State permitting issues surrounding Grimes campaign bus nearing resolution

09/19/2014 04:51 PM

A company owned by the father of Kentucky Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes applied for intrastate motor carrier authority with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet shortly after news broke that it lacked permits to operate a charter bus leased to Grimes’ campaign, according to records obtained by Pure Politics.

Still, matters surrounding the charter bus’ permit through the state seem to be nearing a resolution. Email exchanges between lawyers for S.R. Holding Co., owned by former Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Lundergan, and the cabinet Tuesday show the company must still complete a registration form, send proof of insurance and pay accurate fee amounts before receiving its charter bus plate.

Issues surrounding the bus came to light in a report by Politico last month, which found the Grimes campaign had paid about $456 per day to use the bus. That and other reports led to the Republican Party of Kentucky to file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, alleging Grimes’ campaign received an improper in-kind contribution.

Grimes has not used the bus, emblazoned with her face and campaign insignia, in the aftermath of press reports and the FEC complaint.

Signature Special Event Services bought the 2003 Prevost bus as Grimes launched her bid to unseat U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in July 2013. Grimes’ campaign has defended the fees it pays Signature Special Event Services for the bus, saying it followed protocol in getting quotes from other transportation services.

But bureaucratic hurdles remain for S.R. Holding Co., the parent company of Signature Special Event Services, in its request through the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

Alissa Tibe, Grimes’ sister and vice president of development and creative services at The Lundergan Group, declined to comment for this report. Patrick Hughes, an attorney with the Crestview Hills, Ky., firm Dressman Benzinger LaVelle representing S.R. Holding Co., did not return a call Friday seeking comment.

Tibe told The Lexington Herald-Leader earlier this month that the proper federal permits had been obtained by the company, but a review of U.S. Department of Transportation database shows Signature Special Event Services and S.R. Holding Co. are still classified to transport private property, not passengers.

The business filled out its application and had the document notarized Aug. 29, the same day The Courier-Journal that the company did not have proper permits for the 45-foot charter bus, according to documents obtained by Pure Politics through an open records request.

S.R. Holding Co., through its attorneys with Dressman Benzinger LaVelle, submitted its charter bus application Sept. 2, records show. The application was granted Sept. 5, but the Transportation Cabinet did not grant the company its charter bus plates.

The company’s attorneys followed up in a letter and email to Angela Shouse, the cabinet’s program coordinator for the Department of Vehicle Regulation, Sept. 11, but Shouse informed attorney Mark Hervey that the company sent $5 in cash rather than the $25 certificate fee and $33.33 for September’s prorated bus fee. It also failed to obtain the proper title documentation, according to cabinet records.

The campaign bus’ state permitting issue appears close to a resolution, though.

“Once the TC95-39 (application for Kentucky passenger fee receipt card) form is completed and copy of vehicle registration along with proof of insurance and correct fees the Charter Bus Plate will be issued,” Shouse said in an email to Hervey Tuesday morning.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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