McCaskill hit with GOP ethics complaint

The Missouri Republican State Committee filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee yesterday against Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill, Missouri’s state auditor, accusing her of breaking personal-finance disclosure laws.

The complaint charges that McCaskill failed to provide even the “bare minimum” of information requested by the Senate.

Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) faces a tough race against McCaskill in November. For several months, polls have shown them in a statistical tie. Talent’s predicament is prompting Republicans to come out forcefully against his opponent.

“The complexities of Ms. McCaskill’s family holdings are more pronounced than usual because of the deliberately complicated manner in which her family’s business holdings are constructed,” the complaint said.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) briefed reporters on the complaint yesterday, but the state party insisted that the filing was a local move. The NRSC referred all comments on the ethics complaint to the state organization.

“The state party sought out assistance after it became aware of the fact that Claire McCaskill received two different requests from the Senate Ethics Committee,” said Jared Craighead, executive director of the Missouri Republican Party.

The complaint also accuses McCaskill of filing her initial disclosures late and includes two letters from McCaskill counsel Rebecca H. Gordon, apparently responding to requests made by the Senate Ethics Committee for additional materials relating to the disclosures.

McCaskill’s campaign fired back that the Ethics Committee has told the campaign it was satisfied with the amount of information given by the campaign.

McCaskill spokeswoman Adrienne Marsh said that although she had not fully reviewed the complaint she questions its validity.

“This is a sad and predictable attempt to distract voters from the issues that matter,” Marsh said. “We have been fully compliant with the rules. … If the Ethics Committee wants any more information, we are happy to provide it.”

“The fact that the partisan political operatives at the Missouri Republican Party want to create the suggestion of an issue doesn’t mean there is one,” said Marc Elias, McCaskill’s attorney and partner at Perkins Coie.

“This report is a piece of partisan fiction” riddled with factual inaccuracies.

The Ethics Committee does not comment on committee-related documents.

While the panel cannot punish candidates who violate disclosure laws because they are not under the purview of Senate rules, a case of fraudulent filing can be referred to the attorney general of the United States, according to the Ethics in Government Act.

The Department of Justice can then “seek a civil penalty of up to $11,000 against an individual who knowingly and willfully falsifies or fails to file or to report any required information.”

An offending candidate could also be subject to additional fines and criminal prosecution for knowingly filing false reports or concealing “any material fact in a statement to the Government,” according to the rules of the 108th Congress.

The Missouri Republican State Committee detailed five areas in which it alleges McCaskill is not compliant and demanded that she file additional materials.

The complaint says McCaskill should disclose each parcel of real estate that the family owns, including the use and the gross actual income of the properties; all government-issued tax credits; “the proper valuation of the real estate aspects” owned by McCaskill and her spouse; and the liabilities of legally required nonpublic traded assets.

“Filing reams of paper does not substitute for compliance with the law,” the complaint says. “At present, the filing of many pages of documents, whether or not the information is accurate or legally compliant, seems to be the method preferred by Ms. McCaskill as her approach to federal law.”

A spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee did not return calls for comment.