While 4th Congressional District candidate Grant Starrett is touting the $313,000 he’s raised this year for his GOP primary bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, the Times-Free Press notes that his latest finance report shows nearly 80 percent of that sum came from a loan he made to his campaign.
The 28-year-old attorney’s $250,000 loan to the campaign is his second, for a total of $476,561. He also put $23,400 of in-kind support into the campaign last year. All told, of the $1.23 million he says he’s raised for the campaign, 40.6 percent came from his own pocket.
While legal, the loans and in-kind contributions listed on Starrett’s latest Federal Election Commission report drew renewed charges from the DesJarlais camp that Starrett is gaining little traction among district voters and is relying on his wealthy family’s money and ties to “buy” the seat.
Starrett’s campaign, meanwhile, is returning fire, hitting DesJarlais’ political action committee contributions and saying Starrett has gotten far more “grass-roots” contributions — those from donors giving under $200 — than DesJarlais.
The FEC reports showed Starrett had $908,000 in cash and DesJarlais had $346,000 as of March 31.
The two are battling in one of the most widely watched GOP congressional primaries of 2016. DesJarlais is seeking to fend off Starrett’s challenge after a razor-thin, 38-vote primary victory over Jim Tracy in 2014. DesJarlais, a physician and abortion opponent, was haunted by revelations from an earlier divorce that he urged a former patient he’d slept with to get an abortion and went along with his then-wife having two abortions.
DesJarlais spokesman Robert Jameson charged Starrett’s latest FEC disclosure “proves Grant has absolutely no ties to the Fourth District and his deceitful attacks are simply not resonating.”
“Tennesseans see Grant for what he is: a rich kid from Beverly Hills who has never held a real job and is now using his parents’ money to try and buy a congressional seat,” Jameson added. “Further, his establishment views simply do not align with the conservative values held in Tennessee’s Fourth District.”
Starrett campaign manager Tommy Schultz countered in an email, “given Congressman DesJarlais’ support for Donald Trump, I am sure he’ll appreciate the attraction of a candidate not beholden to special interests who can self-finance his campaign.”
Schultz touted the $42,465 that Starrett has collected from donors giving under $200, compared to $13,440 for DesJarlais. Those donors’ names don’t have to be reported.
…Starrett’s disclosure form listed 64 individuals who gave more than $200, including 20 from Tennessee. Just two appeared to have addresses within the 4th District: a Starrett campaign field consultant, Jacob Way, and a Bryan College professor in Dayton, Tenn.
Contributors outside the 4th District included Starrett’s campaign chairman, Lee Beaman, owner of Nashville-based Beaman Automotive Group and an influential conservative voice in Middle Tennessee Republican politics. He and his wife each gave $2,700.
…DesJarlais said he raised $136,875 in the Jan. 1-March 31 reporting period, raising his total to $484,746. He listed $28,500 in PAC money, or 20.8 percent of his total for the period. He has raised $136,220 from PACs during the campaign to date.