Let’s see: John Brunner, a multi-millionaire, is running an ad attacking Todd Akin, a poor man by Brunner’s standards, claiming that Akin secured earmarks that were intended to benefit him personally:
Brunner’s campaign is running advertisements accusing Akin of securing millions in federal funding for the highway project to increase the value of the acre plot and has said the six-term lawmaker has tried to hide his stake in the land.
Akin disputs the corruption claim, of course. On his campaign Webpage, he states that the property was his parents and the “project was a critical priority to local leaders across the political spectrum.” He then pivots, attempting to change the subject to spending issues per se rather than corruption, noting that he has “returned over $1.3 million to the tax payers by managing his Congressional office with fiscal responsibility.”
I’ve got to hand it to Akin – putting what is estimated to be billions in earmarks in the balance against a paltry million and change in office expenses does indeed have the hallmarks of what he identifies as “conservative leadership in action.” It’s certainly of a piece with current conservative leaders who jabber about balancing the budget by cutting the paltry amounts allocated to social spending while leaving the big-ticket items like military spending untouched.
Akin also produced an ad in which he attempts the same strategy of refocusing the earmarks issue on something other than Brunner’s actual implications that he used earmarks to enrich himself; he tries to show that when it comes to earmarks, he’s on the side of the angels. In the ad, a young woman, Liezi, defends Akin’s earmarking:
Roadside bombs were killing our troops, the vehicles didn’t have enough armor. Congressman Todd Akin went to Iraq, and after an investigation helped get newly armored vehicles to our troops. After getting the new armor, my husband’s humvee was hit. He’s alive today because of Todd Akin. Now Todd Akin is being attacked for supporting what some call earmarks. But just remember, that funding for armor saved my husband’s life.
What “some” call earmarks! Is she trying to imply that Akin’s earmarks are called something else? Manna from God, maybe? I hate to break it to Todd and his friend Leizi, but I think almost everybody calls earmarks … earmarks. Nevertheless, it’s all fine and good as far as I’m concerned, even though it’s not clear that Akin deserved all the credit for Leizi’s husband’s survival:
Actually, it was another congressman – not Akin – who inserted the earmark requiring the additional armored vehicles in 2003 or 2004, said Akin campaign spokesman Ryan Hite. What Akin did, he explained, was support the earmark and then lobby the Pentagon to get the vehicles on the ground in Iraq.
So what’s the real story about Akin and earmarks? According to Kansas City’s KMBC-TV, he bowed to the realities of the budgeting process, tried to get what he could, and, in spite of all his self-righteous rhetoric about government spending, was at least occasionally willing to toe the GOP line when it came to hidden GOP earmarks:
Critics said Akin has voted for hundreds of earmarks that are worth billions. Before 2008, earmarks weren’t tracked well. Since then, the website Open Secrets said Akin has sponsored or co-sponsored 32 earmarks worth $99 million.
“I absolutely refuse to stand by while Missouri tax dollars go to California or Illinois,” Akin said. “I’m not going to do that.”
Akin said he doesn’t support hidden earmarks, but he voted for one of the most famous examples of that. In 2005, he joined other Republicans to fund Alaska’s so-called “bridge to nowhere.”
Looks to me like Brunner’s effort to paint Akin’s earmarking activities as corrupt are pretty weak, and, as several sources have noted, likely to boomerang on him. He has, however, managed to highlight the Tea Party caucus member’s hyprocrisy. As I wrote about Akin’s earmarking in 2010, what’s interesting is the ” gap between general GOP spending rhetoric and behavior.” That’s still true – and, in this case at least, the fact’s not lost on the feared (by wingers) Club for Growth. Some days you just can’t win for losing.