Major figures, major money swoop into Missouri's hot gop senate contest




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НазваниеMajor figures, major money swoop into Missouri's hot gop senate contest
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Missouri Senate Communications

Daily News Clips

Collected/Archived for Friday, Aug. 3, 2012
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Major figures, major money swoop into Missouri's hot GOP Senate contest

St. Louis Beacon - By Jo Mannies
3:18 am on Fri, 08.03.12

A top official with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says it plans to continue to spend millions of dollars in its quest to defeat U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and to hopefully replace her with St. Louis businessman John Brunner.

While not disclosing how much will be spent, national chamber political director Rob Engstrom said the amount is “designed to significantly move public opinion’’ against McCaskill, and in favor of Brunner, the chamber’s preferred replacement.

“We’re trying to fundamentally change the U.S. Senate,’’ said Engstrom in a interview Thursday while campaigning in St. Louis with Brunner.

Missouri’s U.S. Senate contest, said Engstrom, is “one of the top targeted races in the country," in part because McCaskill is “the most vulnerable incumbent’’ in the Senate.

Brunner is competing next Tuesday against two other Republicans – former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman and U.S. Rep. Todd Akin of Wildwood.

The U.S. Chamber already has spent millions of dollars on attack ads against McCaskill. Engstrom said the national organization is backing Brunner because it sees him as siding with the group’s key issues, which include lower taxes, less government spending and fewer regulations.

The chamber also has begun airing attack ads against Steelman. Engstrom asserted that Steelman is too often aligned with “trial lawyers and labor bosses.” (She has countered that she has taken sides for and against unions on various issues, and contends the chamber is targeting her because “I’m independent.”)

On Thursday, Engstrom accompanied Brunner on a daylong flyaround to highlight the national business group’s support of Brunner. Also accompanying the candidate was Tracy King, vice president of governmental affairs for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. King said the state chamber was not endorsing any of the U.S. Senate candidates, but was showing its support for the national chamber and their common goals.

The entourage stopped at Brunner's former family-owned firm, Vi-Jon, in north St. Louis County. The firm, which manufactures personal care products such as Germ-X, was sold several years ago.

Brunner took the group on a tour of the plant to promote his business acumen, which has come under attack in ads aired by Steelman, McCaskill and the Democratic-aligned Majority PAC.

During a news conference, Brunner reaffirmed his plans to “cut the spending’’ in the federal government.

When pressed for examples of his planned spending cuts, Brunner said he was looking at various proposals offered by various Republicans and conservative groups.

His one specific example was a call to “gradually raise the retirement age’’ before people could collect Social Security.

Brunner added his proposals would create more jobs. “We need more taxpayers, less people on food stamps,” he said.

So far, Brunner has put in more than $7 million of his own money into his campaign. He declined to say how much more he was willing to spend out of his own pocket. But Brunner added that he is attracting more donations, with the help of the national chamber and others.

Palin headlines BBQ for Steelman

Brunner has been attacking Steelman and Akin as “career politicians,’’ while Steelman has tagged him as “the establishment candidate.”

This evening, Steelman hopes to burnish her renegade image with a 6 p.m. barbecue in suburban Kansas City that will feature former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who also is featured in a campaign TV ad for Steelman.

On Thursday, Steelman’s campaign conducted robo-calls around the state to invite people to the Palin event, dubbed part of the “Steelman Surge’’ leading up to Tuesday’s vote.

Meanwhile, an allied SuperPAC – the “Now or Never PAC’’ – announced that it will expand its anti-Brunner ads into the St. Louis market this weekend.

The political action committee already has been running ads outstate. The donors paying for the ads include wealthy financier Rex Sinquefield and a Steelman relative.

Akin ends tour with Westport rally

Akin, meanwhile, plans to end his six-day “Leading with Courage Tour’’ with a 7 p.m event tonight at the Sheraton Lakeside Chalet in Westport Plaza.

The congressman has continued to run TV ads featuring arguably his most prominent supporter, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Brunner: Palin is “celebrity endorsement”

The Kansas City Star - Dave Helling
Aug.2

Republican Senate candidate John Brunner suggested Thursday he isn't worried about his opponents' "celebrity endorsements" in the tight Missouri Senate primary.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is expected to attend a campaign rally Friday for Sarah Steelman, one of Brunner's opponents.

"Celebrity endorsements are always interesting," he said after a reporter asked about his reaction to the Palin visit. "We had Mike Huckabee as a celebrity endorsement for one candidate, and we have another celebrity endorsement for the other."

Brunner said accused opponents in both parties, and third-party groups, of "falsehoods and half-truths" in last-minute campaign commercials.

"I'm the greatest threat to Claire McCaskill," he said.

