Has Rep. Todd Akin sold out?
Depends on how you define earmarks.
The National Journal reported that the Senate Conservatives Fund, a Super PAC associated with Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) may support Rep. Akin on the condition that he, in turn, support a ban of earmarks, despite the congressman’s previous stand in favor of the constitutionality of earmarks.
Akin is running against incumbent Claire McCaskill for the U.S. Senate in Missouri. His statement in August that “legitimate rape” prevented pregnancy raised such a furor that GOP leaders asked him to withdraw from the campaign. The National Republican Senate Committee also declared it would withhold any financial support.
A flurry of headlines across the country yesterday claims that Akin shifted his position on earmarks in exchange for support from DeMint and the Senate Conservatives Fund. The Springfield News-Leader referred to earmarks as “the specially tagged funding provisions that lawmakers use to channel federal funds to home-state projects.”
“On earmarks, there was and is no difference between Todd’s and DeMint’s position . . . so there was no change of positions,” Rick Tyler, a former aide to former House speaker Newt Gingrich who is now working on the Akin campaign, told me. “It turns out they have the same position.”
Spending measures that are added right before the vote and have nothing to do with the bill are “clearly earmarks,” Tyler said. “Todd
opposes this practice and has had no such earmarks.”
But is the “oversight capacity to direct spending as legislation intends” earmarking? Tyler says no. “Todd does not believe that the Congress should simply allow Washington bureaucrats to spend money appropriated to their departments anyway they please.”
Chris Chocola, the group’s president, wrote, “The Club for Growth PAC is disappointed that Congressman Akin . . . would defend a policy that directly leads to more government and wasteful spending. Earmarks are wrong, and Congressman Akin is wrong to defend them.”
“Some people call amendments ‘earmarks,’ I call them amendments,” Akin said in response to critics of the commercial.
A Washington Post investigation of earmarks and potential conflicts of interest revealed that Akin had secured $3.3 million in improvements to Route 141 west of St. Louis between 2005 and 2009. Akin and his family had applied to build six homes on nine acres of land they own located less than a half-mile east of the road.
A spokesman for Akin quoted in that article said, “It is going to be helpful as a connector but not helpful for residential property values whatsoever.”
The Senate Conservatives Fund could bring up to $250,000 to Akin’s campaign.
The SCF “is a grassroots organization dedicated to electing strong conservative leaders to the United States Senate,” according to its Web site. “We do not support liberal Republicans and we are not affiliated with the Republican Party or any of its campaign committees.”
Several commenters on the SCF’s Facebook page have wondered why the organization has failed to endorse Akin. “Where is the help for Todd Akin you RINO’s?” asked one person.
Akin has managed to raise more than $600,000 from online donations in the last month, Tyler told me.
More help is on the way. Gingrich has thrown his support to Akin for a $500-a-plate fundraising lunch in Kirkwood on Monday.
It looks like conservatives have figured out they may have to get along if they want a win in November.
Diana Reese is a freelance journalist in Kansas City. Mo. Follow her on Twitter @dianareese.