Jesse Kelly, a Republican congressional candidate in Arizona who has been critical of the economic stimulus, declared during a 2010 debate that he did not know where such funds ended up. But on Tuesday the Arizona Republic reported that his father's construction business had received stimulus funding through at least three government contracts worth more than $60 million in total.
Kelly serves as a project manager for his father's construction firm and is the GOP nominee in the race to succeed former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a June 12 special election.
In a June 2010 debate sponsored by the Green Valley Tea Party, Kelly said, "We've seen the corruption that came to be -- money being spent in districts that don't exist, in zip codes that don't exist."
"Where did the money go? No one knows," Kelly added.
At the time Kelly was facing two Republican primary opponents for the right to take on Giffords in November 2010. Kelly narrowly lost the election to Giffords, who resigned this past January.
In the current race to fill the six months remaining in the congressional term, Kelly is running against Democrat Ron Barber, a former Giffords aide who was shot twice during a 2011 attempt on Giffords' life that left her severely wounded.
Since 2004 Kelly has been employed by his father's business, Don Kelly Construction. The Arizona Republic reported that this firm bid on and was awarded several project contracts financed by the very stimulus funds that the Tea Party favorite has campaigned against.
Jesse Kelly's campaign spokesman, John Ellinwood, told the Republic that the candidate never asked his father not to bid on stimulus-funded projects.
"That would have been completely and totally absurd because it had no effect on whether the project would go forward or not," Ellinwood said. "These projects were going to be done. Someone was going to get (the contract) ... Somebody will be getting paid."
Ellinwood said Don Kelly Construction may have saved the government money because competition can drive down project bids.
"It may have cost the government more money if there were fewer people bidding," Ellinwood said. "The family's business is actually saving the taxpayers money by bidding."
Attacked by Barber and other Democrats for his positions on Social Security and Medicare, Kelly has been campaigning against stimulus funding since 2010, saying that it creates too much long-term debt and claiming that his young son would end up paying for it.
During the 2010 debate, Kelly also criticized Republican lawmakers who voted for the stimulus, saying that this should not happen again. Kelly painted the stimulus as a takeover attempt by President Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel, then the White House chief of staff and now Chicago's mayor.
"This is what Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel and their ilk -- this is what they thrive on," Kelly said. "It's getting that kind of power, getting handed a taxpayer check like that to purchase elections."
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