Kentucky Dems, GOP spar over campaign contributions

The Kentucky state parties on Friday issued dueling complaints hitting both Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, for what they’re calling inappropriate campaign contributions.

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The Kentucky Republican Party filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging Grimes accepted a prohibited in-kind contribution from her father’s company in the form of her rented campaign bus.

A recent report raised questions about whether the Grimes campaign is renting the bus at a much-lower-than-market rate, which could be considered an illegal in-kind contribution to her campaign. The company later denied offering transportation services in response to an inquiry, raising further questions about the arrangement. The Kentucky GOP’s complaint alleges both the purchase of the coach and renting it out to the Grimes campaign are barred by FEC regulations.

"Even if Signature Special Events were to provide any transportation services to others who are not Alison Lundergan Grimes, it is exceedingly unlikely that SSES would provide transportation services to the extent that they provide those services to the Grimes Campaign and certainly not at the same rate,” the complaint reads.

But the Kentucky Democratic Party issued its own complaint against McConnell on Friday, calling for a congressional ethics investigation into whether McConnell traded access to the Senate dining room in exchange for a campaign contribution. The charge is based on a recent report revealing the senator received a large donation from the CEO of Delta a week after he hosted him for breakfast in the Senate Dining Room.

Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Dan Logsdon suggested the incident could be illegal.

“These reports are serious, erode the public trust, and if true, his actions could be illegal. Without a full ethics investigation into this matter, the Senator’s constituents are right to remain skeptical,” he said in a statement. “After 30 years in Washington, Mitch McConnell seems to forget all too often that he works for the taxpayers of Kentucky, not Fortune 500 CEOs.”

The complaints dovetail with lines of attack from the Senate candidates. Grimes has sought to portray McConnell as a creature of Washington beholden to special interests, while McConnell has labeled Grimes as lacking substance and unprepared for the rigors of the Senate.

McConnell is seen as Republicans’ most vulnerable incumbent this cycle, in part, because many Kentuckians seem to share the perception pushed by the Grimes campaign, as he faces consistently low popularity in the state. But he’s still favored to retain his seat this Fall, due to the tough political climate for Democrats nationally and the increasingly red tint of the state.

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