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Akin blasts GOP Senate leaders by name, denies deal with Sen. DeMint for campaign help

12:06 am on Sat, 09.22.12

Updated at 6:55 pm on Sat, 09.22.12

Republican U.S. Senate nominee Todd Akin singled out Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Saturday as among the GOP leaders who he said are “selectively picking” candidates who are not social conservatives like himself because they don’t want social conservatives in the Senate.

Todd Akin
Todd Akin

Akin accused Republican establishment leaders of isolating him “in the barn and . . . throwing rocks at me."  He asserted that their opposition to social conservatives was the real reason prominent Republicans called for him to withdraw last month in the wake of the controversy over his comment that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant because their body “has ways to try to shut the whole thing down."

Akin is challenging U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., in a contest
that could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate next January.

“The leadership in the Senate has very definite views as to who they
want in their club,’’ Akin said in a luncheon address at the conservative Eagle Forum’s annual council this weekend at the Hilton St. Louis Frontenac hotel. He then made clear he was referring to top Republicans in the Democratic-controlled chamber.

Mitch McConnell
Mitch McConnell

“I’m talking about Mitch McConnell and also (Texas Sen. John)
Cornyn,” he added. Cornyn heads the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, which helps fund most GOP Senate candidates but which has withdrawn support from Akin.

Akin later also included former Bush advisor Karl Rove, head of the SuperPAC Crossroads GPS, who apologized recently for observing that someone might murder Akin to oust him from the Senate contest.

Akin contended that the opposition of Republican leaders to his candidacy fit into a pattern and cited the unsuccessful efforts of some GOP leaders to block the 2010 elections of tea-party backed Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., because they weren’t the right kind of conservatives.

Establishment Republican leaders, he asserted, are “selectively picking people that we would say are not conservatives, maybe economic conservatives, but certainly not social conservatives.”

“I didn’t realize that they were as aggressive as they were,’’ Akin continued, until his run-in with them over his rape comment. “Usually if somebody does something wrong, like your dog runs into a skunk, you put him in the barn because he smells bad, OK? But this was a little different. They put me in the barn and started throwing rocks at me, too.

Phyllis Schlafly
Phyllis Schlafly

“This was an aggressive attempt to try to stop conservatives,, and it was kind of surprising that it went into the general election the way it did this year,” Akin said.

Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly went even further, telling the audience that the Republican establishment – and she singled out Rove – “would rather have the Democrat elected than have a Republican who cares about social issues, the right- to-life issue, the marriage issues.”

Schlafly praised former House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- who has had his own run-ins with the GOP establishment -- for his decision to stop in St. Louis on Monday to campaign for Akin and help him raise money.

'Few people' control most GOP campaign aid

In the weeks since the controversy over Akin's rape comment, several top Republican-aligned PACs, including Rove's, have dropped -- at least for now
 -- attack ads aimed at McCaskill.

Akin observed in his speech that he was concerned that “a few people control an awful lot of the money that goes into these races."

Conservative donors, he warned, should “better be careful what organization
you’re bundling to, because there’s a lot who take conservative money and
use it to try to get more liberal people elected."

Jim DeMint
Jim DeMint

Akin’s comments came amid reports – which he has denied – that he has cut a deal with influential Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., to support DeMint’s effort to ban congressional “earmarks” permanently in exchange for money from a SuperPAC with ties to DeMint.

Previously Akin had often defended what some critics define as "earmarks,'' in which members of Congress use their clout to  insert favored projects into spending bills. McCaskill has been an outspoken opponent of earmarks for years, as has DeMint.

During the controversy over Akin’s comments, some news outlets had reported that DeMint and his allied SuperPAC also viewed Akin as being too supportive of earmarks.

But policy aside, DeMint also has strong ties with many tea-party groups and allied candidates. Although DeMint had been among the Republicans who had early on called for Akin to drop out, at least one Washington media outlet reported last week that – in light of the importance of the Missouri contest to the GOP quest to capture the Senate – DeMint had called on Cornyn to reconsider and send money to Akin.

The nonpartisan National Journal reported Friday that Akin's agreement to support DeMint's earmark ban could result in indirect campaign aid to Akin from the DeMint-aligned SuperPAC, the Senate Conservatives Fund.

