Following up on the bombshells that Robin Carnahan's Secretary of State staff, including her former Chief of Staff were involved in coordinating third party attacks against Roy Blunt, I wanted to add the context of how political reporters saw the ads and the LCV press release.
Keep in mind the LCV is partnered with America Votes, the new vehicle for coordinating progressive infrastructure in elections. More on that in later posts, but let's take a look at what LCV claimed they were doing (seeking to influence Blunt's committee vote), with what they really did (run ads outside Blunt's district, including television ads in St Louis and Kansas City).
Ben Smith gets the first swipe, initially noting that Roy Blunt is running for the Senate.
An interesting new spot the League of Conservation Voters is running in Missouri, attacking Rep. Roy Blunt, the former Republican whip running for Senate from Missouri.
The ad attacks Blunt's votes against "clean energy" bills and his fundraising from "big oil" as unpatriotic.
Ben knew what was going on. The LCV was taking swipes at a Republican candidate for Senator, and he comes out and says it. This first ad was followed by more attacks on Blunt and a followup attack on Mike Rogers of Michigan. This second round was said to be focused on the home districts of the Republicans. That may have been the case for Rogers, but it certainly wasn't for Blunt. I'll show you in a minute.
A second round of attacks occurred in May, and the New York Times Greenwire says the same thing - it's about the Senate race.
Both Barrow and Ross do not currently face strong re-election challenges -- either from their own party or from the GOP -- but both have also been identified as potential targets by the National Republican Congressional Committee. Blunt, meanwhile, is campaigning for the U.S. Senate in what is likely to be one of the more closely watched and competitive races in the country this year.
This May round is interesting because it includes two Blue Dog Democrats on the Energy committee... and Roy Blunt. The LCV even tells us who is behind it all: VoteVets, LCV and America's Building Trades Unions (it's the AFL-CIO). Those three disparate groups are united by two things - their love of all things progressive, and of course, they fall under the umbrella of the coordinating entity known as America Votes.
So what we see is a series of attacks started in April that roll into May, and are then continued by US Action in August, which is another section of the America Votes groups, and whose Missouri affiliate, Missouri ProVote, is heavily involved with State Voices, also an America Votes partner.
We then come to the third attack on Roy Blunt by the LCV (and allies), the "Stain" ads that aired at the end of the year. These ads go after several Republicans, but Blunt is of course front and center, again. In fact, if you go through the LCV YouTube Channel, what strikes you is the number of times they go after Blunt, who is not running in the House, but announced he was running for the Senate early in 2009.
What are we to think? The LCV claims these ad campaigns were about Blunt's House Vote, and not his Senate run, but political reporters weren't buying it. In response to Blunt's criticism, the LCV points to other politicians they were attacking, but only Blunt came in for a sustained, year-long campaign in which every initiative added Blunt.
But that's not the kicker. Do you know how we know the LCV was lying, and this was a coordinated attack on Blunt? It's simple - every other Congressman, including the two Blue Dog Democrats, had the ads run in their home districts. The Blunt attack ads were run state wide, including St Louis and Kansas City, as early as the April run. Jo Mannies to the rescue!
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.
According to the League's own spokesman, the ads were run in cities out of Blunt's home district. How exactly does running ads in St Louis supposed to aim at Blunt's current job? Other statements make the claim ads were about energy votes on committee, but that makes no sense either. Running television ads is crazy expensive, and no issues organization in their right mind would run ads out of a district in the hope that they could generate pressure on a congressman. And to think Blunt would do it? Running ads against Blunt made no fiscal sense for the House vote. And to target him three times in the year was not only excessive, but showed their true intentions. The League was dancing the fine line between breaking the law and stretching it by running ads and claiming it was about Blunt's energy vote. If that truly was the issue, why the coordinated action throughout the rest of the year? Why was Blunt singled out of all the Republican congressman (and dozens of Democrats) who voted against cap-and-trade and health care?
We're left with the truth, which is the LCV wanted the ads to be about the Senate race. They added Blunt in every volley because they saw wanted to help Carnahan's election campaign. And while Robin kept a low profile all year and carefully managed her image, Blunt was forced to answer questions from the press about those ads. It would have been a clever strategy in any other year.
Despite the fact that the strategy failed and Carnahan knows she's a year behind, the question still remains. How much input did Mindy Mazur and Paula Hodges have into the decisions to attack Blunt? More important, was there any direct coordination for television, radio, and direct mail buys? Who made the decisions on who to target, provided the data, and made the recommendations to the League of Conservation Voters and US Action?
National groups don't understand local market advertising. They get help from someone. Was that someone the data arm of America Votes, ISSI? And if so, what was Mindy's role in the year she worked as the Missouri state director for America Votes? Was her job to plan out Robin's Senate run with the national progressive organizations?
And for me personally, how did the Post Dispatch miss such an easy story? Why did Dave Catanese challenge Roy Blunt on his pointing out the too-good-to-be-true attacks that would run to over $750,000 in the course of a year? How could these reporters have missed the connections? Or did they never plan on looking?
And the story on Mindy Mazur isn't done. Am I going to have to break that, too?