Alison Grimes' accepts illegal campaign contributions
Posted in the Louisville Forum
#1 Aug 21, 2014
Alison Lundergan Grimes' campaign potentially received illegal gifts and services
By Manu Raju
Alison Lundergan Grimes has barnstormed Kentucky in her 45-foot-long campaign bus, rolling up to raucous rallies and posing for photos next to the vehicle bearing an oversized image of the Democratic Senate hopeful.
Left unmentioned amid the hubbub is this: Her father’s company acquired the bus just as the campaign got underway last year — and is renting it to his daughter for a fraction of what other companies would typically charge, according to a POLITICO analysis. Federal campaign finance law bars a campaign from receiving goods and services below the fair market value from a corporation, regardless of whether it is owned by a family member.
A review of Federal Election Commission records shows Grimes paid less than $11,000 through June to rent the bus for at least 24 days, amounting to about $456 per day. Officials at four bus companies said they typically charge $1,500 to $2,000 a day to rent a similarly sized bus, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign said it spent at least $2,200 per day to rent essentially the same bus during a swing earlier this month. That would amount to a savings of tens of thousands of dollars for the Democrat’s campaign.
The spending highlights the central role that Jerry Lundergan, a gregarious former Kentucky Democratic Party chairman and state lawmaker, is playing in his daughter’s bid to unseat McConnell. Polls show the GOP leader maintaining a very small lead in the race, one of the most closely watched in the country this year.
The difference between what the company is charging her campaign and the fair market value of the bus rental could be considered an illegal in-kind contribution, according to legal experts.
“If it’s coming from a corporation, it’s illegal,” said Larry Noble, who served as general counsel of the FEC for 13 years and now works at the Campaign Legal Center, a watchdog group. Corporations are prohibited from donating cash or gifts to a campaign, while individual donors’ limits cannot exceed $5,200 per election cycle.
Lundergan, Noble added,“can volunteer himself to the campaign, but what he can’t do is volunteer his company.”
The Grimes campaign disputes that it is paying less than the fair market value for the bus, saying it went above and beyond to ensure that its payments reflect comparable prices of other similar vehicles.
“The campaign has reported its payments to the bus on the public record,” said Marc Elias, Grimes’ campaign lawyer.“Moreover, the law requires that the campaign pay ‘the normal and usual fare for rental charge for comparable commercial conveyance of sufficient size to accommodate all campaign travelers.’”
Elias added:“In determining the appropriate rate, the campaign obtained costs of comparable providers in the Kentucky and regional market and arrived at a reasonable reimbursement cost. We have reviewed the campaign’s methodology and agree that it applies with the applicable rules.”
The campaign declined to provide those estimates of comparable prices.
If the FEC were to take up the matter and find the Grimes campaign at fault, the agency could ultimately force the Democrat to pay a civil penalty for accepting an illegal corporate contribution and failing to report an in-kind donation.
#2 Aug 21, 2014
Altogether, the campaign has paid Lundergan’s catering and events companies about $35,000 for everything from prop rentals to fuel costs. It’s trickier to gauge fair market value for some of the other outlays, though it’s unclear why Grimes’ primary night party, for instance, was substantially cheaper than McConnell’s.
Reply »|Report Abuse|Judge it!|#35514 min ago
Over the course of the campaign, Lundergan’s companies have helped stage and organize several major campaign appearances, including Grimes’ flashy July 2013 campaign kickoff, the rollout of her jobs plan in Eastern Kentucky in January, her May primary night victory party and Bill Clinton’s speech in Lexington earlier this month.
Several of these events have taken place at the Carrick House, a classy Lexington mansion and banquet hall owned by one of Lundergan’s companies. Campaign finance reports show that Lundy’s Special Events was paid $3,706 for its kickoff event at the Carrick House in July 2013.
After she skated to her primary night victory party, Grimes threw a soiree at the Carrick House, paying Lundy’s $2,882 for its services that night. Additional production-related costs to other vendors put the final tab at $7,466 for its primary night party, FEC records show.
By contrast, McConnell’s primary night victory party, which was hosted by the Jefferson County Republican Party at a Marriott hotel in Louisville, cost $22,550, according to invoices provided by the campaign. Both the Grimes and McConnell campaigns offered a cash bar to their guests.
