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State parties spar over who's closer to ACORN: Carnahan or Blunt?

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 13, 2009 - With the White House demonstrating its keen interest in Missouri's U.S. Senate contest, the Missouri Republican Party is elevating its continued attacks against the Democratic candidate, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, over her political and professional contacts with ACORN, the low-income activist group that long has been a favorite GOP target.

The state GOP has launched a new website — www.acorncarnahan.com — that it says is prompted by the e-mail records it obtained from Carnahan's office under Missouri's Sunshine Law.

The party contends that the communications "show a close relationship between Robin Carnahan and ACORN, the liberal group that has come under fire for encouraging illegal behavior and engaging in a systematic effort to commit voter registration fraud."

Lloyd Smith, executive director of the Missouri Republican Party, asserted. "Robin Carnahan has had ample opportunity to distance herself from ACORN.... Although Robin Carnahan has remained silent, the communication between her office and ACORN speaks loud and clear. From meetings in her office, to events, to research, documents obtained by the Missouri Republican Party make it clear that Robin Carnahan and ACORN are too close for comfort.”

Democrats disagree, and say the e-mails simply document routine communications between the secretary of state's staff and groups conducting voter-registration drives.

But in any event, the Missouri Democratic Party has fired back with a large "acorn'' of its own against the best-known Republican U.S. Senate candidate, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Springfield.

"Roy Blunt is the only person in the race who has voted to provide funding to ACORN,'' said state Democratic party spokesman Ryan Hobart. "Whether sending millions to ACORN, Philip Morris, or Halliburton, Roy Blunt has a long track record of throwing taxpayer money around with no oversight. That's what got us into this economic mess."

UPDATE: Blunt spokesman Rich Chrismer takes issue with the alleged votes cited by Hobart. "We have checked this point and it is absolutely false,'' Chrismer said. "ACORN received federal money in the form of grants from political appointees within the White House. Appropriations bills voted on by Congress do not contain specified money for 'ACORN.' "

Local ACORN spokesman Glenn Burleigh also is disturbed on the Republican attacks. "To claim that a group that works on voters' rights contacting the secretary of state's office is proof of some ridiculous conspiracy is laughable,'' he said. "In our work around voters' rights, we contact secretaries of states offices around the country, both Democratic and Republican controlled. 

"We're not really sure what the Missouri GOP hopes to accomplish with this website, but right now it is accomplishing the goal of making the Missouri GOP appear to promote paranoid conspiracy theories," Burleigh continued. "Perhaps that is all they have to offer."

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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