Google Red-Flagged Kentucky AG’s Taxpayer-Funded Ads

Public service announcements were made by the GOP candidate for governor in Kentucky, state AG Daniel Cameron. They were broadcast at a time that was obvious. Google claimed that they were not PSAs, but political ads.

The Kentucky Attorney General’s office launched a video campaign featuring Daniel Cameron, the Republican candidate for governor, to raise awareness of human trafficking.

It is important to note that the video did not originate from Cameron’s campaign. It was actually part of an outreach program by the office of the attorney general of the Commonwealth. The costs were not covered by donors but by the $175,000 federal grant from the Department of Justice, which was funded by taxpayers.

Cameron only used the taxpayer money because these ads were not political advertisements, but public service announcements. Google, at least, was a major arbiter who said that the ads were indeed political.


According to internal communications that were shared with The Daily Beast, Cameron’s Office was notified less than a week after the primary that the ads “had been paused and marked” by Google after they ruled it was political advertisement.

Internal records and publicly available information on government spending, as well as online advertising data indicate that this incident was not a one-off. The Daily Beast found a pattern of promotional efforts funded by Cameron’s office in the state that appear to be geared towards his political ambitions.

YouTube, which is owned by Google, flagged the ads citing Cameron’s appearance in the video in the close proximity of an election as an indicator that this wasn’t just a PSA from the state government. According to internal emails obtained by The Daily Beast through an open records requests, Google claimed that the video was “political advertisement mid-campaign”.

A June 7 email update sent by an employee of Red 7 E to Cameron’s Office began with “IMPORTANT NOTICE.” According to state spending records, the firm collected $107 425 for running the public awareness campaign. We were notified by YouTube that ads running mid-campaign were considered political advertising due to the Attorney General being in the video assets.

The email stated that “as immediate, the ads are paused and marked” and recommended re-allocating the funds allocated to the campaign.

The update concluded, “Please reply to the email and let us know whether we have approval to proceed with the recommendation. We can then make the necessary changes ASAP.”

The records do not reveal how the office answered the question, or even if it did. The records are comprehensive and include documents from later dates, including a Red 7 E presentation deck that summarizes the overall impact of the campaign. However, the office did not seem to have responded to the email sent on June 7 in writing.

A spokesperson for the Republican Party of Kentucky responded to a detailed comment request by saying that Cameron “has worked to protect Kentuckians against human trafficking” since the day he was elected.

Sean Southard, communications director of the state party, said: “Instead, why not do a proper investigation to find out who is responsible for politicizing the government?” How much taxpayer money has Andy Beshear spent to literally brand each cabinet with the Team Kentucky slogan and Logo of his campaign? Or license plates? “Or his funds for tornado and flood relief that are being audited?”

The Daily Beast, among other publications, has previously reported on apparent conflicts between Cameron’s official duties and those of his political donors. These include criminal investigations, legal matters that are pending involving the State, and an ongoing bizarre proposal to use state funds for tens or even hundreds of millions to help pharmaceutical companies develop a controversial and unproven psychedelic addiction therapy. The Daily Beast reported previously that Cameron appeared to have politicized aspects of the office, citing OAG staff and state hiring statistics.

The efforts to end human trafficking are admirable. Cameron’s public record shows that he has been committed to this issue for a long time. When it comes to promoting this cause, however, the facts show a different political motive.

Anna Whites is a Kentucky-based Democratic lawyer who represents many Democratic clients. She called the paid promotion “concerning” and told The Daily Beast how Cameron’s office appeared to have broken state ethics laws.

Whites stated that “the focus of the ad being on the AG makes it appear as if he used the advertising budget and grant budget meant to protect victims for his personal gain and to advance his personal goals.” This is an ethical issue and I think the Ethics Commission should look into it.

Whites, who represented Breonna Taylor grand jurys in an attempt to impeach Cameron cited a variety of statutes and advisories to support this conclusion.

She explained that “9 KAR1:025 Section 2, deals with conflict of interest for public employees,” citing provisions which prohibit public servants using their position to gain employment or to apply state resources to campaigning. She also cited a 2008 Executive Order, signed by the father Kentucky’s Democratic Governor. Andy Beshear was a former Democratic Governor. Steven Beshear, which the Kentucky Ethics Commission has confirmed and stipulates that officials of government cannot use their positions for personal gain. Kentucky law states that public employees may not use their position to “obtain private benefits”.

She said that the ad’s content includes a second key element about its intention: it focuses on Cameron as a person.

Cameron did not appear in the videos, but he did voice a radio ad. In 2021, OAG used a DOJ grant of six figures to fund a campaign to raise awareness about human trafficking. Cameron played a major role in the video this year.

Whites pointed out that the OAG is home to a division dedicated to human trafficking, the Office of Trafficking and Abuse Prevention and Prosecution.

She said that the staff at the AG’s office should have been the ones to appear in the advertisement, not the AG.

Whites acknowledged that trafficking advertisements could be run around high-risk sporting events such as the NCAA tournament and Kentucky Derby even if they featured Cameron.