Grimes campaign disputes possible legal trouble with information gathered on bus rental rates

08/19/2014 05:18 PM

After a Politico story stating that Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes could be in hot water over potentially lower rental rates on a bus provided by a company owned by her father, the Grimes campaign says they did their due diligence to find a reasonable rate and there are no legal concerns with the matter.

The Grimes campaign says the story concerning the rate paid to rent her campaign bus from Signature Special Events Services—a company owned by Grimes’ father Jerry Lundergan—is a plant from the McConnell campaign. Grimes’ campaign staff has provided information to Pure Politics used to determine a daily rate for the bus.

The Grimes campaign confirmed a quote was given to them from Madison, Tennessee based company Staley Coach and Sales in September 2013, a company which sells similar buses but does not rent them. In the letter from Staley sales addressed to Jerry Lundergan, the company said that a bus the same year and size would be rented for a daily rate of $150.00.

Coast to Coast Coach out of California, which features all buses of the same Prevost brand on their website, told the Grimes campaign that a bus comparable to the one used by the campaign would have a daily rate of $300 to $550 plus an additional fee of $200 for a driver.

A similar figure is given by Star Coaches Inc on their website. The company says that they have models ranging from older buses, like the one Grimes uses, to the newest models and as a general estimate the company says their “entire fleet will fall in the range of $350 / day up to $750 / day.” However, that price is for a daily rental and does not include the other two factors the company mentions on the site, which they say would run “between $1,000 – $1,400 / day when everything is factored into the equation.”

Also in September, the campaign says North Side RV rentals quoted a bus for $180.36 a day. Follow up calls with the North Side RV company and the campaign noted that a 2014 bus that is the largest available model would run at rates of $1,550 for the first week, $1,375 for the second week, and $1,275 for each subsequent week. That bus used by the Grimes campaign is eleven years older and smaller than the bus discussed in the follow-up calls.

A representative for one of the companies told Pure Politics in a phone interview Tuesday that the rates for bus rentals change throughout the year with the summer months being the most expensive time of year before prices drop drastically in the fall. As for a bus the same size, year and model of the one used by the Grimes campaign, the representative told Pure Politics that most companies would not have the vehicle in their fleet because it would not rent due to the age.

The original Politico story cited quotes of $1,500 to $2,000 a day from other bus rental companies they had contacted about buses of similar sizes, but did not specify whether or not the buses were of the same year as the one used by the Grimes campaign.

Because of these quotes, a lawyer for the Grimes campaign says the campaign is within the Federal Election Commission rule in question.

“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.” [11 C.F.R. 100.93(d).] 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,” Marc Elias of Perkins Coie said in a statement. “We have reviewed the campaign’s methodology and agree that it complies with the applicable rules.”

When asked by Pure Politics, the FEC said they have received calls about the bus rental rates in question but said they did not have a comment on the matter.

The McConnell campaign was not immediately available for comment on the figures.


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