WASHINGTON -- After weeks of criticizing Republican Jim Talent for his part-time salaries and political work last year, the Missouri Democratic Party on Tuesday accused him in state and federal complaints of taking campaign contributions above legal limits.
The move touched off a round of attacks, with the state GOP saying it would lodge similar charges against a congressman and two advocacy groups and Talent's campaign challenging Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan to debate.
Talent is seeking to challenge Carnahan in her effort to finish the term won posthumously in 2000 by her husband.
The two have refrained from making attacks; instead, the political parties are trading jabs.
At issue in the complaints filed Tuesday are Talent's jobs as a Washington lobbyist and college teacher at Washington University, which together earned him $320,000. Also in question is his honorary chairmanship of Missouri Renewal, a political and fund-raising operation that until last August had the same office space and staff as Talent's campaign. "Jim Talent engaged in a major effort to circumvent campaign finance law; he got caught doing it, and now he's trying to cover it up," said Mike Kelley, executive director of the Missouri Democratic Party.
Kelley held a news conference Tuesday at the Missouri Ethics Commission in Jefferson City to announce the party's actions.
In response, Talent campaign manager Lloyd Smith said: "Today's baseless complaint filings by the Missouri Democratic Party on behalf of Jean Carnahan's campaign are a thinly veiled attempt to take the focus away from two very important facts."
Those facts, he said, were that Talent raised more money than Carnahan over the past three months and that Talent recently challenged Carnahan to debate.
Her campaign said she would debate in the fall, after the party primaries, and that she didn't want to miss Senate votes.
"These petty attacks will be seen for what they are: an attempt to divert attention from the debate challenge issued by Jim Talent directly to Jean Carnahan last week," Smith said.