Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan renewed her attacks today on her best-known Republican rival for the U.S. Senate -- U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt -- by touting him as part of the "culture of corruption in Washington" that she says is hurting average Missourians and small businesses.
Her backdrop was Lubeley's Bakery in Marlborough, where dozens of South County Democrats munched on cookies while Carnahan attempted to crumble Blunt's character.
She challenged Blunt's recent assertion that he has never met convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, by citing reports that Blunt was among eight people who were on a special "friends of the owner" list at an Abramoff-owned restaurant, meaning that Blunt got free meals.
She also cited Blunt's status as Congress' top recipient of lobbyist donations in 2009, and the second-highest recipient of money from corporate political action committees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that monitors campaign donations.
Carnahan's campaign also noted that two of Blunt's adult children and his wife are lobbyists, or were recently employed as such.
(A Blunt spokesman reinterated this evening that "Roy Blunt never met with Jack Abramoff ... did not know he was on any list at any restaurant, and he never received anything for free."
"With respect to lobbyists," the Blunt spokesman continued, "two of Robin Carnahan's brothers were state lobbyists when her father was governor and she has taken over $1 million from lobbyists and special interests.")
UPDATE: Carnahan's campaign disputes the allegation about her brothers, Tom and Russ Carnahan, during the 1990s. Missouri Ethics Commission records show that Tom Carnahan was a registered state lobbyist from 2001 to 2006, after his father had left office (and died in an Octorber 2000 plane crash). Russ Carnahan, now a congressman, was a lobbyist in the 1990s but was not registered to lobby the state's executive branch, his sister's campaign says.
Back at the bakery, Carnahan also got personal. She said that the Roy Blunt who's been in Washington for 14 years isn't the same man as the Roy Blunt who ran her office for eight years, and who made an unsuccessful bid for governor in 1992.
The old Roy Blunt, she said, embraced calls for ethics reforms and transparency regarding lobbyists' dealings with public figures.
As a member of Congress, said Carnahan, Blunt's current close ties to lobbyists exemplify what she wanted to outlaw, if she wins election this fall.
"It's sad, really," she said, referring to what she viewed as a change in Blunt's ethics.
Carnahan's chief purpose during her stop at the bakery was to outline some of her proposals for curbing the influence of lobbyists in Washington. Among other things, she is calling for:
-- Permanently barring members of Congress from ever working as lobbyists, and imposing a six-year waiting period on former members of congressional staffs.
-- Requiring public notice, with details, of all meetings between members of Congress and lobbyists.
-- Barring the use of "war rooms" in the U.S. Capitol, where lobbyists and lawmakers can meet to discuss legislation.
-- Barring "leadership political-action committees" by members of Congress.
-- Requiring campaign donations to be reported monthly, instead of quarterly.
-- Barring members of Congress of taking donations from firms or individuals under investigation.
-- Bar the use of congressional "earmarks" by members of Congress, who use their influence to get money "earmarked" for preferred causes, groups or federal functions.
-- Stiffening the congressional ethics rules, and expanding the authoritiy of the Office of Congressional Ethics.
Afterward, Carnahan told reporters that she was pressing such issues because she believes it was the right thing to do. "I'm not talking about this because it 'resonates with people,' " Carnahan said, in response to a query as whether such proposals did or did not "resonate" with the public.
She also responded to observations by Blunt and other Republicans that some of her proposals would affect her brother, U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis.
Referrring to her sibling, Robin Carnahan replied, "Some things we agree on, and some things we don't."
She also reaffirmed her overall support for the new federal health care law, although Carnahan emphasized that she disagreed with some provisions in the legislation and thought some changes might be needed.
"There was way too much slipped into that health care bill," she said, but then added that keeping the nation's health care system as it has been is "unsustainable" and too beneficial to insurance companies, at the expense of the public.
Lubeley owner Helen Lubeley Murray listened to some of what Carnahan had to say. Murray said afterward that the owners had allowed the Carnahan event as "a favor to a family friend," and were pleased to be hosts.
But Murray emphasized that the bakery's OK should not be construed as a political endorsement.
Murray said that her family's political decisions hinge largely on one issue that Carnahan did not mention during today's visit. "We're staunch pro-life people," she said.
Murray added that she was aware that Carnahan supports abortion rights.
This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.