FRANKFORT — In his State of the Commonwealth address in January, Gov. Andy Beshear took a moment to address the plague of addiction in Kentucky, highlighting the state’s largest provider of treatment services.

Addiction Recovery Care, or ARC, the eastern Kentucky company — which has about 75% of the state’s treatment beds — has grown rapidly over the past decade and now dominates the treatment sector, which is largely funded through Medicaid.

“Today, with us is Tim Robinson, founder and CEO of ARC,” Beshear said, “a vital partner in our fight against addiction. … I am proud to say that we now have more treatment beds per capita than any other state in the country.”

But while he was busy opening more addiction treatment centers, Robinson did something else that certainly didn’t hurt his chances of getting plenty of praise from the governor during the statewide televised speech on KET.

Robinson donated heavily to Beshear.

According to a Kentucky Lantern analysis of online government databases of political contributions, Robinson, his companies and employees donated at least $252,500 to political committees supporting Beshear between mid-2021 and the end of 2023.

The donations to Democrat Beshear marked a shift in giving patterns for Robinson, a lifelong and loyal Republican. He even gave heavily to Beshear’s opponent in the 2019 gubernatorial race, incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.

The Lantern’s analysis shows that — including money contributed to Beshear committees — Robinson, his companies and employees have made at least $570,000 in political contributions over the past decade, as his profitable business has grown from a single halfway house to about 1,800 residential beds and outpatient care for hundreds more clients. That care is largely funded through Medicaid, the government health plan that expanded substance abuse treatment in 2014.

Except for the money given to Beshear’s political committees, virtually all of the rest went to Republicans such as Bevin, Attorney General Russell Coleman, Representative Hal Rogers and candidates for the Kentucky Legislature.

Tim Robinson, right, received the 2022 Congressman Hal Rogers Beacon of Hope Award at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta. Rogers is at left. Nancy Hale, former head of Operation UNITE, holds the award. Thousands of officials and experts on addiction and opioid use disorder gather annually to share research and strategies at the summits. (Photo courtesy of ARC)

In an interview, Robinson explained, “I’ve never been more committed to anyone than I was to Andy Beshear.” Of all the public officials he’s met, Beshear has the unique ability to bring people together.

“I hope he runs for president,” Robinson said. “I’m a Republican and I don’t care who sees that.”

Total Donations: $570,838

The Lantern found 266 contributions totaling $570,838 over the past decade from Robinson, his companies and his employees, listed in online databases of the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, the Federal Election Commission and the Internal Revenue Service.

Of that total, Robinson made 92 contributions, totaling $262,405. (Below are some of the donations from his wife, Lelia.)

A large portion of the donations — $216,050 — came from Robinson businesses.

And the remaining $92,383 consisted of dozens of mostly small contributions from officers and employees of Robinson’s companies, primarily Addiction Recovery Care, the Kentucky Lantern analysis shows.

Robinson said the total of more than $570,000 “seems high to me.” But he added: “Whatever the record is, the record is.”

Robinson, a recovering alcoholic who grew up in poverty, said he has no qualms about his political donations after struggling financially for years to grow ARC from a single shelter into a nationwide network of treatment centers with annual revenues of about $130 million.

Largest share to Beshear

Kentucky Lantern’s analysis found that Robinson employees began donating relatively small amounts to the campaign committee early in Beshear’s re-election campaign in late 2021.

Before the election was even over, Robinson, his associates and a small political action committee he funded donated $26,525 to the Beshear campaign, the Kentucky Democratic Party and other political committees supporting Beshear.

That’s a modest sum, but what made Robinson a major donor to Beshear were the larger contributions his companies made to the Democratic Governors Association. The companies — primarily London Valu-Rite Pharmacy — donated $197,000 to the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) in 2022 and 2023.

The DGA funded a $19 million independent campaign to re-elect Beshear last year. The DGA is a tax-exempt 527 organization that can accept unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations or unions.

Robinson said he gives through businesses he controls, including the pharmacy and the clinic, for the obvious reason that there is no legal limit on how much a donor can give to such groups. (State and federal law limits the amount an individual can give to a candidate for state office in any one election to $2,100 and limits the amount an individual can give to a state political party to $15,000. Businesses are not allowed to contribute to a campaign for state office or to a state political party.)

Robinson continued to give to Beshear’s political causes last December, when Robinson gave $29,000 to the committee that paid for Beshear’s inauguration celebration. Inaugural committees are allowed to accept unlimited contributions, and Robinson’s contribution is the largest by an individual to Beshear’s inaugural committee.

Support for Russell Coleman, Republicans

The Republican politician who benefited most from Robinson’s contributions last election cycle is Attorney General Russell Coleman, who now holds the second-highest position, after the governor, in setting and enforcing policy in Kentucky’s fight to curb drug abuse and addiction.

Robinson, his companies and employees have donated at least $37,700 to Coleman’s political committees since late 2022.

Robinson donated $10,416 in late 2023 to Safer Kentucky, a super PAC supporting Coleman. He also donated $6,000 to the committee that funded Coleman’s inauguration celebration.

His London Valu-Rite Pharmacy also donated $10,000 to the Safer Kentucky PAC in 2023. Contributions from Robinson and his employees to Coleman’s campaign bring the Robinson group’s total contributions to Coleman to about $37,700.

Robinson said he has known Coleman for years, respects Coleman’s background as a U.S. attorney and FBI agent, and agrees with Coleman’s positions on policy and enforcement.

“I went to law school with Russell. He and I have been friends ever since,” Robinson said. “I think he is probably the most qualified person we have ever had as attorney general.”

Kentucky Lantern’s analysis shows that Robinson has supported many Republicans over the past decade.

In addition to his strong support for Bevin in 2019 and Coleman in 2023, he has been a longtime donor to U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers’ political committees. He regularly donates to the Republican caucuses of the Kentucky House of Representatives and Senate, as well as to individual Republicans running for seats in the General Assembly.

He and his staff are exceptionally loyal donors who have provided a strong and reliable stream of campaign cash to three eastern Kentucky lawmakers: Sen. Phillip Wheeler of Pikeville, Rep. Patrick Flannery of Olive Hill and Rep. Danny Bentley of Russell.

And recent contributions show Robinson reaching beyond Kentucky for the first time. Earlier this year, he and ARC staffers gave at least $20,000 to a political committee run by Patrick Morrisey, West Virginia’s attorney general and the Republican candidate for governor in this fall’s election.

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Written by Tom Loftus and Deborah Yetter. Cross-posted from the Kentucky Lantern.