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Mo Democrats file FEC complaint against group running anti-Carnahan TV ads

As Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Robin Carnahan is being bombarded with negative TV attack ads, the Missouri Democratic Party has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against one of the sources.

The party alleges that the independent, conservative non-profit group American Crossroads GPS may be illegally coordinating its ad activities with the Republican nominee, Roy Blunt. As potential proof, it cites the close relationship that Blunt has had with Crossroads co-founder Karl Rove, a top adviser to former President George W. Bush.

Coordination would restrict the group to donating $2,400 to Blunt's campaign -- far less than what the ad cost to produce and air. If there is no coordination, Crossroads can spend as much as it wants.

The Crossroads ad in question attacks Carnahan, now Missouri secretary of state, because she has supported some of the federal health-care changes. It does not mention Blunt.

The complaint notes that Rove headlined two fund-raising events for Blunt in late June and also recorded a web video praising Blunt.

Says the Democrats' complaint: "In recording the video, Rove would have learned valuable information about the Blunt campaign's messaging. And, given Rove's close relationship with Blunt, it is likely that the two had additional discussions of the campaign's plans, projects, activities, and needs. Further, given Rove's intimate and well-publicized role in the organization, it is unlikely that the Crossroads GPS created and aired the ad without Rove's involvement."

Blunt spokesman Rich Chrismer sent out an e-mailed statement Thursday night saying that the complaint was "yet another false assertion'' by the Carnahan camp and "just another desperate political stunt."

Chrismer also noted that Carnahan has gotten independent ad help from pro-Democratic groups, most notably the League of Conservation Voters, an environmentalist group that earlier spent $1 million on TV spots attacking Blunt.

Formal FEC complaints are common during campaigns, with rivals filing them even if their allegations are unwarranted or hard to prove. If nothing else, the complaint can make an opponent look bad. The Blunt campaign earlier filed one against Carnahan because her required "I approved this message'' missive was at the beginning of her first ad instead of at the end.

In any case, Crossroads' attack ad is a small part of the barrage of anti-Carnahan spots now airing on broadcast stations in the St. Louis area.

For example: Five anti-Carnahan ads aired Thursday night during the 30 minutes of the 10 p.m. news broadcast on KSDK, Channel 5. During that same KSDK news broadcast, Carnahan's campaign aired one spot attacking Blunt.

Of the five anti-Carnahan spots, one came from Crossroads, one was from the Blunt campaign, and three were the work of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber of Commerce ad was particularly tough on Carnahan, while effusively praising Blunt. The ad stopped short of an outright endorsement of Blunt, which is illegal for groups like the Chamber in independent ads.

The ads attacking Carnahan come amid several independent statewide polls that show widely different results, ranging from a poll showing a tied contest to another showing a comfortable lead for Blunt.

(Click here for an earlier Beacon story on Crossroads and other independent groups running ads praising or attacking Carnahan and Blunt.)

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.