Kentucky Democrat Grimes under fire for father's help

The Democrat challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is facing scrutiny over her campaign bus, which she's renting from a company owned by her father at what might be a much-lower-than-market rate.

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According to Politico, a company owned by Allison Lundergan Grimes’s father, well-connected Kentucky Democratic figure Jerry Lundergan, bought the 45-foot-long campaign bus she’s been using on the trail last year.

While Federal Election Commission records suggest Grimes has paid about $456 per day she’s used the bus, a handful of bus companies told Politico that a similar bus would cost $1,000 to $2,500 per day to rent, and the company that sold the bus to Grimes’s father charges around $1,500 per day to rent the same vehicle.

Legal experts tell the publication that the difference in costs could be considered an illegal in-kind contribution to her campaign, and if the FEC took up a complaint on the issue, the Grimes campaign could ultimately have to pay a civil penalty.

Marc Elias, Grimes’s campaign lawyer, noted that “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,’ ” and said the Grimes campaign “obtained costs of comparable providers in the Kentucky and regional market” to determine “a reasonable reimbursement cost.”

“We have reviewed the campaign’s methodology and agree that it applies with the applicable rules,” he told Politico.

In addition to the bus, the Grimes campaign has paid Lundergan’s catering business for an array of services, including rentals and fuel costs, amounting to about $35,000 overall. She hosted her kickoff party at an event space owned by one of her father’s companies, and FEC records show she spent substantially less overall on that event than McConnell spent on his primary night victory party.

Indeed, the publication found one example of an expenditure — a three-hour room rental in an event space owned by her father — that the Grimes campaign admitted was an improperly undisclosed in-kind contribution, which they said they would amend their disclosures to reveal.

The report comes as McConnell’s wife, former U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, has drawn scrutiny over her position on the board of an organization that has worked to close down coal-fired plants. McConnell last week suggested Democratic attacks on his wife were risky because Lundergan has baggage of his own.

“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.

As Grimes grapples with the new scrutiny, a pro-McConnell group, Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, goes on air with two ads, one hitting Grimes on coal and the other touting McConnell’s efforts to prevent an increase in the estate tax, which they've aired before.