Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes is drawing criticism for receiving discounted services from her well-connected father that may have violated a federal campaign finance law.
In a story first reported by Politico on Tuesday, a company owned by Jerry Lundergan bought the 45-foot-long Grimes campaign bus and reportedly rented it to his daughter far below the fair market value.
A review of Federal Election Commission records shows Grimes paid less than $11,000 through June to rent the bus for at least 24 days, amounting to about $456 per day.
Officials at four bus companies said they typically charge $1,500 to $2,000 a day to rent a similarly sized bus, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign said it spent at least $2,200 per day to rent essentially the same bus during a swing earlier this month. That would amount to a savings of tens of thousands of dollars for the Democrat’s campaign.
Legal experts told Politico that this could be considered an illegal in-kind contribution from a corporation, which could be a jaw-breaking hit for the Democratic challenger.
Grimes' Senate campaign has paid Lundergan's companies about $35,000 for various services, according to financial reports.
In a released statement to WFPL, Grimes campaign lawyer Marc Elias said the following:
"The law requires that the campaign pay 'the normal and usual fare or rental charge for a comparable commercial conveyance of sufficient size to accommodate all campaign travelers. In determining the appropriate rate, the campaign obtained quotes for the rental cost of a comparable vehicle from other providers in the Kentucky and regional market, and arrived at a reasonable reimbursement cost. We have reviewed the campaign’s methodology and agree that it complies with the applicable rules."
Grimes' campaign has declined to make those estimates public, however.
The McConnell campaign and other GOP critics seized on the story as an example of Grimes running a "shadow corporate campaign" through her father's companies.
"The revelation that Alison Lundergan Grimes has potentially accepted large, illegal gifts and services from her father Jerry Lundergan’s corporate interests is shocking and should set off warning bells for all Kentuckians concerned about ethics in public office," McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton said in a released statement. "Alison has a lot of tough questions to answer about how her family, and their corporate interests, have improperly subsidized her political operation."
Less than two weeks ago, McConnell himself and his team telegraphed that they were going to target Lundergan in response to a Yahoo News story critical of the GOP leader's wife.
"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 said last week to reporters at a stop in Greenville.