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Accusations fly in the 3rd district over anti-Martin website

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 22, 2010 - Republican congressional candidate Ed Martin is accusing his Democratic rival, U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, of being behind a new attack website that alleges Martin failed to take adequate action when he worked for the St. Louis Archdiocese to address the problem of pedophile priests.

Martin, a lawyer, denies playing any role in the Catholic Church's handling of accused priests during his time in the 1990s on the archdiocese's governing board, called the "Curia." He called the website and its video a "smear of me, my faith and all Catholics."

Carnahan's campaign say it had nothing to do with the site, www.therealedmartin.com, which was created and produced by Michael Corwin, a political opposition researcher and investigator based in New Mexico.

Corwin and the Carnahan campaign acknowledge that Corwin worked for the campaign last spring, and was paid around $2,000 for initial work investigating Martin's background. (Opposition research is standard for both parties' major campaigns.)

Both sides say the relationship ended when Corwin wanted to focus more attention on Martin's role in the 1990s as a member of the Curia, the governing body for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Louis.

"The campaign said it would upset the Catholics,'' Corwin said, referring to the largest religious group within the 3rd congressional district.

But Corwin said he felt so strongly about the issue of pedophile priests that he quit working for the Carnahan campaign by last May, opting instead to produce the website and accompanying video on his own.

Corwin explained that he does a lot of investigative work for lawyers, and has seen the human destruction caused by those who molest children. He added that he was disappointed that the Carnahan campaign objected to pursuing the issue.

Corwin alleges that Martin, at minimum, ignored the Archdiocese's handling of priests accused of molesting children. Martin's tenure with the Archdiocese included some of the period when the controversy was beginning to come to light.

He said he believed strongly that the matter of Martin's alleged role needed to be made public because Martin "wants to make laws for the rest of the country" as a member of Congress. Corwin complained that local news outlets should have looked into the matter long ago.

At a news conference Thursday, Martin asserted that "every Catholic in St. Louis, every Catholic in Missouri, every Catholic in America should be offended" by the website and what Martin alleged was the Carnahan campaign's role in it.

"It is true that I served the Catholic Church,'' Martin said. "I worked with Pope John Paul II hosting Rosa Parks in St. Louis and worked to educate and advocate regarding human rights and charity. I never had any responsibility regarding the issues alleged in this smear."

Aside from the statement he read at the news conference, Martin declined to respond to any additional questions about his job with the Archdiocese or his role on the curia. Rather, he focused on his assertions that the Carnahan campaign was behind the web site.

Martin was joined at the news conference by Marie Kenyon, who worked for Martin when he ran the Archdiocese's Human Rights Office. Kenyon oversaw the work of Angie O'Gorman, a former Archdiocese employee who is quoted extensively in Corwin's video.

Kenyon said that the video erroneously implies that the Human Rights Office played a role in the re-assignment of priests accused of molestation. She also said that O'Gorman had few dealings with Martin and would have been unaware of any role he played.

The Carnahan campaign denied Martin's detailed allegations that Carnahan campaign manager Angela Barranco was involved in Corwin's actions. That said, a Carnahan campaign spokeswoman went on to say, "Ed Martin has some questions that he needs to answer'' regarding his old job with the Archdiocese.

As for Corwin: "I stand 100 percent behind my work."

UPDATE: Corwin said Friday that the anti-Martin website is the first that he has produced dealing with a campaign other than his own. In 2004, he made an unsuccessful bid for the New Mexico state Legislature, and set up a website that promoted his campaign and featured documents attacking his opponent.

Otherwise, Corwin said his opposition-research work has centered on investigating a candidate's background and turning over the information to his client.

Corwin re-emphasized that he and the Carnahan campaign had split months ago, and said that it was unfortunate that Martin -- in Corwin's opinion -- appeared to lobbing accusations at Carnahan instead of answering questions about his knowledge of the priest controversy.

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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