The Grimes campaign said its costs were consistent with market value.
The Carrick House also hosted a Grimes money event last September. When asked about the costs for renting the banquet hall for the fundraiser, campaign officials acknowledged that the campaign failed to disclose a three-hour room rental as a $500 in-kind contribution from the donor, saying they would amend their reports to show the donation.
The Grimes campaign has paid at least $67,000 for goods and services provided by the candidate’s relatives or companies associated with her family members. The campaign rents office space from Grimes’ mother, Charlotte, according to spending reports. And it has paid a company that employs the candidate’s husband, Andrew Grimes, for office supplies. The expenses are a small fraction of the $5.2 million spent by the campaign through June.
Lundergan, 67, has been an influential adviser on campaign tactics, connecting his 35-year-old daughter to big-ticket donors and leveraging his political relationships — including with the Clintons, his longtime friends — to boost the campaign.
The hard-charging Lundergan became friends with Bill Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas and helped his two successful presidential campaigns in Kentucky. He also chaired Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential primary campaign in the Bluegrass State.
But Lundergan has liabilities, too. After becoming party chairman, he was convicted of a felony in 1989 for accepting a no-bid contract for catering an event in violation of a state law prohibiting such action by legislators, prompting him to resign his political positions. The conviction was later overturned when a court ruled that his action should have been classified as a misdemeanor, and he was not further prosecuted.
As Democrats have criticized McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, for serving on the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which is spending $50 million on a campaign to gut the coal industry, the Republican leader has pointed the finger back at Lundergan.
“Honestly, if they want to start talking about family members, if my dad was Jerry Lundergan, I think I’d think twice about that,” McConnell told reporters last week in Greenville, Ky.
#3 Aug 21, 2014
Since his ethics controversy, Lundergan has revitalized his political career. He’s also built up his catering business, which got its start selling hot dogs at football games and county fairs, into a lucrative special events company. At his daughter’s campaign events, trucks with the name “Lundy’s” are often present.
Lundergan has several companies under the parent company SR Holdings Inc., including Signature Special Event Services, which owns the campaign bus. According to a copy of the vehicle’s registration obtained by POLITICO, the title of the bus was transferred to Signature Special Events on Aug. 30, 2013, from a Florida-based company, Robins Fantasy Inc., just as Grimes began to campaign.
The model is a 2003 Prevost, which seats 10 people, has two cabins and is 45 feet long. One online bus company advertises a $395,000 list price for the same model.
From the time the campaign began in earnest last July until the end of June 2014, the Grimes campaign reported bus rental and fuel costs of $10,939 to Signature Special Event Services, according to the expenses in public documents highlighted by the campaign. The money is broken down like this: two payments last October at $1,800 and $380 for bus rentals in the third quarter of 2013; $1,900 in March to Signature for bus rentals in the first quarter of 2014; and an additional $380 on April 30 ahead of the primary. Two additional payments on June 30, for $5,334 and $1,145, covered bus rentals in the second quarter of this year.
The campaign paid another $5,500 to Signature to have it “wrap” the bus with Grimes’ campaign logo, which includes a picture of the candidate.
Several bus operators said the campaign appears to be paying significantly less than usual for its daily rental costs.
“It typically costs about $2,000 per day,” said an operator of a bus company working in Kentucky, who asked for anonymity to avoid angering potential clients.“That’s the industry standard.”
The firm that sold the bus to Lundergan’s company typically charges about $1,500 per day to rent the same vehicle. A similar bus rented this summer by Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R-Tenn.) campaign ran $1,700 per day, costing the campaign about $40,000 in 15 days, according to campaign sources.
#4 Aug 21, 2014
And McConnell, who barnstormed Eastern and Western Kentucky in the last two weeks, spent at least $2,200 per day on his 45-foot bus rental during the three-day swing, a campaign official said.
“If they can show that in fact that her campaign could have gone on the open market and gotten the bus for that price, then it’s market value,” Noble said.“But if all the evidence is that the bus would have cost several times as much, then that’s not going to work.”
#5 Aug 21, 2014
When it's got to happen, it takes cash to “get-r-done! It was Mitch that fought for the funding to get them old chemical weapons out of Richmond. It was a damn time-bomb just waiting to happen. It could have killed thousands of central Kentucky people. I say thank you Mitch! Ma and Pa said we shouldn't switch, and Uncle John said "hell don't be a little bitch, keep Mitch"!
