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Walsh, Duckworth trade barbs in 8th Dist. congressional race

CHICAGO – Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh and Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth traded accusations over campaign finances this week as one of the most closely watched congressional races nationwide grew even more contentious.

Duckworth, a former official in President Barack Obama's administration, claimed that Walsh has close links to a group that is a top contributor to a super PAC supporting the tea party candidate's re-election. Legally, super PACs and candidates they support can't be in direct contact.

Duckworth campaign officials said Wednesday that they planned to file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging illegal coordination. Walsh's campaign has denied involvement in the past decade with the group, Americans for Limited Government.

Walsh also filed an FEC complaint, blasting Duckworth for being hours late in filing a complete third-quarter campaign finance report. Duckworth's campaign spokesman said the late report was a mistake and it was corrected.

The dueling accusations came days after a heated debate between the candidates where boos and cheers from the crowd sometimes drowned out the questions.

The contest in Illinois' 8th Congressional District has been on the radar for both parties. Democrats see it as an opportunity to pick up a seat for their party in the fight to take control of the U.S. House. Republicans say that they'll be able to maintain a GOP majority in Illinois' congressional delegation even in President Obama's home state.

While Duckworth has outraised and outspent Walsh, the Washington D.C.-based Now or Never super PAC has spent roughly $2 million in support of Walsh and against Duckworth, including television ads. In September, the super PAC received two donations – for $1 million and for $950,000 – from Americans for Limited Government, according to recent FEC filings.

"Joe Walsh is using an organization that he helped create to do his dirty work – a type of coordination that is clearly against the law," Duckworth campaign manager Kaitlin Fahey said Wednesday in a statement.

Walsh, a first term congressman, helped found the nonprofit Americans for Limited Government in 1996, the same year he first ran for Congress and lost. The Fairfax, Va., group's spokesman, Rick Manning, confirmed that Walsh had not been involved with the group since 2002. Manning said Walsh has voted in a way that was similar to how the group has encouraged others to vote but the congressman has not received any special treatment. The group isn't required to disclose its donors

But Walsh's campaign said the talk of the super PAC was a diversion from Duckworth's late filing.

Duckworth had initially only filed September fundraising totals instead of the required three months. A full report was submitted Tuesday morning, campaign officials said.

"This looks to be another instance where Tammy Duckworth thinks the rules don't apply to her," Walsh said in a statement.

The newly-drawn 8th District includes several Chicago suburbs, including Schaumburg, Elgin and Bloomingdale.

Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran, outraised Walsh, according to the most recent campaign finance records. She reported roughly $1.5 million in contributions in the third quarter compared while Walsh raised less than $300,000 in the same period.

Walsh and Duckworth are scheduled to take part in their final debate Thursday at WTTW-TV in Chicago.

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Follow Sophia Tareen at http://twitter.com/sophiatareen.

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Information from: Daily Herald, http://www.dailyherald.com

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