This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 25, 2011 - Missouri's U.S. Senate contest is getting ensnared in dueling battles over finances, which could make it harder for either party to make much a political dent.
The Missouri Republican Party announced today it has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, asking the panel to look more closely at the $550,000 in amendments that U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., recently filed to campaign reports stemming from her 2006 campaign.
The financial changes were split almost evenly between unreported donations and spending for the 2006 campaign.
State GOP executive director Lloyd Smith told reporters in a conference call that the changes involve far more than the 143 additional donors that McCaskill has acknowledged. Smith contended that, based on the numbers, hundreds more donors are involved.
Smith acknowledged that he is referring to contributors who gave less than $200 apiece, which the Federal Election Commission says don't need to be reported. Smith questions the revised reports' declaration of $240,000 in such small donations.
"In my 30 years, I have never seen campaign violations of this magnitude," Smith contended.
Even if legal, he added, the flurry of changes were done in a way that made them difficult to track. Rather than simply submit the changes, McCaskill's campaign submitted entirely new reports for parts of 2006, 2007 and 2008. "It's impossible to a compare a 1,600 page report, side-by-side," Smith asserted.
The McCaskill campaign replied that she complied with federal campaign-finance filing regulations, and contended that Republicans were trying to create a controversy over nothing. (A handful of her campaign-finance changes also involved her use of a plane partially owned by her family, which the state GOP earlier had addressed.)
The state GOP's assertions may be blunted since one of its Republican Senate contenders -- U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Wildwood -- quietly filed amendments last week to multiple years of official financial disclosure reports to document his fiscal share in two family partnerships that own property in St. Louis County and Cape Cod, Maine.
Akin, like McCaskill, has found himself under fire for various controversies.
Akin spokesman Steve Taylor said the amendments grew out of a Post-Dispatch inquiry last spring about the properties. The congressman had believed that he didn't need to report his portion of the partnerships because "he did not have a controlling interest,'' Taylor said.
Akin formally asked the U.S. House's ethics panel for an opinion, which came earlier this month -- and told him that the partnerships did need to be included on his personal-income disclosure forms that members of Congress file annually.
As a result, said Taylor, Akin filed amendments last week to reports going back to 2001. Most of the changes related to the Town and Country property on which he lived until recently. The property was owned by his father, Paul Akin, who formed a partnership a decade ago to include his children and grandchildren.
Paul Akin retains control over the property, Taylor said. It is being subdivided with the approval of Town and Country officials. The shares held by Todd Akin, his wife and children amount to just under $69,000, the report said.
The Cape Cod property is the older Akin's vacation home -- and a far more valuable asset. The site is ocean-front property, Taylor said, and used by various family members for vacations.
Paul Akin formed a similar partnership for the Cape Cod property in 2009, with the shares held by Todd Akin, his wife and children valued at $259,000.
The upshot of the congressman's amendments: his reported worth has gone up tenfold.
Said state Democratic Party spokesman Caitlin Legacki:
"Clearly the Missouri Republican Party is making desperate accusations about Claire in a sad attempt to diffuse a decade's worth of possible ethical violations that Congressman Todd Akin was forced to amend on reports after being caught by his hometown newspaper."