(Updated Friday, Aug. 14)
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill is claiming a sizable share of credit for the 2012 GOP primary victory of rival Todd Akin, who then lost to McCaskill in that year's general election by a sizeable margin.
But she denies that her indirect aid broke any campaign laws. A group filed a complaint Friday with the Federal Election Commission, alleging otherwise.
“I think it was high risk, and very strategic,” McCaskill said during a radio interview Thursday with host Don Marsh on St. Louis On the Air.
During the 2012 Republican primary, McCaskill, a Democrat, took the unusual step of producing and airing three TV ads that each blasted one of Missouri’s three main Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate: businessman John Brunner, former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman and then-U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Wildwood. McCaskill's actions were widely reported at the time.
McCaskill’s anti-Akin TV spot also was seen at the get-go as aimed at helping him with Republican primary voters. In her new book, “Plenty Ladylike,” McCaskill admits as much.
She long has acknowledged that her 2012 campaign viewed Akin as her weakest general-election opponent. A key reason: Akin was known for making controversial statements.
Within weeks after his primary win, Akin drew national attention when he declared that victims of "legitimate rape'' rarely get pregnant because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Her TV ad decried Akin as “too conservative,” and listed his opposition to such government programs as school lunches and college aid. Such items, McCaskill acknowledged, “happened to be the things that we knew Republican primary voters liked about him.”
The ad, she contended, “actually moved the needle for him. It was a big contributing factor to his win in the primary … I’m not ashamed of it. I think it was strategic. I think it was smart.”
But some critics contend that McCaskill may have miscalculated by offering so much detail in the book. She also relates how her campaign funneled general polling information to Akin, and got an intermediary to encourage Akin to continue running his ad featuring former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
At issue is whether McCaskill violated the federal ban against “coordination’’ with another candidate. On Thursday, she called such assertions “silly.”
“I gave advice to another candidate,’’ she said. “If that is not allowed, then we have a whole lot of campaign violations going on America, because candidates give advice to other candidates all the time.”
In the case of her internal polling of the GOP field, McCaskill emphasizes that she didn't give the Akin campaign any specific data -- just generalities.
On Friday, a group called the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust announced that it filed a formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission. The group contends that McCaskill's poll information amounted to an inkind campaign donation above the $2,500 allowed under federal law.
McCaskill says her point in highlighting the entire episode in her new book was to offer a lesson to young women considering a political career.
“I want young women to embrace...the need to be strategic when confronting obstacles,” the senator said.
The book's title, by the way, also was influenced by Akin. During the 2012 general-election campaign, he groused at one point that McCaskill "wasn't very ladylike."
Possible shift toward Iran pact
McCaskill officially has been on the fence when it comes to the proposed nuclear deal with Iran, which is now before Congress. A number of the United States’ allies were involved in the negotiations and support the deal, aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
But Thursday, McCaskill told Marsh that “I’m probably slightly in favor.”
She said she had been swayed by some proponents in both parties who say rejection of the deal will hurt the United States even more.
McCaskill noted that a handful of countries are holding $60 billion in Iran’s money in cooperation with the U.S.-led sanctions. She fears those countries may split with the U.S. if it rejects the deal.
“The worst possible scenario would be for us to not do this deal, for Iran to get the $60 billion, and we have put cement down their (nuclear) centrifuges,” she said.
McCaskill added that she is “taking as much time as I need” to reach a final decision.
Sen. Claire McCaskill Discussion
- Saturday, August 15, 2015
- 7:00 p.m.
- St. Louis County Library Headquarters, 1640 S. Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis MO 63131
- Tickets available here
St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.