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Martin questions Carnahan on rent payments to himself

Martin questions Carnahan on rent payments to himself

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ST. LOUIS -- Republican congressional hopeful Ed Martin continues to put incumbent Russ Carnahan on the defensive, filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission that alleges the Democrat incumbent improperly directed campaign money to a holding company he owned.

The complaint alleges that, in 2004, Carnahan paid $10,400 to an entity -- Castle Ballroom LLC -- for rent. Records shows that Carnahan is the registered agent of Castle Ballroom which owned a building in midtown that Carnahan used as a campaign office.

The LLC also donated $1,200 to Carnahan's campaign.

It "appears to be that the Castle Ballroom was used by Congressman Carnahan purely to enrich himself," Martin said in a statement.

The payments, however, do not seem to violate campaign finance laws. While corporations are prohibited from donating to federal campaigns, LLCs -- which the FEC views as partnerships -- are allowed to donate.

Campaigns may also rent part of an office building owned by the candidate, as long as it doesn't pay more than market value.

"There is no story here - Ed Martin is the only candidate who is not following the law for his own benefit," Carnahan campaign manager Angela Barranco said. "It is Ed Martin's failure to comply with the law that voters -- and their wallets - should be concerned about."

Even if the 55-page complaint has any merit, it wouldn't be settled by the FEC until well after the election.

But Martin, who is seeking to gain momentum in his bid to seize from Democrats the seat once held by Dick Gephardt, is engaging in an intriguing cat-and-mouse game with Carnahan.

The more time he forces Carnahan to spend on this and simliar complaints, the less time Carnahan has to focus on his own campaign message.

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