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Democrats aim jokes and jabs at Brunner, a true $1M man

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 31, 2012 - Republican U.S. Senate candidate John Brunner faced more Democratic fire -- much of it laced with humor -- Monday with his decision not to participate in a scheduled debate with rivals Sarah Steelman and Todd Akin.

But Brunner, a wealthy St. Louis businessman, countered by making his own news: He provided the documents that confirm he already has spent over $1 million on his campaign -- most of it out of his own pocket.

According to his official federal summary sheets, part of a report due Tuesday, Brunner will report that he has raised $1.24 million so far. Of that amount, Brunner donated $1.035 million to his own campaign. His donations from others total $229,067.

Brunner's campaign provided copies of his FEC summary sheets to the St. Louis Beacon, which requires such documentation before we report campaign figures.

Brunner reports spending $1.055 million, much of it on TV ads that have been running statewide in waves over several months.  As of Dec. 31, he reported only $209,248 in the bank.

During Monday's debate, Steelman asserted that Brunner is "basically trying to buy this election."

Steelman, a former Missouri state treasurer, also has put in more than $200,000 of her family money into her campaign.

So far, Brunner is the only one of the Republican U.S. Senate candidates to go public, with verifying documents, with the financial figures they must file by Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission.

The Democrat they hope to oust, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, made public her overall campaign financial figures-- with documents -- last week.

During Monday's debate, Democrats repeatedly tweaked Brunner -- via Twitter -- about his absence. Brunner's campaign said that he never agreed to the debate in Branson or an earlier one in St. Louis.

Brunner has agreed to a joint appearance with Akin and Steelman in mid-February at the state Republican Party's annual Lincoln Days festivities.

Akin, a U.S. representative, and Steelman sparred over some familiar ground. Both blasted McCaskill and President Barack Obama for what they view as overspending, and each pledged to press for massive cuts in federal spending.

Both also tangled over "earmarks,'' a practice used by members of Congress to allocate money for specific projects in their district -- without going public. Earmarks are slipped into bills and generally not voted on until a final vote of the overall Senate.

McCaskill announced Monday that she is cosponsoring a measure, with U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., to bar earmarks permanently.

McCaskill's campaign has been attacking Akin for alleged earmarks. He says they are mischaracterizing provisions to help Missouri. Steelman said Monday that she also opposes earmarks.

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.