Campaign regulators clear Talent of accusations

Saturday, February 1, 2003

WASHINGTON -- Federal campaign regulators have cleared Missouri Republican Sen. Jim Talent of Democratic Party accusations that his earnings as a lobbyist amounted to improper contributions from GOP cronies.

The Federal Election Commission said "there is no reason to believe" Talent violated the law, an FEC official wrote Talent and the Missouri Republican Party.

"Accordingly, the commission has closed its file in this matter," FEC general counsel Lawrence H. Norton wrote. Talent and the state party released the letters Friday.

At issue was Talent's $368,379 income as a lobbyist and part-time college teacher in the months before he announced he would challenge Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan in 2002. Talent lost a race for governor in November 2000 and ended his fourth term in the U.S. House two months later.

The Missouri Democratic Party alleged that political supporters gave Talent lobbying contracts that paid more than he deserved, amounting to campaign contributions that were tens of thousands of dollars above legal limits. Talent said he did nothing wrong, and the FEC agreed.

Missouri GOP chief John Hancock said Friday: "We have said from the beginning that these charges were trumped up out of desperation by the Missouri Democratic Party. "

Talent's campaign manager, Lloyd Smith, said he expects an apology from the Missouri Democratic Party.

"He's going to wait a long time," said the Democrats' spokesman, Mike Kelley. "The election commission has a history of ignoring important things like this. Just because they've chosen to ignore it doesn't mean the allegations we made against Mr. Talent weren't true. It was clearly a way for his rich friends to help finance him while he attempted to run for the United States Senate."

The FEC's decision resolves a series of Democratic Party charges against Talent.

Democrats also complained about a political and fund-raising operation Talent headed after the 2000 governor's race, saying that it, too, took excessive contributions that benefited Talent. And they complained about his failure to report debt from his old gubernatorial campaign operation.

The Missouri Ethics Commission cleared Talent of the first allegation but admonished him for the second, sending a "letter of concern" about what it said was a minor violation. Talent's 2000 campaign resolved the issue by amending its reports, Ethics Commission executive director Robert F. Connor said.

Talent defeated Carnahan on Nov. 5, 2002, winning 50 percent to 49 percent.

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