Political mudslinging is nothing new in Kentucky, but the long-held tradition of digging up dirt on political foes has reached new heights — or depths — in this year's U.S. Senate race.
The campaigns of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Democratic opponent, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, routinely peddle the findings of their "opposition research" to reporters in Kentucky and Washington D.C.
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As a result, Grimes has spent a considerable amount of time rebutting suggestions that her campaign might have violated campaign-finance laws by renting a bus at a seemingly discounted rate from a company owned by her father. Meanwhile, McConnell has combatted allegations that he profited from the decline of the coal industry because his wife, former U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, is a board member of a charity trying to shut down coal-fired power plants.
Such political "gotcha" stories have flourished around the nation this year.
Politico reported Friday that nearly $17 million has been spent in the current election cycle on costs related to opposition research by federal committees that are required to regularly disclose their finances. That's up from the $14.4 million spent during the 2010 midterm election cycle and more than the $10.4 million that was spent in the 2006 and 2002 election cycles combined, Politico reported.
America Rising, LLC, a research firm employed by McConnell that also operates a separate political action committee by the same name, plans to spend between $8 million and $12 million embarrassing Democrats running for election this year. The Beverly, Mass.-based company was founded in 2010, following in the footsteps of the Democrat-affiliated research group American Bridge.
The McConnell campaign reported paying $27,705 to America Rising for research, plus an additional $19,853 for polling, from Jan. 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014. The campaign also lists payments for "research" of $18,140 to JRB Consulting, a political strategy firm in Lake Jackson, Texas, and $1,000 to Tyler Waide of Lexington during the same time period.
The Grimes campaign reported paying $45,345 during the 18-month period to Reger Research, a Richmond, Va.-based company that specializes in opposition research for political candidates.