Carnahan, GOP challenger battle over financial disclosures

The Republican challenging Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.) filed his financial disclosure form 300 days late after requesting three extensions.

Republican Attorney Ed Martin and Carnahan are engaged in an intense campaign in which they’ve traded accusations about ethics.

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Martin has criticized Carnahan for failing to report the existence of two limited liability corporations (LLCs). The first was organized for the purpose of owning and operating a 42-foot Chris-Craft cabin cruiser; the second was to develop the former Castle Ballroom.

Neither LLC was used, and Carnahan dissolved them in mid-May following media reports, filing an amendment to his financial disclosure forms.

The Carnahan campaign argues that Martin’s repeated request for extensions and failure to file his disclosure form for nearly 300 days is far more serious.

“There’s simply no excuse for choosing to violate the financial disclosure requirement for 295 days,” said Carnahan campaign spokeswoman Angela Barranco.

Martin campaign spokesman Theresa Petry attributed the delays to Martin’s first-time candidacy and commitment to wanting to ensure he filed the forms correctly.

“As a first-time candidate, Ed Martin wanted to make sure he indeed disclosed everything the committee requested, unlike his incumbent opponent,” she said.

Federal law requires every House candidate who has raised $5,000 to disclose the details of those finances in a form submitted to the House ethics committee. Candidates must do so within 30 days after raising $5,000 or by May 15 of the calendar year in which the $5,000 threshold is reached, whichever is later.

Martin’s exploratory committee hit the $5,000 contribution threshold July 10.

The panel sent the Martin campaign a letter in early July informing him of the financial disclosure requirement. In the letter, the panel said it would grant “reasonable” extensions of time for filing as long as the request was made in writing, signed by the candidate and submitted on or before the due date, but the total of extensions for one calendar year could not exceed 90 days.

In a follow-up letter, the ethics panel reminded Martin of the requirement and said any failure to file within 30 days of the due date could result in a $200 filing fee. The Justice Department also could file a civil action against anyone who “knowingly and willfully” fails to file a report that could result in an $11,000 fine, the letter said.

Martin, a former chief of staff to then-Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt (R), repeatedly wrote the ethics panel seeking further guidance and extensions. He eventually filed the completed financial disclosure form April 29, nearly 300 days after reaching the $5,000 threshold.

In letters to the ethics committee, Martin said he needed an extension of 60 days because he was a “private citizen who is running his own business.” He later followed up with a request for a 90-day extension, saying he had just officially declared his candidacy Sept. 30.

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“Before that, I was testing the waters and trying to decide,” he wrote. “I am a private citizen with my own small business and family (wife, three kids).”

In early February, Martin again wrote the ethics committee apologizing for the delay in filing, attributing it to his inexperience in running for office. He also asked a number of follow-up questions about the process, including whether his wife had to list all the boards on which she holds a position.

“In good faith, we are making all of this available for all — especially the public — to review,” he wrote. “Although we found the process difficult and somewhat tedious, we are convinced of its importance; the public deserves to know exactly what their elected officials have and what conflicts may exist.”