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Blunt, environmental group tangle over TV ad

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 20, 2009 - The national League of Conservation voters launched Monday in Missouri the first attack ad of the 2010 U.S. Senate contest, by taking on the announced Republican candidate, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Strafford.

But a League spokesman said the ad buy -- which so far is close to $100,000 (hefty for Missouri) -- is aimed at Blunt's current job, not his hoped-for-future one.

The ad is running on TV stations in St. Louis, Kansas City and Blunt's home turf in Springfield, Mo., said league spokesman Josh McNeil. The TV ad is to be accompanied by Internet ads and a direct-mail campaign.

The League emphasizes that it's nonpartisan, but Blunt's campaign accuses the League of being in league with his Democratic rival, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.

"This is a dishonest ad from Robin Carnahan’s Washington allies to mandate an increase in Missourians' utility bills,'' Blunt's campaign said.

The TV ad (and the companion Web and mail effort) attacks Blunt over his opposition to the chief Democratic version of climate/energy bill that, according to press accounts,  calls for a 20 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, and an 83 percent reduction by 2050. That's a more dramatic trim than President Barack Obama administration's proposed 14 percent cut by 2020.

The bill also proposes various energy efficiency standards for products, encourages use of alternative "green technologies" and calls for a "cap-and-trade" system for carbon dioxide emission that, in effect, discourages the use of coal for energy use -- curbs that could particularly affect the Midwest, which is more reliant on coal-fired power plants.
In a statement, League president Gene Karpinski accuses Blunt of "siding with Big Oil and saying 'no' to millions of new clean energy jobs, and 'no' to making America a global leader on energy.  Why does he seem to have so little faith in American ingenuity and know-how?”
Spokesman McNeil said Blunt is targeted because he is a member of the House Subcommittee on Energy & Environment, which is set to soon vote on the measure, officially known as The American Clean Energy & Security Act next week.  

Blunt's campaign replied that he "favors affordable, clean energy, especially from sources
here at home, including renewable energy and more U.S. gas and oil production...

"This false attack ad for Robin Carnahan is an attempt by a liberal group to get a vote for adding $3,000 a year to family utility bills with a 'cap and trade' energy tax, while also enriching tax-subsidy recipients like Tom Carnahan's company,'' the campaign added.

Blunt was referring to his Democratic rival's brother, Tom Carnahan, who is the chief executive of Missouri's only major wind-energy company. The firm, Wind Capital Group, was lauded by Vice President Joseph Biden during his visit to the state last week.

By coincidence or design, Wind Capital Group sent out a release Monday noting that it has just announced plans to develop a $300 million, 150-megawatt wind energy project in DeKalb County that the company says will create 2,500 jobs and "enough electricity to power more than 50,000 homes."

The Missouri Republican Party took aim at Tom and Robin Carnahan last week, contending that she had a conflict of interest since senators would be voting on energy issues that could affect Tom Carnahan's industry. Her spokesman has denied any such conflicts

(Democrats also shot back on the Internet by spotlighting Blunt's own family ties that could pose political problems, notably the fact that his wife is a Washington lobbyist who, at least until the time of their marriage in 2003, lobbied Congress. Two of his adult children are or were registered lobbyists in Missouri.)

And Tuesday morning, Missouri's blogosphere is abuzz with the GOP concerns about Blunt aired on the national online site Politico. (A hat tip to John Combest for being first, as usual, with his link to that story.)

But none of that subsequent back-and-forth has anything to do with the League of Conservation Voters' ad campaign. Or maybe it all does.

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.

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