#6 Aug 21, 2014
WOW you really have a lot of time on your hands. You must be on a DEMOCRATIC ENTITLEMENT PROGRAM!!! I got that!
#7 Aug 22, 2014
The backlog of veterans trying to get care was identified by Mitch eight years ago; and he got the funding for the new V.A. hospital in Louisville. It appears that when things happen in Kentucky, it’s Mitch that makes them cough up the cash. Without Mitch, the bacon would never find the skillet. All those new kids on the block, they always have a pop song to sing; but I need results, not more hope and change! Don’t make me chase you with a willow a switch, keep Mitch!
#8 Aug 22, 2014
I am no fan of McConnell as I believe he should retire. However, I am impressed with his career and achievements and have voted for him in the past.
He is there for the taking. He has looked bad while Oblamo destroys the country yet Grimes campaign has been run about as bad as it possibly could. From not saying a word about coal when Reid was here and then claiming after the Washington folks left that she is the coal candidate is what we will see in Washington.
Just like Yarmouth, she will support Oblamo regardless of Ky values or desires.
She has/had her opportunity but now Mitch is coasting. Still won't vote for him but he'll win.
#10 Aug 31, 2014
"Senator Mitch McConnell leads Alison Lundergan Grimes 46-42 for Kentucky Senate in Bluegrass Poll"
Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell has put a little more distance between him and his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, but the race remains within the margin of error, according to the latest Bluegrass Poll.
The poll, conducted by SurveyUSA for The Courier-Journal and three other news outlets, found that McConnell holds a 46 percent to 42 percent lead among likely voters over Grimes. Libertarian David Patterson gets 5 percent of the vote, and 8 percent remain undecided.
It's the third consecutive Bluegrass Poll that has found McConnell improving his chances for re-election in November. Before that, the poll found Grimes ahead by 4 points in a survey conducted in January and February.
"It's becoming more clear the closer we get to the election that voters want a proven leader like Senator McConnell who delivers for Kentucky rather than an inexperienced liberal who is just another vote for the Obama agenda," Allison Moore, a spokeswoman for McConnell, said in a statement.
But the Grimes camp said it was pleased with the campaign's position two months before the November election.
"After facing a barrage of more than $30 million in spending from Mitch McConnell and his allies, our campaign remains well within the margin of error against the 30-year Washington incumbent," Charly Norton, a spokeswoman for Grimes, said in a statement.
Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report in Washington, D.C., said the poll is not good news for Grimes and shows that she's had "a rough summer," during which the McConnell campaign attacked her for not addressing the coal issue with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and she had problems answering some policy questions.
"Grimes is down 4 points and that hill is steep, but it's not impossible," she said.
The poll was conducted Monday through Wednesday for The Courier-Journal, WHAS-11, The Lexington Herald-Leader and WKYT-TV and surveyed 647 registered voters, including 569 who said they are likely to vote in November. Respondents were questioned over home phones using a recorded voice and others were sent questionnaires over their smartphones or other mobile devices.
The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 4.2 percentage points regarding the election question and plus or minus 3.9 points on others related to the campaign.
Last month, the poll found that McConnell had grabbed a 47 percent to 45 percent lead over Grimes for the first time in the race.
#11 Aug 31, 2014
"Today's poll reflects how close we are to winning the race; however it does not reflect the tornado of bad news that has upended Senator McConnell's campaign this week," Norton said.
McConnell held a substantial lead among voters between the ages of 35 and 64, while Grimes led among younger voters. Republicans and conservatives easily favored McConnell while Democrats and liberals said they back Grimes. Moderates and independents broke for Grimes.
McConnell held an advantage with people with all levels of education, but Grimes narrowed the gap among those with college degrees. Grimes led among those who earn less than $40,000 per year, while McConnell was ahead among those who earn more.
McConnell also leads in Eastern and Western Kentucky, while Grimes has the advantage in regions of the state with the largest urban populations, including Louisville, Lexington and Northern Kentucky.
Stephen Voss, a political science professor at the University of Kentucky, said the results show him that voters are "coming home" in the last months of the campaign, with conservatives coalescing behind McConnell and liberals getting behind Grimes.
