The sniping between the campaign of Democrat Walt Minnick and Republican Sen. Larry Craig continued on Thursday with the challenger’s camp asserting the incumbent has “ties to big tobacco companies.”
After lambasting Craig because $10,000 of the $1.8 million he has raised since 1990 came from tobacco interests, Minnick press spokesman Bill Broadhead said Craig received “an all expense paid vacation to sunny Palm Springs, California,” from the Tobacco Institute in January 1992.
“What they can’t buy with PAC dollars, they get with sunny vacations,” Broadhead said.
But according to Craig’s personal financial disclosure statement for 1992, the trip was no vacation. Craig was in Palm Springs for only a matter of hours.
The statement said the Tobacco Institute flew him from Washington, D.C., to Palm Springs on Jan. 16 for a speech, and later the same day Craig left Palm Springs for the three-day Senators’ Ski Cup in Park City, Utah, a charity event sponsored by other interests.
Craig also received a $2,000 honorarium for the speech to the Tobacco Institute. Such payments are no longer allowed.
In an effort to punctuate their claim, Democrats decked out one of their staff members as a big cigarette and marched him into Craig’s office to tell the senator that the tobacco industry appreciates their support.
A day earlier, Republican State Chairman Ron McMurray accused Minnick of pandering to the national teachers association by accepting $10,000, the maximum contribution a political action committee can give a candidate, after calling for special interest contributions to be outlawed.
Minnick has called on Craig to reject special interest financing, sweetening the offer by promising not to use any of his personal fortune in his own campaign. But Craig declined, saying the political action committees are not special interests but represent voters in Idaho and elsewhere.
Minnick has received less than $30,000 from special interest groups but pumped over $360,000 of his own money into the campaign that has revenue of about $900,000.
Craig, meanwhile, has received $560,000 of the $1.6 million he has raised in the past 18 months from special interest political action committees.
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