Scott DesJarlais, Eric Stewart spar over handling of money

Scott DesJarlais, Eric Stewart spar over handling of money

April 17th, 2012 by Andy Sher in News

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn.

Tennessee state Sen. Eric Stewart

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Document: Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance

Campaign Finance Audit of Senator Eric Stewart

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NASHVILLE -- Now that their latest financial disclosures are filed, U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., and his Democratic challenger, state Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Belvidere, are turning their attention to more important things.

That would be attacking each other.

DesJarlais's campaign Monday issued a release that charged Stewart "gets 'F' grade in fiscal responsibility." The release cites a 2010 state Registry of Election Finance report that, among other things, took Stewart to task for failing to report $1,562.62 in contributions from individuals or groups as well as $12,330.73 in contributions he himself made to his 2008 Senate campaign.

"While liberal Democrat Eric Stewart is trying to mislead voters into thinking he is a deficit hawk, reality clearly shows that he is irresponsible and sloppy when he manages even small budgets under his direct control," said DesJarlais campaign manager Brandon Lewis in a news release.

"It's hard to imagine having someone represent the Fourth District on federal budgetary issues in Washington who lacks the ability to balance their own bank account," Lewis said.

Stewart in a statement acknowledged his 2008 state Senate campaign "made some mistakes. I took responsibility for them," worked with state officials and "made the appropriate corrections," he said.

But he then fired back, accusing DesJarlais of being "out of touch with his constituents. I guess you could say it's another day and another hypocrisy from Congressman DesJarlais.

"At a time when folks are still struggling to get back on their feet and small businesses are worried about how they are going to make payroll, DesJarlais is trying to distract voters from recent news that he spent over $250,000 of taxpayer money to help his re-election campaign, that he took political contributions in return for letters of support for federal funding, that he voted to raise taxes on hard-working Tennesseans an average of $750 per family and that he voted to end Medicare as we know it."

As for campaign finance in the 4th Congressional District contest, DesJarlais' first-quarter report to the Federal Election Commission shows he raised $127,530 from Jan. 1 through March 31. He spend about $53,491, leaving him with a cash balance of $410,683.

Stewart reported raising $96,227 and spending about $33,592. That left him with a cash balance of $147,664.

Drew Rawlins, executive director of the state's Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance said Stewart, who was assessed $100 as a result of the audit's findings, later corrected problems with his disclosure.

"He fixed everything," Rawlins said.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at 615-255-0550 or asher@timesfreepress.com.