Grimes campaign fires back at report on bus deal


by Joe Arnold

Posted on August 19, 2014 at 6:05 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 19 at 10:10 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- The campaign of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes is dismissing a report by Politico that the campaign receives a "family discount" by Grimes' father, Jerry Lundergan, in his business dealings with his daughter's campaign.

Such a discount would likely violate federal campaign finance rules, said Larry Noble, a former Federal Election Commission attorney who now works for the Campaign Legal Center, a non-partisan group.

According to the Politico report, Federal Election Commission records show one of Lundergan's companies which owns Grimes' campaign bus, is charging the campaign far less than what bus companies say is the going rate for similar bus rentals.

WHAS11 also contacted several transportation companies to ask for a fair market rate to rent a similar bus used by the Grimes campaign.  The companies said they would charge two to three times the $456 daily rate estimated by Politico - a rate so low they say a bus company would lose money if it charged that amount.

"The problem would be that the company that's renting the bus for under fair market value is making an illegal political contribution to her campaign," Noble told WHAS11.  "And her campaign is accepting an illegal political contribution."
"This hit-job from the McConnell campaign is nothing more than a baseless distraction after news broke of the McConnell's pocketing over $600,000 in payments from organizations trying to kill Kentucky coal plants," said Grimes spokeswoman Charly Norton in a statement.

"Our campaign will not be bullied by McConnell and his allies, who have received at least six letters from the FEC for campaign finance violations this cycle. Our legal team has researched this matter, done their due diligence
 and these disparaging attacks are inaccurate,"the Norton statement continued.

Marc Elias, an attorney for the Grimes campaign, said it "obtained quotes for the rental cost of a comparable vehicle from other providers in the Kentucky and regional market, and arrived at a reasonable reimbursement cost."

The Grimes campaign provided a September 2013 letter from Staley Coach and Sales, a Tennessee bus dealer, quoting a rate between $150 and $175 per day for a similar bus.

The campaign also cited two other companies with price quotes similar to Politico's $456 estimate. Yet, none of the quotes appear to include driver pay or fuel costs, which one local operator told WHAS11 would likely by at least $200 per day.

"Alison has a lot of tough questions to answer about how her family, and their corporate interests, have improperly subsidized her political operation," said McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton in a statement.

The Politico story about Grimes' father comes nearly two weeks after a Yahoo! News story about McConnell's wife, Elaine Chao, serving on the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies which is bankrolling an anti-coal campaign.

Calling the Yahoo! story, inaccurate, McConnell linked Grimes to the story the day it was published.

"If I were my opponent, and had a father like Jerry Lundergan, I don't think I would want to be taking shots at Mitch McConnell's wife," McConnell said.

"Mitch McConnell has yet to explain their involvement on boards that are actively hurting Kentucky miners and families," Norton said in the Grimes campaign statement.  "He owes Kentuckians answers. The people of the Commonwealth are tired of Mitch McConnell’s decades of deception and dirty campaign tricks."