NASHVILLE -- Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander's campaign is calling a Federal Election Commission complaint filed by an independent candidate against the senator's campaign a "silly political stretch."
Danny Page, a 38-year-old electrician running as a conservative, said Tuesday he is requesting the FEC investigate what he calls the Alexander campaign's "colluding with the Tennessee State Museum" to boost the senator's candidacy.
"For Lamar Alexander to use taxpayer money to promote his own campaign is a classic example of the self-serving attitude that he has portrayed throughout his two terms in the U.S. Senate," Page said in a news release. "Behavior such as this is exactly the reason why Sen. Alexander should not serve another term and why Tennesseans should elect one of their own that will work to build a legacy for the state instead of for himself."
That's a reference to the museum's plans in 2013 to put together a traveling exhibition on Alexander's tenure as governor.
News organizations raised questions about the timing with Alexander up for re-election in 2014. State Museum Executive Director Lois Riggins-Ezzell said longtime Alexander aide Tom Ingram had agreed to help raise private donations to cover the more than $40,000 cost of the show.
Conservative critics at the time pounced, with the Senate Conservatives Fund saying Alexander four years earlier had secured a $400,000 federal earmark for the museum. Senate Conservatives Fund Executive Director Matt Hoskins at the time acknowledged there was a four-year gap between the earmark and the exhibit.
But he argued that's "how the earmark game is played -- 'you scratch my back and I will scratch your back.'"
The traveling exhibition was planned to open in September 2013 and run through much of 2015. Riggins-Ezell later postponed the exhibition until 2015, after the election.
Asked Tuesday what legal grounds there are for a complaint, Page said, "there's always grounds for a complaint. That's up to the FEC to investigate to see if there's any foul play."
Alexander spokesman Brian Reisinger said the "complaint is about a traveling exhibit that never traveled. In 2011, Vanderbilt University, with its own money and in cooperation with the state museum, sponsored a year-long exhibit titled 'Come on Along: Lamar Alexander's Journey as Governor.'"
He went on to say "somebody is making a silly political stretch. The truth is, the federal funding secured in 2009 was for the preservation of permanent museum artifacts. If and when this exhibit occurs, it will be funded with private money, just like all of the museum's traveling exhibits."
Page is one of several independent candidates running in the Nov. 4 election.
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550.