Discount on Bus Rental Raises FEC Questions for Lundergan Grimes

Image: Discount on Bus Rental Raises FEC Questions for Lundergan Grimes Kentucky's Democratic U.S. Senate nominee, and Kentucky Secretary of State, Alison Lundergan Grimes. (Win McNamee/ Getty Images)

Tuesday, 19 Aug 2014 10:21 AM

By Andrea Billups

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A bus rented by Kentucky Democratic Senate challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes — at a seemingly discounted rate from her father's company — is raising campaign finance eyebrows, according to Politico, which analyzed the vehicle's costs and determined it was made available to her "for a fraction of what companies would typically charge."

Using Federal Election Commission records, Politico noted the bus rental cost Grimes $11,000 through June at a cost of about $456 daily. But after calling for quotes from other bus companies, the website noted that rates run from $1,500 to $2,000 daily in what could be viewed as an illegal in-kind donation. Federal laws governing campaigns do not allow them to receive goods and services below fair market value — even with a family member's discount.

"If it’s coming from a corporation, it’s illegal," Larry Noble of the Campaign Legal Center told Politico. Corporations may not donate to a campaign under federal election laws while individual donations are capped at $5,200 for an election cycle.

Of Lundergan's father, Jerry, a former state Democratic Party chairman, Noble noted that he "can volunteer himself to the campaign, but what he can't do is volunteer himself to the company." Noble served as the FEC's general counsel for 13 years.

Such spending revelations could be used politically against Grimes, Kentucky's  secretary of state, who is locked in a tight battle with longtime Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader who has a high profile and deep connections in Washington.

Critics of Grimes argue that she should be more invested in putting forth her own record in Kentucky, rather than slamming McConnell and his role in a dysfunctional Congress, The Wall Street Journal reported. He has called her out as inexperienced and anti-coal, powerful fighting words in a state whose top industry has been under siege amid the president's environmental agenda.

Polling results from last week gave McConnell the edge in a tight race with the senator earning 47.3 percent of the vote to Grimes' 44.9, the Huffington Post reported. A Real Clear Politics poll average also had McConnell up by three points, but called the race a toss-up.

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