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Luetkemeyer attracts attention from top GOP leader and the New York Times

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 16, 2009 - U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer's focus on business is in the spotlight today for two reasons -- one good and one not-so-great.

The good is the congressman's fundraiser today in Clayton, where the headliner is GOP House Whip: U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va.

Cantor said in a telephone interview this morning that his presence here reflected his support of the performance so far by Luetkemeyer, a first-term congressman from St. Elizabeth, Mo.

"Blaine Luetkemeyer has really hit the ground running," Cantor said.

As an example, he continued, "Blaine has been a part of the crafting of the Republican alternative on the health-care front."

Luetkemeyer's efforts in the health-care debate are in line with his pro-business activities as a member of the Small Business Committee, Cantor continued.

Luetkemeyer, he said, has been delivering the message to small businesses that if Republicans are back in charge, "Washington is not going to raise your taxes. Washington is not going to impose mandates."

If Democrats remain in control, Luetkemeyer and Cantor say, more mandates and taxes are on the way.

At the same time, Cantor said, Luetkemeyer has shown he has the taxpayers' interests in mind as a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Among other things, Cantor noted that the panel is monitoring the bailout money going to big banks.

(By the way, Cantor has a past connection to St. Louis. After graduating from high school in Virginia, "I was accepted to Washington University and almost came here," Cantor said. He ended up attending George Washington University in Washington, D.C.)

But all that focus on business appears to be why Luetkemeyer also finds himself in the national news.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that Luetkemeyer is among 22 Republicans and 20 Democrats in the House who recently submitted similarly worded statements into the House Record (a diary of sorts of the chamber's activity) that praised the nation's biotechnology industry.

Their statements were similar because they included language that their staffs had received from biotech lobbyists. The California firm Genetech told the Times that their lobbyists were responsible.

According to the Times: "In separate statements using language suggested by the lobbyists, Representatives Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri and Joe Wilson of South Carolina, both Republicans, said: 'One of the reasons I have long supported the U.S. biotechnology industry is that it is a homegrown success story that has been an engine of job creation in this country. Unfortunately, many of the largest companies that would seek to enter the biosimilar market have made their money by outsourcing their research to foreign countries like India'.”

(Wilson, by the way, is the congressman who shouted "You lie!" during President Barack Obama's address to Congress.)

Luetkemeyer spokesman Paul Sloca said the biotech statement marked the first and only time that the congressman's staff has used lobbyist-provided language.

Sloca said the statement was filed to underscore Luetkemeyer's support for the industry, and his concern that good-paying biotech jobs might end up outsourced to other countries. Aside from the United States' need for the jobs, there's also the issue of drug safety, Sloca said, citing the looser regulations in some other countries.

"Blaine wants this kind of research to be done in the United States and nowhere else," Sloca said. "We don't want it farmed out to a foreign country."

Sloca dismissed any controversy about who wrote the exact words in Luetkemeyer's statement because, "I don't think there's a thing in there that Blaine would not have said himself."

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.