Carnahan, Blunt bring in $1 million each over summer

Missouri is considering new campaign finance laws.
Katie Prince / Graphic Designer

The summer was a lucrative one for candidates in the 2010 race for one of Missouri's U.S. Senate seats, according to federal campaign finance reports filed last week.

Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., out-raised his Democratic rival, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, maintaining his lead in money raised during the campaign. Blunt and Carnahan are running to fill the seat of Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., who announced he is retiring next year.

News releases from the campaigns themselves and official reports from the Federal Election Commission showed Blunt had raised about $1.3 million from July to the end of September. Carnahan raised slightly more than $1 million in the same time period.

Speaking at MU Wednesday night, Carnahan said she was pleased with the fundraising figures, saying Blunt's campaign had raised most of its money from lobbying groups.

"I'm not surprised he raises more from us," she said. "If you look at the differences, an awful lot of it is what he is getting from corporate lobbyists and special interests I was talking about, that's the real difference in money we raised this quarter."

An official FEC quarterly report showing the sources of Blunt's contributions was not available at press time. FEC spokeswoman Judith Ingram said the reports were still being processed and would be available on the FEC Web site in the coming weeks.

Although Carnahan is running unopposed in the Democratic primary, Blunt faces a challenge on the Republican side from Sen. Chuck Purgason, R-Caulfield. Purgason said Wednesday his campaign had raised only $11,000, but said he expects to pick up votes with his positions.

"We'll never be able to raise near as much as Washington politicians," Purgason said. "We'll never be able to compete financially with Washington politicians, but I think more people will agree with us on the issues."

As these reports emerge for the federal elections, calls for campaign finance reform in Missouri state elections have escalated in light of recent press coverage of Rod Jetton, the former Speaker of the House who is now a political consultant. Jetton is accused of bringing donations of as much as $250,000 to lawmakers who vote for bills supported by wealthy Missourians.

Limits on how much a person can contribute to a candidate in state races were abolished just months before the November 2008 elections. Speaking to reporters at an event Monday in Jefferson City, Gov. Jay Nixon called again for the legislature to reinstate contribution limits when it reconvenes in January.

Law professor Richard Reuben said Missouri should reinstate limits on individual campaign contributions and he said even if all donors are being honest, such limits help voters trust the process as not being influenced only by a few wealthy people.

Supporters of the 2008 bill to repeal limits say individual campaign contributions are a form of political speech, protected under the first amendment. Citing the 1976 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Buckley v. Vallejo, which established federal contribution limits, Reuben said the government's need to prove elections are conducted fairly takes precedence.

"It's unquestionable that this does limit someone's political expression somewhat," Reuben said. "But the U.S. Supreme Court has long held that the government's interest in preventing corruption and the appearance of corruption is so great that it outweighs an individual's right to unlimited political expression in the form of campaign contributions."

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