McConnell, who has been plagued by low personal approval ratings in recent years, continues to improve his standing with voters, even though 46 percent still view him unfavorably and only 36 percent view him favorably. That's considerably better than the poll found last winter when 50 percent viewed him unfavorably and only 27 percent viewed him favorably.
Meanwhile, Grimes continues to hover at break-even with 38 percent viewing her favorably and 37 percent unfavorably.
Patterson remains an unknown quantity with 82 percent saying their opinion of him is neutral or they have no opinion of him. Of those who do have an opinion, people have an unfavorable opinion by a 2-1 margin.
Cathy Marcum, a poll respondent who agreed to answer follow-up questions, said she backs McConnell because she knows who he is and what he stands for after 30 years in office. She added that she doesn't believe Grimes has given her a reason to go against him.
"Her advertising has been awful," said Marcum, 61, a small-business owner from Hardin County. "They were very weak, and I think they are struggling to find something they can hang on Mitch.... They didn't come up with anything that told me I wasn't going to vote for him and they haven't told me much about her."
Marcum said she believes McConnell has proved he's ready for the job and has worked hard to keep jobs at nearby Fort Knox, which is going though a large downsizing as it loses its last combat brigade. She also likes his stance on business issues, like legislation that would allow people to work in union shops without joining the union or paying union dues.
Meanwhile, Randy H. Arnett, of Magoffin County, said he plans to vote against McConnell for many of the reasons Marcum cited.
"Because I'm pro-labor," said Arnett, a retired union pipe fitter, who said he's "strictly against anything Republican."
Arnett said he believes McConnell votes against working families on economic issues, including cuts to social service programs and his opposition to extending unemployment benefits. "I don't see Mitch McConnell helping anybody but himself. I guess if I was pretty wealthy, I'd feel different."
#12 Aug 31, 2014
As for Grimes: "I think she's a nice lady, and I'd like to see her get a chance."
On several issues, the race appears to be breaking McConnell's direction.
• 44 percent of registered voters said they trust McConnell to effectively fight for Kentucky's coal interests while 22 percent said they trust Grimes. Another 24 percent, however, said they don't believe the federal government is waging a "war on coal" as McConnell and Grimes have both claimed.
• 43 percent said they trust McConnell more on foreign policy, while 28 percent said they trust Grimes.
• On the economy, McConnell has a 40 percent to 38 percent edge over Grimes.
• And on immigration, McConnell has a 40 percent to 32 percent advantage.
Issues aid McConnell
Both Voss and Duffy said the Middle East and concerns about immigration have not been helpful to Grimes because they have focused attention on issues that voters think McConnell is better suited to handle.
"This race isn't going to be about who you like, it's going to be about who you trust," Duffy said.
The only area where Grimes appears to have an edge is when respondents were asked who they trust more to improve the lives of women. There, Grimes has a huge 52 percent to 31 percent advantage.
Despite that, it doesn't seem to be translating to an advantage among female voters. Grimes led among them by just 45 percent to 44 percent.
Men, however, provided McConnell his margin in the race, giving him a 48 percent to 38 percent cushion.
McConnell has tried to nationalize the race by tying Grimes to President Barack Obama, who is terribly unpopular in the state.
The senator and political action groups, which have spent millions on television doing just that, appear to have been successful so far, as voters also favor a takeover of the U.S. Senate by Republicans by the exact same margin as they favor a McConnell win — 47 percent to 43 percent.
Meanwhile, 57 percent of voters say they have an unfavorable opinion of Obama, and only 29 percent say they have a favorable view of him.
But the poll suggests that Grimes could help herself by forging a more public bond with former President Bill Clinton, a longtime family friend. According to the poll, Clinton is viewed favorably by 53 percent of registered voters and unfavorably by just 26 percent.
He was by far the most popular of any politician polled in the latest Bluegrass Poll.
Duffy said that Clinton can still help Grimes, especially by motivating her base to get to the polls, if he's willing to come back to the state in the closing days of the campaign.
But Voss said the polling shows that Grimes has failed to make a convincing case to voters that she is more like Clinton than Obama, citing the fact that she trails in Western Kentucky 55 percent to 32 percent.
"She's allowed her support in Western Kentucky to hemorrhage over this period and a lot of those people are Southern Democrats, Clinton Democrats," he said. "She's not getting that vote."