After talking about business, Brunner was asked about corporate taxes. Former Gov. Mitt Romney has proposed cutting corporate taxes from 35% to 25%.

A campaign spokesman said Brunner supports a 20% corporate tax, but in his answer the candidate said the rate should slide between 20% and 25%.

A study released yesterday said the overall Romney tax plan would benefit the rich, and finance disclosures show Brunner is the wealthiest of the three GOP Senate candidates in Missouri.

But the candidate would not directly respond when asked if his wealth influenced his support for Romney's tax blueprint.

Brunner touts Chamber support, business credentials

Missouri News Horizon - Posted by: Eli Yokley
August 2, 2012

— With just a few days before the primary election, Republican U.S. Senate hopeful John Brunner visited Springfield, Kansas City, and St. Louis to tout his business record and his economic policy proposals.

Thursday marked Brunner’s first public events with officials from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, months after the business group endorsed him, and weeks after they launched an ad critical of one of Brunner’s primary rivals, Sarah Steelman.

Rob Engstrom, senior vice president for political affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Tracy King, vice president of governmental relations at the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, joined Brunner for the media tour.

“As a successful manufacturer,” Engstrom said, “Brunner has spent his career cutting spending, balancing budgets, and growing his business by more than one thousand good-paying jobs – exactly the type of leadership and experience Washington needs right now.”

The Brunner campaign, which has spent much of its time in the last few months building up support from the agricultural community, has not given the same focus to his support from the Chamber.

On the campaign trail, Brunner touts his experience in business while leading Vi-Jon in St. Louis, as well has the pillars of his economic plan, which include reducing regulation and increasing domestic energy production.

“I’m proud to have earned the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement,” Brunner reiterated on Thursday, “and know that my private sector experience, plan, and pro-growth ideas will restore our economic strength and get America working again.”

Brunner is challenging Steelman and U.S. Rep. Todd Akin for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill later this year.





U.S. Senate candidate Brunner ups personal spending to $7.5 million

St. Louis Post-Dispatch - BY NICHOLAS J.C. PISTOR

ST. LOUIS • Businessman John Brunner has now given more than $7.5 million of his own money to fuel his close fight for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination.

Federal campaign finance reports show Brunner, the former Vi-Jon CEO, gave his campaign more than $2.5 million in the month of July, including a $600,000 donation made last week, just days before Missouri voters decide between three major GOP candidates in the August 7 primary. Brunner also contributed a $250,000 loan to the campaign on July 10.

The winner will challenge incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., in what will be one of the most hard fought Senate races in the country.

Brunner, who has been leading in polls, is battling former Missouri Treasurer Sarah Steelman and U.S. Rep. Todd Akin. Steelman supplied her campaign with $400,000 in personal funds over the last ten days of July, according to records. Her total amount of personal funds used is $800,000.

But Brunner's personal spending dwarfs that of his opponents. He has defended it saying he doesn't have the name recognition of his opponents, who he often refers to as "career politicians." He has said the spending is necessary "just to catch even with these folks."

A large amount of Brunner's spending has been on TV ads, many of which attack his opponents.

Both Brunner and Steelman's recent big spending shows the candidates expect next week's election to be tight.

Brunner spent Thursday afternoon touring the Vi-Jon headquarters near St. Louis, where the company produces Germ-X and other personal care products. Brunner was accompanied by Rob Engstrom, a senior vice president with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Tracy King, the vice president of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce. The U.S. Chamber has endorsed Brunner.

Brunner's increased spending comes as the Democratic-aligned Majority PAC has unleashed a new negative ad against him attacking his business record.

Brunner, who lives in Frontenac, is worth between $25 million and $100 million, based on financial disclosures.

Brunner, Steelman busy — with checkbook

The Kansas City Star - Dave Helling
Aug.2

Federal Election Commission records show Sarah Steelman has given her campaign $400,000 over the last two weeks.

The records show Steelman donated $100,000 on July 20, 24, 27, and 30. As of July 18 she had loaned the campaign $400,000, bring her apparent total investment to $800,000.

John Brunner can write bigger checks. He gave his campaign $600,000 on July 26, added to the $6.9 million he's either given or loaned his effort. Total Brunner investment: $7.5 million.

Just for the primary.

Rep. Todd Akin does not appear to have given or loaned his campaign a dime.


Wealthy candidates make presence felt in GOP races

Southeast Missourian - By KEVIN FREKING (Associated Press)
Aug 3, 3:39 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- They have deep pockets and aren't afraid to dig into them.

Seemingly out of nowhere, a trio of wealthy political neophytes has roiled Republican Senate primary races taking place this month, dipping into their personal fortunes to highlight their business backgrounds, cast their opponents as career politicians and draw within striking distance of a victory few saw coming just a few weeks ago.

