The two leading Republican U.S. Senate candidates are increasingly turning on each other. Last week, Dan Sullivan sent mailers to Alaska voters alleging Mead Treadwell benefitted financially from the Obama stimulus package, a bill he denounces on the campaign trail. This week Treadwell is fighting back, and he’s taking aim at the Ohio paint conglomerate Sullivan’s family runs.
Sullivan, in his mailer, says Treadwell was on the board of a Maryland dredge-building company that took $6 million from the Obama stimulus bill. Disclosure documents show Treadwell sold shares of Ellicott Dredges for $1.1 million in 2009. As the mailer puts it: “Treadwell used Obama’s stimulus to line his own bank account, and Alaskans are footing the bill.”
Treadwell says Sullivan is overstating his connection to the dredge company. He wants Alaskans to take a hard look at RPM International, the paint company Sullivan’s grandfather founded and Sullivan’s brother runs. According to a government database of stimulus spending, RPM International got contracts worth more than $15 million from the stimulus bill, mostly through its roofing division, called Tremco. Treadwell points out that Dan Sullivan owns shares of RPM worth up to $1 million.
“So, I’d say, examine thyself, Mr. Sullivan,” Treadwell says.
This is a case of parallel accusations. Both Sullivan and Treadwell decry the Obama Administration’s spending. Each candidate is linked to a different Lower 48 company that does a lot of business with the government, a bit of it funded with Obama’s stimulus money. Each says he had no sway over the company’s decision to take that money, but says the othe guy’s ties to the company are significant and relevant to the campaign.
Sullivan holds no position at RPM, and has no legal say in the business, which includes brands like Rust-oleum and DAP and has 10,000 employees around the world. Treadwell says Alaskans should still care how RPM makes its money because executives of the company have contributed heavily to Sullivan’s campaign.
“But, you know, I don’t have the money to do a mailer to 50,000 people.”
Campaign finance reports show RPM employees and their spouses have given $130,000 to Sullivan’s campaign, helping make Ohio Sullivan’s No. 1 state for contributions. Also, Sullivan’s brother, Frank, the CEO of RPM, their father, and an ex-RPM board member contributed a combined $125,000 to a super PAC running ads to support Sullivan and tarnish rivals. Aside from the stimulus money, Treadwell points out RPM was sued in 2010 over its business practices.
“I just would say, take a look at where his money is coming from, both his personal wealth, his ability to take a year off from any employment to run for office, his ability to come in with so much money to begin with and most of it comes back to a company called RPM which settled last August for $65 million for overcharging the U.S. government,” Treadwell says.
In that case Tremco, RPM’s roofing division, was accused under the False Claims Act of price-gouging and selling the government defective products. The claims involved roofs on 150 public buildings including schools, post offices and more than a dozen veteran’s hospitals.
In a press release about the settlement a year ago, RPM CEO Frank Sullivan said the company sometimes charged the government the wrong price. The Sullivan campaign wouldn’t speak on tape for this story, but issued a statement saying Sullivan had nothing to do with the activity in question and that he’s proud of the company his brother and grandfather built.
Treadwell says the Sullivan mailer against him is wrong. He sold most of his stock in Ellicott and resigned from the board before the company won its largest chunk of stimulus money — $4 million for a dredge it sold the government. He was on the board when the company applied for a $1.75 million grant to upgrade machinery but says that wasn’t a board decision. Sullivan campaign spokesman Mike Anderson said last week the mailer was accurate because Treadwell didn’t sever his ties to Ellicott. According to his financial disclosure form, Treadwell still owns a six-figure stake in the company and receives board compensation. Treadwell says he’s paid $1,000 to attend board meetings as a non-voting advisor.
While the front-running Republican candidates go after each other, Democratic operatives working to re-elect Sen. Mark Begich, are enjoying the fireworks and taking notes.