#13 Aug 31, 2014
The Lexington Herald Leader asked Grimes about foreign policy and the conflict between the Israelis and Hamas. Grimes was quoted as saying:“The Iron Dome has been a big reason why Israel has been able to withstand the terrorists that have tried to tunnel their way in”
The Iron Dome is a joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense system that is able to track terrorist rockets as they enter Israel and destroy them in mid-air. The system has saved scores of Israeli lives from over 9,000 Hamas fired rockets. The tunnels that Grimes refers to are a separate issue for Israel. Naturally, a mid-air missile defense system has no impact on Hamas’s network of tunnels.
Even CNN said “Grimes’ Iron Dome gaffe exposes her lack of experience”. Would someone please tell Alison that those underground tunnels had to be destroyed and Israel had no choice but use “boots on the ground” in Gaza It’s embarrassing that a Senate candidate would make such a misstep on foreign policy. Grimes is now a year into her candidacy and is still fundamentally unprepared to answer basic questions and has failed to provide any sort of substantive policy. Her comment casts doubt on her ability to grasp basic facts of Middle East foreign policy. A misstep on foreign policy by a politician with national aspirations must be shouted from the hilltops. The last rookie you sent to Washington didn’t have any foreign policy experience and look what a mess we’ve got now. Sending Obama another in the dark pawn, fails to resolve anything. No thanks Alison, I’ll stay where the knowledge, clout and experience are abundant. No reason to switch “Stand with Mitch!”
#14 Aug 31, 2014
"Alison Lundergan Grimes: Obama's Kentucky Candidate"
#15 Aug 31, 2014
"Democrats ringing Grimes phone off the Hook"
#16 Sep 1, 2014
Unlike her state level job Alison is now seeking a U.S. Senate seat. She'll be required to vote on the national and international issues. The Iron Dome system was covered in depth on every network all over the globe. Alison didn't have a clue about the system and got caught dancing around the topic; as it was said, "A misstep on foreign policy by a politician with national aspirations must be shouted from the hilltops." You see we've all heard "what difference does it make"; I'll tell you it makes a difference now, yes, before the fall election and before additional Americans are murdered. If she is not acutely aware of current national and international issues, we should consider her unfit to serve in the Senate. I’ll stay where the knowledge, clout and experience are abundant. I’ll “Stand with Mitch!”
#17 Sep 1, 2014
#18 Sep 1, 2014
Senator McConnell recently cosponsored the bipartisan Wicker amendment. McConnell said; “The Wicker amendment would protect the Second Amendment rights of Kentuckians while they are legally camping, fishing and hunting on land owned by the Army Corps of Engineers, including Lake Barkley, Lake Cumberland, Martins Fork Lake, and Laurel River Lake ” Senator McConnell continued,“From the sportsmen and sportswomen who hunt in Kentucky’s public recreation areas, to the many Kentuckians who find comfort in the protection that the Second Amendment guarantees for their homes and their families, this amendment helps to protect Kentuckians’ Right to Bear Arms.” Senator McConnell is not just a member of the NRA, he has been endorsed by the NRA! That’s Mitch, protecting our Second Amendment Rights!
#19 Sep 2, 2014
I'd like to know exactly what good things McConnell has done for Ky. Hasn't helped unemployment , hasn't helped get poor people health care, hasn't voted for minimum wage. (Voted himself 16 wage increases in 30 years. He takes more money from big business and is in their pocket. Time for fresh approach and new blood.
#20 Sep 2, 2014
Last month Senator McConnell filed an amendment to the Senate border legislation requiring the Obama administration to consult with our governor and satisfy specific criteria before transporting unaccompanied alien minors into Kentucky. The Secretary of Health and Human Services and Department of Homeland Security, would in consult with the governor and certify that alien minors would not be burdensome to our economy, or have a negative impact on public health. The measure states that the U.S. policy to should be to treat unaccompanied alien minors humanely and return them to their home country immediately. The amendment would also prohibit the transportation of alien minors if transporting them would delay their immediate repatriation. We would be foolish to switch, Stand with Mitch!
#22 Sep 4, 2014
So, your biggest gripe is that he isn't giving away more free stuff to the leeches of our society? You just named all the reasons why I will vote for him again.
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