevin, political ally
Gov. Matt Bevin

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has continued to shrug off or ignore any questions about his new home in Anchorage, even as the state's attorney general announced he's looking at whether the home is an ethics violation.

For months, WAVE 3 News, along with the Courier-Journal and Lexington Herald-Leader, has been digging into the details of Bevin living in a home purchased from Neil Ramsey, a local investor whom he appointed to the state's retirement board.

"These are people that are not serious journalists," Bevin said in a recent Facebook Live video. "They're just not. They will beg to differ and that's their prerogative. It is our option to disregard people that don't take their responsibilities seriously. They make a lot of noise. They're like cicadas. They come out and make a lot of noise."

Ramsey told WAVE 3 News he had discussed the sale with Bevin months before the house came on the market and it sold for about half of its assessed value. WAVE 3 News has since learned there are more about the ties between Governor Bevin's personal finances, Ramsey, and state business.

Ramsey owns eBridge, a company that won a state contract to do reverse auctions in 2014 under the Beshear administration. Reverse auctions are a way to get vendors to bid against each other and provide goods or services.

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State records show that contract has earned the company nearly $160,000 in commissions and continues to be renewed yearly. Recently, at the beginning of 2017, Ramsey was approved as an angel investor for the state, which entitles him to tax credits for investments in state-approved companies.

Two weeks after his January appointment, Ramsey put $300,000 into Louisville-based Neuronetrix earning a $120,000 credit in the process. Bevin is on the Neuronetrix board, and on his most recent financial disclosure form, Bevin stated that he owns at least 5 percent of the company, which describes itself as a medical technology firm.

Ramsey wasn't the only state official to invest in Neuronetrix this year. Bradford Stengel, a local architect appointed to Kentucky's Board of Architects in 2016, invested $150,000. Charles Hill, co-owner of Stengel's architecture firm, also kicked in $150,000. The pair earned a combined $120,000 in tax credits. Both of them were approved as angel investors on the same day this year.

State ethics code is supposed to bring transparency, but it's tough to learn much from the handwritten disclosure form Ramsey filed. It lists only four businesses that Ramsey is involved in, and leaves off several others he's tied to in some way.

One notable exception is Anchorage LLC. That's the company Ramsey used to own the Anchorage house and other properties before he sold the 150-year-old home to Anchorage Place LLC. The governor has not revealed whether he owns Anchorage Place LLC, but he is living in the home. That company was formed in 2017, and Bevin won't be required to list it on his financial disclosure statement until April 2018 if he does in fact own it.

Ramsey also left off BHR Capital, a hedge fund company that lists him as an owner on federal records through "NAR Irrevocable Trust." Another investment company, Zais Group, lists him as a controlling shareholder, owning more than 9 million shares worth around $18 million. When asked about Zais Group's exemption from his disclosure form, Ramsey said, "Funds that we manage have a financial investment in ZAIS." It's worth noting that Zais manages $3.44 billion in assets. That's nearly 10 times larger than Ramsey's investment company RQSI, which states it has $472 million under management.

Attorney General Andy Beshear has publicly stated he's looking into the sale of the home and noted that Ramsey had some state contracts.

"The governor could clear it all up just by being direct, just by coming out and talking about this and not by laughing it off," Beshear said in a radio interview. "There is a lot of smoke there."

Bevin's office never responded to requests for an interview, nor did Hill and Stengel.

Ramsey answered questions WAVE 3 News sent him for a previous story, but he did not respond to any questions this time about BHR, eBridge or the angel investor program.

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