Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Corker, who has focused increasing criticism on U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., one of two Democratic candidates for the Senate, fired another shot Friday, writing Illinois Senator Barack Obama, who will appear in Tennessee with Ford on Monday, urging Obama to take note of Ford's "record on the issue of ethics.".
Ford's spokesperson, Carol Andrews, responded to Corker's blast -- the latest of several delivered of late by one or another of the congressman's Republican opponents -- by calling it "yet another example of big talking and big lying" by Ford's GOP adversaries.
The text of Corker's press release:
Bob Corker urges Senator Obama not to dodge ethics issue while campaigning with Representative Ford
Senate Democrats' "point man" on ethics to campaign with
Representative Ford - top congressional recipient of privately funded travel
Chattanooga - In advance of Senator Barack Obama's Tennessee campaign swing with Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., Bob Corker, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, wrote Senator Obama to inform the Senator of Congressman Ford's questionable record on the issue of ethics and encourage Senator Obama to address the issue with Ford.
According to Ford's website, Congressman Ford will hold a lunchtime rally with Illinois Senator Barack Obama, the person Senate Democrats have tapped "to be their point man to carry the message of ethics reform during the midterm election year." (Chicago Tribune, 1/18/06).
"Monday's trip to Tennessee to campaign with Congressman Ford is a tremendous opportunity for Senator Obama to demonstrate that his interest in ethics reform is sincere and not merely a partisan exercise," said Republican Senate candidate Bob Corker.
Below is the letter to Senator Obama in its entirety.
Dear Senator Obama,
Through media reports here in Tennessee, I have been made aware of your upcoming campaign visit to our state to campaign for fellow Democrat Harold Ford, Jr.
I also understand that you are serving as Senate Democrat Minority Leader Harry Reid's "point man" on ethics reform.
These two facts suggest to me that your visit with Congressman Ford is a great opportunity in regards to your efforts to clean up Washington.
Accordingly, I am writing to fully inform you of Congressman Ford's record on the issue of ethics so that you may, should you chose, use your visit in Memphis to further your efforts to end what your fellow Democrats have termed the "culture of corruption" in Washington.
· According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Congressman Harold Ford ranked first among current members of Congress for the number of trips funded by private interests. Congressman Ford's privately funded travel includes trips to Las Vegas and the Virgin Islands. As you well know, much of this type of activity would be banned in the ethics reform bill you are currently championing in the Senate. (Sen. Obama Press Release, 2/1/06; Times Free Press 4/27/05; www.politicalmoneyline.com)
· Congressman Ford refuses to return funds linked to indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Unlike your colleagues, Senator Mark Pryor, Senator Russ Feingold, and Senate candidate Ben Cardin, Congressman Ford refuses to acknowledge the appearance of impropriety by accepting contributions from those who were a part of Jack Abramoff's lobbying team. In fact, Congressman Ford went so far as to call for other candidates to do so, but still remains unwilling to do so himself. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 1/7/06; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 1/7/06; The Hill, 2/15/06; Commercial Appeal, 1/10/06)
· According to the Commercial Appeal, Congressman Ford used $2,549 of campaign funds to purchase an Armani suit for the 2000 Democratic National Convention. According to the newspaper, the Federal Election Commission prohibits the use of campaign funds for clothing for campaign events. Additionally, I would encourage you to have your staff examine Congressman Ford's most recent FEC report, as it is replete with extravagant disbursements for expenses incurred by Congressman Ford. (Commercial Appeal 11/20/00)
As is clear through these and other activities, Congressman Ford has spent these past several years in Washington occupying the space between what is legal and what is right.
It is my hope that you will use your visit to Tennessee to demonstrate to your critics that your interest in ethics reform is genuine, and not merely a partisan endeavor.
On behalf of Ford, Andrews responded to Corker's press release with this statement:
"Bob Corker's letter to Senator Obama is yet another example of big talking and big lying from the Republicans running for the US Senate.
"Congressman Ford's ethics have never been challenged by anyone other than those seeking political office.
"Unlike Bob Corker, who, according to IRS documents, paid no federal income taxes in the late 1980's, Congressman Ford has called for a ban on private travel, an end to pork barrel spending and a prohibition on gifts from lobbyists -- a comprehensive effort to clean up the ethics mess in Washington.
"If Bob Corker wins his primary, Congressman Ford looks forward to a real and honest debate on the issue of ethics."