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Carnahan takes on more GOP fire as Senate contest gears up

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 23, 2009 - After weeks of accusing Secretary of State Robin Carnahan of hiding from the public, the Missouri Republican Party is now asserting that she's gone too public.

At issue are some new Carnahan public-service radio ads -- some airing during baseball games -- that lay out investment protection tips and warnings to the public.

Besides being the state's chief elections official, the secretary of state also polices Missouri's investment and securities industries.

The state Republican Party announced Wednesday that it has questions about the ads, and has filed open-record requests with Carnahan's office in a quest for answers.

“While we applaud any efforts to inform Missourians about potential scams, it seems that Carnahan is more interested in wasting airtime repeating her name than delivering quality, helpful information," asserted state GOP executive director Lloyd Smith. "The timing of these paid ads is especially suspicious considering that Carnahan is a candidate for the United States Senate...."

The GOP's questions include:
"--Who is paying for the ads?
--How big is the ad buy?
--How much will the total ad buy cost?
--Who wrote the ad script?
--Who produced the ad?
--Why is it necessary for Carnahan to repeat her name twice in a 30 second ad that is not supposed to be about her?
--Would these paid ads be running if Carnahan were not seeking higher office?"

A spokeswoman for Carnahan replied that the ads have been running for three years during sports broadcasts, and are not paid with taxpayer money, but out of the Missouri Investor Education and Protection fund.

"The state securities division is charged with educating Missouri investors and working to deter fraud,'' said Carnahan spokeswoman Laura Egerdal. "The companies and criminals who commit fraud paid for these ads -- through penalties which fund educational initiatives. These public service announcements, which have been running for 3 years, are very effective at reaching Missouri investors and generating new enforcement activity in the securities division."

It should be noted that Carnahan's predecessor in the job, Republican Matt Blunt, also came under fire for some of his public-service ads.

In 2004, for example, the year he successfully ran for governor, Blunt spent almost $48,000 on newspaper get-out-the-vote ads -- featuring his name and picture -- that ran statewide in 295 newspapers right before August primary in which he was a candidate.

Critics noted that the money came from the federal government under a program aimed at encouraging voter turnout.

Blunt paid a similar amount for TV ads that ran around the same time, but they did not feature his photo.


Earlier this week, Carnahan told the Beacon that she disputed the GOP's earlier contention that she was hiding from the public. These latest dust-ups between the state Republican Party and Robin Carnahan comes just before she puts a stronger imprint on the Missouri Democratic Party, which has publicly been somewhat moribund and privately short-staffed since last fall's election.

Former party spokesman Jack Cardetti soon after switched to be the communications chief for now Gov. Jay Nixon. Since that change, the new Democratic chairman Craig Hosmer has made most of the public comments, something that party chairmen -- volunteer posts that usually focus on fundraising -- generally prefer be handled by staff.

All that will change next Monday. That's when one of Carnahan's spokesmen in her secretary of state's office, Ryan Hobart, begins his new job as the spokesman for the state Democratic Party.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.