In politics, events sometimes have significance which isn’t immediately apparent on their surface. Three stories in the past week hint at such a possibility.

The first was the inaction of the state Republican Party Executive Committee at its meeting Saturday. Gov. Ernie Fletcher had called on the party’s chairman, Darrell Brock, to resign. Brock previously worked in the Fletcher administration and was one of the nine people indicted, and later pardoned by Fletcher, for alleged hiring abuses. Brock, however, refused and the executive committee declined to force him out. Afterward, party spokeswoman Jessica Ditto said the committee gave Brock “essentially a vote of confidence.”

Fans of political novels might perceive another hand directing the orchestra. Could rumors of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell casting about for an alternative Republican candidate for 2007 be true? If so, did the executive committee try to send a subtle message to the governor that it’s time Fletcher put his party’s interests ahead of his own?

The second story involved Fletcher’s response. He went out of his way to say he is running for re-election in 2007, something he’d previously announced. Some might conclude he was answering a perceived message from McConnell by announcing for the second time he’s running for re-election.

The potential significance of the third story requires more scrutiny. The special grand jury reindicted acting Transportation Cabinet Secretary Bill Nighbert, this time for violations of the law which protects employees who report government abuses from retaliation by superiors. Nighbert was one of the nine indicted and later pardoned. His attorney contends the pardon covers this charge as well, but prosecutors for Attorney General Greg Stumbo said at least part of the alleged violations occurred after the pardon which covered only the period before midnight on Aug. 29.

On Aug. 26, Dan Druen, the only person charged with felony crimes (he, too, was later pardoned), talked to prosecutors. Stumbo’s staff subsequently filed court documents which included transcripts of that interview. They indicated Druen told them Nighbert personally handed Fletcher a copy of one of the “hit lists” of employees targeted for removal. Is Stumbo trying to squeeze Nighbert so he’ll confirm Druen’s testimony and provide the grand jury enough grist for an indictment of the governor?

It’s all speculation, but understanding political maneuvering requires speculation about motive behind the deed.

Contact Ronnie Ellis by e-mailing


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