BONITA SPRINGS, Fla.- One of the Republicans running to replace disgraced former congressman Trey Radel is picking up a tea party endorsement at the same time he's coming under increasing attack from fellow Republicans.
Curt Clawson's opponents say his past business decisions are not in line with tea party principles.
Clawson has received the endorsement of a political action committee (PAC) known as the Tea Party Express.
Like many tea party groups, the Tea Party Express claims to be against governmental bailouts.
But Clawson's opponents in the Republican primary are sending out political mailers accusing of him orchestrating bailouts and profiting from them when he was in the corporate world.
At today's endorsement announcement at his campaign headquarters in Bonita Springs, Clawson made it clear he wasn't going to address the accusations his fellow Republicans are making about his past.
"Today we want to concentrate on a more important movement which is the Tea party Express," said Clawson.
"I think its a natural marriage between the tea party and me," he added.
"We have the same values and we have the same worries," said Clawson.
He left soon after.
His staff said he had other pressing engagements.
Fox 4 wanted to ask him about the latest attack mailer against him.
The mailer refers to Clawson's role in taking the helm of companies they struggled to emerge from backrupty.
It claims, Clawson had a hand in "bailouts" and "golden parachutes."
The phrase "golden parachute" refers to the often lucrative departure money executives get when they leave a company.
One mailer says "While his bankrupt company (Hayes- Lemmerz) cut other peoples retirement funds, Curt Clawson orchestrated a 6.7 million dollar bonus package for executives, including himself."
The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, or PBGC, is a US government agency.
When Clawson steered the company through bankruptcy a second time, the PBGC absorbed $93 million in debt to cover the shortfall in the company's retirement plan.
One of the unions involved, the United Steel Workers, lodged an objection in bankruptcy court.
The union said the plan wouldn't help workers much but "could end up shelling out over $6.7 million to five insiders."
While Clawson was unavailable to take questions about these concerns at this event, his supporters say he did nothing wrong.
In fact, they say handing out million dollar bonuses was essential.
Taylor Budowich, Director of the Tea Party Express defends Clawson's actions.
"Curt Clawson successfully turned around a business and he did so by creating a work environment that was attractive to highly skilled and highly talented people," said Budowich.
Meanwhile, Paige Kreegel's campaign says the Tea Party Express endorsement is nothing to brag about.
Kreegel's campaign manager made the following statement.
"Tea Party Express PAC is no different than any other political action committee."
"Its founder, Sal Russo, is an establishment Republican political consultant from California," the statement continued.
"Judging by our opponent's actions, he is trying to change his "outsider" title as quickly as possible."
Clawson and Kreegel are two of four Republicans running for the District 19 congressional seat which represents all of Lee county and coastal Collier county in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The seat was held by Republican Trey Radel who resigned halfway through his term after he pleaded guilty to cocaine possession.
Radel's resignation prompted the governor to call a special election to replace him.
The other Republicans running are state senator Lizbeth Benacquisto and aviation specialist Michael Dreikorn.
The Republicans will face off in the April 22nd GOP primary.
The winner will face Democrat April Freeman and Libertarian Ray Netherwood in the special general election on June 24th.
If you wish to vote in the GOP primary, you must register to vote
- as a Repubican - by Monday, March 24th.
To vote in the June 24th special general election, you must register to vote
by Monday, May 26th.