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Martin, Carnahan lob charges over finances, BP and Truman's old hideaway

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 17, 2010 - The 3rd District congressional contest between Republican Ed Martin and Democratic incumbent Russ Carnahan got a bit more convoluted today, as both men sought to discount accusations that they had failed to file proper financial disclosures.

Martin, who has lobbed most of the assertions of wrongdoing, found himself a target today when the Washington, D.C., publication, the Hill, reported that he had been almost a year late in filing the required financial disclosure forms with the House Ethics Committee.

By that panel's accounting, Martin needed to have filed by last July 10. After seeking various extensions, Martin filed the documents on April 29, according to the Hill.

The disclosure comes as Martin has been hammering Carnahan on two fronts:

  • About two limited liability corporations that the congressman quietly dissolved last month, amid controversy over one of the LLCs that was used by Carnahan and St. Louis Aldermanic President Lewis Reed to buy a cabin cruiser, now docked in Alton.
  • About his leadership in a private historic club in suburban Maryland, which has members with ties to the BP oil company responsible for the massive spill in the Gulf.

Carnahan's staff and the Missouri Democratic Party assert that Martin's disclosure problems are 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. "Russ Carnahan filed his disclosure reports on time."

Martin campaign spokesman Theresa Petry said today that Martin's problems were prompted by his status as a first-time candidate: "Ed Martin wanted to make sure he had done it exactly right. He didn't want to make any amendments like Congressman Carnhan has had to make," she said.

She was referring to ongoing attacks by Martin and the Missouri Republican Party about Carnahan's boat, and assertions that he failed to include it in some financial disclosure forms with the House, that it was moored in Illinois to avoid taxes, and that he allowed its federal registration to lapse.

Carnahan has amended some of the Ethics Committee filings, but says the federal registration wasn't required because the vessel isn't working. He also dissolved last month the LLC formed to buy it.

Meanwhile, some of Martin's allies have filed a complaint with the House Ethics Committee.

Also last month, Carnahan dissolved an LLC -- Castle Ballroom LLC -- used to purchase and sell a building in 2003 and 2004. A spokeswoman said the LLC was dissolved because it wasn't being used for anything else.

Martin contends that Carnahan should have had to cite the Castle Ballroom on his annual financial disclosure reports with the House and accuses the congressman of trying to hide his financial dealings.

"These are clear violations," said Martin's campaign spokeswoman Theresa Petry.

Carnahan's staff disagrees and points back to Martin's tardiness. Barranco doesn't buy Martin's "first-time candidate" argument and notes that he formerly had been chief of staff for Gov. Matt Blunt.

Carnahan may have amended some financial reports, but he always filed them on time, she said. Martin "is now subject to hundreds of dollars in fines."

TRUMAN HIDEAWAY ALSO PROMPTS QUESTIONS

Martin also is raising questions about the congressman's status as honorary chairman of the Jefferson Islands Club, a private club on an island in the Chesapeake Bay.

The club's board includes Elizabeth Reicherts, listed as senior director of U.S. government affairs for BP's U.S. operation. "Just how chummy is Carnahan with Elizabeth Reicherts?" asked Martin's campaign.

"The immediate past president of the beach club, Mike Mitchell, is also a lobbyist for BP. So is BP a corporate sponsor of the club, too?"

Carnahan spokeswoman Barranco said the club is simply a bipartisan historic group focusing on protecting the 11-bedrooom clubhouse, which was constructed after the club's founding in 1931. The club and the island were popular getaways for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his successor, President Harry S Truman.

Carnahan is primarily interested in the club because of the Truman connection. The congressman is a "Trumanophile," his spokeswoman said, and was asked to be the honorary chairman because of it. The ties of the other club members aren't a factor, she added.

Carnahan's camp has noted that he has been very outspoken in calling for BP to reimburse all the costs of the oil spill and contends that Martin is the true "corporate apologist."

The congressman's staff points to Martin's recent comments on KMOX, in which he emphasized his support for continued drilling.

"Russ Carnahan has consistently demanded that BP take full responsibility for the damage they've done," Barranco said. "Ed Martin, on the other hand, has called for letting Big Oil drill 'anywhere, anytime, anyhow,' with absolutely no oversight -- even as millions of gallons of oil continue to pour into the Gulf, threatening the American economy."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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