You may have seen the name Matt Jones on social media and on sports and non-sports sites and wondered who that was, what it has to do with Kentucky senator (and Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell and why things like #FreeMattJones were trending on Twitter this week.
If so, and if you’ve wondered what was up with all of that, don’t be alarmed. We’re here to help with a look at the story that’s a crossover between sports radio and politics.
Who is Matt Jones?
He’s a host on Kentucky Sports Radio, a show that airs on stations around the state. But he’s also a lawyer who regularly talks about politics on the air.
What happened to him?
He’s thrown around the idea of running against McConnell in 2020, and per a KSR blog post he was asked to step away from hosting his show because of an FEC complaint filed by the Republican Party in the state.
Per the Louisville Courier Journal, he was accused of “serious violations … including accepting corporate contributions toward his campaign and failing to report related expenditures.”
This breakdown from WLKY helps: Basically, the accusation is that by speaking about McConnell on the air, he’s receiving “in-kind” contributions from station owners. “The complaint also says Jones’ book publisher is paying for Jones to take a tour around the state,” adds the station.
What’s wrong with that?
If Jones is indeed a candidate for public office — see below — then by talking about his campaign on the air and on his book tour, he’s receiving corporate money from the stations the air his show and his publisher.
What did Jones say?
In that blog post, he reported it was iHeart Radio who asked him to step aside and that “the complaint is absolute nonsense and very disappointing from someone as powerful as McConnell.”
And here’s more from his Twitter feed:
What’s been the response?
On Thursday around noon, #FreeMattJones was the top Twitter trend in the United States:
Did Jones really run afoul of campaign finance laws?
The question is actually: is Jones a candidate yet?
Jones has said repeatedly that he’s not, that he’s simply formed an exploratory committee, but the complaint says he filed a “statement of candidacy” form.
Okay. So what’s the big deal here?
There are two things that could be happening:
1. The GOP in the state saw some problems in Jones’s potential campaign and is trying to uphold campaign finance laws.
2. The party that backs McConnell sees a threat in Jones and attempted to derail his campaign before it even got off the ground.
So what’s next?
Hard to say. But if Jones sees this kind of support, it might push him into running.