Such independent spending cannot be coordinated with a candidate or their campaign without violating federal law.

DeMint's support would come as no surprise to some Democrats, amid recent polls that generally show McCaskill with a small lead.

Since the controversy, Akin's campaign says it has raised well over $500,000. But that's far less than what McCaskill is believed to have in the bank. (The next campaign finance reports aren’t due until Oct. 15.)

Still, some of her Democratic allies, including Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis, have been predicting for weeks that outside GOP groups would soon resume spending on Akin’s behalf – especially if he remains close in the polls.

McCaskill campaign blasts Akin on earmark shift

Akin's spokesman Ryan Hite said the congressman knows nothing about any SuperPAC spending on his behalf and cut no deal with DeMint. But McCaskill’s campaign isn’t buying it.

"Todd Akin is so principled, he's willing to abandon his long-standing beliefs just for money,” said McCaskill spokesman Erik Dorey. “What kind of Washington politician runs an ad defending earmarks in the primary, then two months later, turns around and changes his position on a dime, for a dime? This is exactly the kind of transactional politics that makes people sick."

Claire McCaskill
Claire McCaskill

Akin's spokesman Hite said that "DeMint’s view on earmarks is in line with what the congressman has said all along,” but that the press had mischaracterized Akin's stance.

In an interview last week, Akin told Beacon Washington correspondent Robert Koenig that his definition of an earmark was: “That is, something done in the dark of night, slipped in in a committee, when nobody knows that it’s there, and then popped out for a vote when people haven’t had a chance to see what it is. It’s a special deal for somebody. I’m completely opposed to those things."

Akin added, "But I’m not opposed to the people on the Armed Services Committee (on which he sits) having the authority to do the job that we are supposed to be doing, which is reviewing defense spending and deciding what either is good or not good or adjusting it in various ways."

Akin's earlier defense of earmarks

Akin had defended earmarks during primary debates this summer against former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman and St. Louis businessman John Brunner. Some of their ads, and those by allied groups, had attacked Akin over his  support of earmarks.

Indeed, right before the Aug. 7 primary, his campaign ran an ad featuring the wife of a young Army soldier who thanked Akin for using his clout to get provisions inserted into defense bills  to improve the safety of equipment and vehicles used by U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

Hite contended that some have gotten earmarks confused with legitimate decisions by members of Congress to support certain projects.  "Some people are (wrongly) throwing everything into the same pot," he said.

McCaskill’s camp accused Akin of doing just that with a release late Friday that asserted she has “consistently voted for them, including the stimulus package which was the most earmarked, pork-laden bill in history.”

The projects listed in Akin’s release as being improperly supported by McCaskill had been added during the open committee process and, therefore, didn’t qualify as earmarks,  by his definition.

Akin to begin campaign tour on withdrawal deadline

The news about DeMint's possible support comes amid the various deadlines that, in effect, make it impossible for Republicans to replace Akin on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Some ballots already have been printed since Saturday is the deadline for local jurisdictions to send out absentee ballots to military and Americans overseas.

Next Tuesday is the deadline for Akin for obtain a court order to get his name removed from the ballot although his campaign would be liable for the costs to print new ballots.

To mark the day, Akin’s campaign is launching in St. Louis on Tuesday a four-day “Common Sense Bus Tour’’ around the state. The participants are to include a number of prominent Missouri conservatives, including:

  • Schlafly, founder of the Eagle Forum
  • Dick Bott, founder of the Bott Radio Network
  • Rich Bott, president of Bott Radio Network
  • Don Hinkle, editor of "The Pathway" and Director of Public Policy Missouri Baptist Convention
  • Bev Ehlen, Missouri president of Concerned Women for America
  • Buddy Smith, executive director of the American Family Association

The St. Louis stop is set for 2 p.m. at the Renaissance St. Louis Grand Hotel downtown.

Beacon Washington correspondent Robert Koenig contributed information for this article.

For stories about the issues and candidates in this election from St. Louis Public Radio, the Nine Network and the St. Louis Beacon, visit BeyondNovember.org. For a collection of Beacon stories, visit our 2012 election page.

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