Serving as Kentucky’s 49th Attorney General has been an honor and a privilege. I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished together since I took office eight years ago. I’ve kept my promises to you, and it’s been my honor to fight for you, to protect Kentucky families and to move this state forward.
When I was first elected as your Attorney General in 2007, I pledged to crack down on prescription painkiller abuse, protect our children from dangers online and to go after those who have defrauded the Commonwealth. Now, we have of promises made and promises kept.
I created Kentucky’s first statewide prescription drug task force. We crafted legislation, which is now a national model. We’ve shut down half of the state’s pain clinics and we are expanding drug treatment in Kentucky. In fact, my staff and I shared one of our proudest accomplishments when we announced that $32 million secured through two pharmaceutical settlements would be used to expand substance abuse treatment across the state, including treatment for juveniles. I’ve had the opportunity to visit many of the substance abuse treatment facilities that are receiving funding through this initiative and I’ve witnessed firsthand how these critical organizations are providing second chances to Kentuckians who are working hard to seek treatment, get healthy and build better lives for their families.
We passed landmark legislation to address the resurgence of heroin. The legislation increased penalties for traffickers, created a Good Samaritan provision for those who called to report an overdose, provided heroin overdose reversal kits to law enforcement and health care facilities, increased funding for treatment, and allowed communities the option to develop needle exchanges to stop the spread of disease.
We cannot arrest our way out of the drug addiction problem that’s plaguing Kentucky – there aren’t enough courtroom and there aren’t enough jail cells. I’ve always said that in order to break the cycle of addiction, we must invest in both treatment and education. As Attorney General, I’ve done both. I’ve traveled across Kentucky with parents who lost children to drug overdoses. We talked face-to-face with children at our middle and high schools about the dangers of prescription drug and heroin abuse. We reached more than 50,000 students, teachers, and parents through our Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program. Many children in these schools shared personal stories with me about how their families have been broken by prescription drug abuse. I carry their stories with me, and I am incredibly proud of their resilience and commitment to writing a new chapter in their families’ histories.
I’ve followed through on my commitment to vigorously prosecute child predators and crack down on Internet crimes. I launched our Cybercrimes Unit in an effort to stem the rising tide of online crimes, and I know our efforts are helping make the Internet a safer place for Kentucky kids. To date, we’ve removed more than 1 million child porn images from the Internet, and our unit has a 100 percent conviction rate. In the process of investigating these crimes, we’ve also been able to intercede and identify victims.
In addition, I’ve had the honor of standing up for our active-duty military members and veterans. I served as the co-chair of the Veteran’s Committee for the National Association of Attorneys General. We took on GIBill.com, which was masquerading as a government website, but was really a funnel for the for-profit college industry that was interested in getting its hands on veterans’ benefits. We shut the website down and it’s now been turned over to US Department Veterans Affairs.
I traveled to Ft. Campbell and Ft. Knox to educate soldiers about consumer protection issues and process claims on-site for military families. We also created an online toolkit providing tips and resources on nearly a dozen consumer-related issues tailored to servicemen and women and their families; including identity theft prevention, payday lending and for-profit schools. Our servicemembers are our neighbors, co-workers, friends and family. I am thankful for their service, and they are true heroes in our communities.
As your Attorney General, I led a national working group of 37 state attorneys general who reviewed the practices of some bad actors in the for-profit college industry. My office filed suit against National College, Spencerian College, Daymar College, and EDMC. This year we announced settlements with Daymar and EDMC, the operator of Brown-Mackie College. The settlements provide more than $15 million in debt relief for students and revamp the way for-profit colleges are allowed to market and recruit potential students. They colleges must now also disclose accurate placement rates and how much debt students will incur as they pursue a degree. Our investigation in to the practices at ITT is ongoing.
As your Attorney General, I stood up for homeowners who were wrongfully foreclosed on during the nation’s housing crisis. From 2008 through 2012, banks foreclosed on 66,997 homes in Kentucky. A group of state attorneys general learned that many banks had engaged in illegal activity by “robo-signing”documents. In 2012, 49 state attorneys general reached an historic settlement five of the nation’s largest banks. As a result of the settlement, 1,833 Kentucky homeowners received more than $63.7 million in settlement-related relief from Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citi, Chase and Wells Fargo through June 30, 2013. Borrowers each received an average of $34,771 in assistance.
We also recovered $23 million for the state retirement system by settling our investigation in to Bank of America. We alleged the bank sold billions of dollars in mortgage-back securities to investment funds. The bank misrepresented the quality of the investments leading to significant losses for the Kentucky Retirement System and other pension funds across the country.
In addition, our consumer protection staff helped shut down one of the world’s largest pyramid schemes operating out of Lexington, Ky. Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing is now closed thanks to a joint action with the Federal Trade Commission. Its assets are currently being liquidated to create a $7.75 million restitution program for consumers who signed up for the multi-level marketing scam.
One of my proudest achievements was securing the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) for Kentucky communities and farmers. The MSA settlement ensured that Kentucky received $110.4 million in disputed payments, which is $67.9 million more than budgeted for the next two fiscal years. The tobacco payment money supports agricultural diversification, public health, and early childhood education.
From securing $1 million in restitution for South Central Kentucky livestock owners swindled by a stockyard, to pursuing more elder abuse and neglect cases than any previous Attorney General, our record is one of promises made and promises kept. We’ve stood up for those who needed a voice – increasing Medicaid Fraud collections by 600 percent, which led to that unit being named one of the most-aggressive in the country by Public Citizen. I am proud of what we’ve accomplished working together and I am forever thankful that you gave me the opportunity to represent the best interests of you and your family. I leave this office confident that, because of the combined efforts of so many, we have accomplished our main goal and made Kentucky a safer place to live, work and raise a family.
Jack Conyway is Kentucky’s Attorney General.