In Arizona, real estate mogul Wil Cardon is still viewed as having work to do if he's going to catch the prohibitive favorite in the race - six-term Rep. Jeff Flake.

But in Wisconsin, banking executive Eric Hovde is gaining quickly against a former governor and a former congressman. In Missouri, John Brunner, the former CEO and chairman of health and beauty care giant Vi-Jon Inc., has forced his way into a three-way battle featuring a congressman and a former state treasurer that will be decided Tuesday.

Brunner and Hovde have started to draw criticism from national Democrats, reinforcing their rise as serious contenders.

Throw in Connecticut, where one-time World Wrestling Federation CEO Linda McMahon is likely to win the party's nomination for a second time, and four Republican self-funders are capable of advancing to November's general election.

Each election cycle brings its share of candidates who struck it rich in the business world and hope to use their fortunes to help bankroll successful runs for political office. Most are destined to lose. That includes this year's biggest self-funder, David Dewhurst, who spent at least $16.5 million in his loss to Ted Cruz in Tuesday's Texas primary.

The list of U.S. Senate candidates who spent big in 2010 and lost includes McMahon, $50 million; Jeff Greene in Florida, $23.7 million; and Carly Fiorina in California, $5.5 million. The biggest exception was Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who spent $8.7 million in his defeat of Democratic incumbent Russ Feingold.

But this year's crop of self-funders has more going for them than lots of money. They're also able to highlight successful business records to voters hungry for a better economy and resentful of those currently in office because of the economy's slow growth and stubbornly high jobless rate.

A recent ad from Brunner exemplifies the self-funders' strategy as he criticized former state treasurer Sarah Steelman and six-term Rep. Todd Akin.

"While John Brunner was adding over a thousand manufacturing jobs, politicians Todd Akin and Sarah Steelman were manufacturing debt," said the ad.

Veteran GOP strategist Wes Gullett, of Phoenix, said anti-incumbency fever is still the most important factor in this year's primaries, and that's giving Cardon and the other self-funders an opening.

"Since 2008, we've been looking for change. Every election now is about: `Have you been there, and are you part of the problem? Or are you part of the solution?'" said Gullett, who was John McCain's deputy campaign manager in 2000. "Whether you've been there two years or 12 years, you're handicapped when you're running in that environment."

Cardon has lent his campaign more than $6 million so far and had nearly $2.4 million in the bank at the end of June. The slew of television ads he's financed has forced Flake and his allies to spend some of their money attacking Cardon rather than saving those resources for a tough fall campaign against Democrat Richard Carmona.

Sens. McCain and Jon Kyl have endorsed Flake. McCain also voiced concerns that the negative primary in Arizona was hurting the GOP's prospects in the fall. Cardon disputed the notion and called the warnings hypocritical given the ads the two senators have aired in their previous elections.

Cardon has attempted to take advantage of the disdain for Washington by running ads attacking Flake for reversing himself on term limits and for shifting to the right on illegal immigration.

In Missouri, Brunner's rise has come as his campaign has spent nearly $7 million through mid-July - with almost all of that money from the candidate himself. Meanwhile, Akin's and Steelman's spending totaled about $3.7 million.

A similar dynamic is at work in Wisconsin, where Hovde's campaign has spent $3.8 million - almost all of it from the candidate, while former Rep. Mark Neumann and former Gov. Tommy Thompson together have spent about $2.8 million. The money has helped the self-funders frame their races on the airwaves while their opponents were busy building their resources.

Brunner and Hovde have gained the support of tea party groups because of their focus on cutting government spending, but they should not be confused with the tea party firebrands such as Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell, who won GOP primaries two years ago but hurt their party's ability to win general elections in Nevada and Delaware, respectively. They hit many of the same talking points that rallied GOP voters two years ago, but with a Chamber of Commerce touch that is more likely to win over moderates and independents.

The sizable investments the self-funding candidates are making raise the question of whether they've tilted the playing field with their wealth and whether they're essentially trying to buy an election. Hovde bristles at the question.

"I'm taking my hard-earned money because I care about my country passionately and I'm worried it's going to go through a financial collapse. And I'm being criticized for making a big investment that's a giant negative return for me?" Hovde said.

All of the big self-funders in this year's Senate races are participating in competitive GOP primaries while the top Democratic candidates in those states are generally running uncontested and can save their resources for the fall.

That dynamic is generally improving the prospects for those Democratic candidates by exposing some major vulnerabilities, said Matt Canter, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

"It's resulting in some very vicious primaries developing around the country," Canter said.

Brian Walsh, spokesman for the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, said hard-fought primaries aren't a problem.

---

Associated Press writer Scott Bauer in Madison, Wis., contributed to this report.

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