A Republican former state representative in Kansas who recently stumped for independent Greg Orman — reportedly to buffer against accusations that he is a liberal — has worked as an attorney for the candidate and owes him as much as $50,000.
The Weekly Standard reported Friday that the Republican, Eric Carter, owes Orman between $15,000 and $50,000, according to campaign financial disclosures. Carter has also served as Orman’s attorney in several lawsuits, The Daily Caller learned.
The campaign of Republican incumbent Pat Roberts jumped on the news Friday calling the disclosure evidence of “a potential backroom, pay to play endorsement deal.”
But Carter tells TheDC that he does not believe the relationship presents a conflict of interest.
The Lawrence Journal-World reported on a campaign event Orman held at one of his businesses in Lenexa on Wednesday that appeared to be part of a strategy to address relentless criticism from Roberts.
In TV ads, in their three debates and on the stump, Roberts has hammered Orman on past campaign donations he made to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, President Obama and Hillary Clinton. A vote for Orman is a vote for the liberal agenda, Roberts has insisted, hoping the message will be a turn-off in the Republican-leaning state.
But Orman and his surrogates have responded by trotting out supportive Republicans in ads and on the campaign trail.
Continuing that strategy Wednesday, the Orman campaign “staged the event to dispel that very criticism by having former state Rep. Eric Carter, a conservative Republican from Overland Park, introduce him,” the Journal-World reported.
“We’re all worried for our country, and for good reason. We’ve got challenges on the horizon,” Carter said. “The one thing we’ve seen that has now been measured for decades is that it doesn’t appear that the current batch of folks and the current way that we’re doing things is going to meet those challenges.”
Denying claims that this presented a conflict of interest that warranted disclosure, Carter explained his dealings with Orman in a phone and email interview with TheDC.
“There’s not a conflict anymore than if you had two business partners. It’s basically the same thing,” said Carter, who says he has known Orman for 15 years and considers him a “stellar” businessman.
Carter, who operates the law firm Carter LLP out of Olathe, said that he has a revolving line of credit with Orman.
“Most law firms have a line of credit, so there is nothing unusual in that,” he said.
The rate on the note is better than what he could get at a bank, he added. According to Orman’s disclosure, the note is non-interest bearing.
Carter said he could not “ethically say” how much Orman’s companies owe him, but he said the candidate “previously authorized me to divulge that at any given time those companies owe me more than is owed on the line of credit and the amount of the loan is small relative to the amount of work being done at any given time.”
If that is true, it is not reflected in Orman’s financial disclosures which require documentation of liabilities greater than $10,000. The only liabilities Orman lists are two student loans he has in conjunction with his wife.
Carter said that his business relationship with Orman is not a big secret. He has represented Orman on several legal cases and has been quoted in the media as his attorney, he pointed out.
One of the cases Carter has worked on for Orman involved a lawsuit filed by Everlast, the boxing equipment company, against a company Orman purchased several years ago. Carter also represented Orman on a lawsuit he filed against the family of actress Debbie Reynolds over a $1 million debt.
Carter did not respond to a follow-up email asking whether the audience at Wednesday’s event was made aware that he was a Republican.
The Orman campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
UPDATE: The Lawrence World-Journal reporter who covered Wednesday’s event tells TheDC that Carter introduced himself to the audience in Lenexa and referred to himself as “a fairly conservative Republican.”