I will lead this with the most unequivocal disclaimer I can offer. As I have written before, all three candidates for Senator, Akin, Steelman and Brunner have credentials that should exite any true conservative and any one could be a great Senator, certainly as opposed to the pretender, Claire McCaskill. She is the one who endorsed Obama early over Hillary Clinton. For this reason, coupled with my sense that despite my long friendship with Todd and his amazing family, setting my personal bias aside, I cannot see a path to victory for the U.S. Senate for the less well-funded of two male candidates from St. Louis in a statewide contest. Now, the issue today is whether it would be proper for anyone to criticize Todd for earmarking money for Hwy 141 and no defense here is going to change that.
The Missouri Journal editor, Brian Hook ran a piece today on an earmark report that cites a report implying that Akin somehow pushed for an earmark to improve a highway that would improve the value of his own land. While Brian Hook is infinitely fair, running the story implies that there IS a story, even when there is no story. Right?
There is confusion here that is understandable as is the confusion over earmarks. What is not understandable is any implication that Todd did anything morally or even ethically wrong. So anyone bailing on Todd for this or using this to attack Todd is the only one making an ethical breach.
I love to sum up Todd this way: During the height of the Clinton-Lewinski scandal, I had a moment of small talk with a handful of fellow Republican lawmakers about the moral hazard of young coeds running around the Capitol. These were the ladies who generally held down the left flank and the one who was in charge of the intern program had no reason to prop up Todd, yet she was explaining what she does with the particularly pretty College girls. While I was prepared for her to say she assigns them to women, I had to laugh when she said she assigns them to then State House member Akin. So impeccable was his reputation that he was to be trusted above all others to be honorable in a potentially charged scenario.
Now to earmarks: In my considered opinion, the debate about earmarks is typically very misfocused. There is a huge difference between a lawmaker who seeks funding to subsidize his brother's wind farm company, or to subsidize mohair or even for a bridge to nowhere, and a lawmaker who acts to fulfill a deep need for his constituents and re-directs a portion of road money from less important projects to important ones.
Highway 141 improvement was on the books for over 30 years. It predated my run for office and was an issue in my first campaign in 1993. It will still be an issue for years to come. It is being built now only because of persistent teamwork, meetings and 1000s of volunteer hours by hundreds of citizens and civic leaders culminating with my office asking Congressman Akin to get a federal highway bill earmark to study the engineering. He then sought more money until finally, the local highway funding decision-makers got the message and gave "141" the nod. That is what a responsible and resourceful Congressman should do.
Today, Akin is being scrutinized because the road he helped to widen meandered within miles of his family's homestead. This is a parcel that quite possibly was owned by the Akin family before 141 was even built. As progress spread, developers built million dollar plus McMansions all around the Akin homestead. Naturally, after decades of owning the land and the home and paying ever increasing property taxes, the Akin parcel became one of the most prime pieces of real estate in St. Louis County. Akin mentioned years before the 141 progress that the property tax bill alone was getting prohibitive such that the sad reality became that selling the homestead enjoyed by over three generations became the natural option. That property certainly peaked in value well before the Hwy 141 improvement.
Anyone exploiting this non-story to smear the good name of the Akin family does a disservice to the Akins and to civil discourse in general. Worse, such narratives risk perversely chilling future lawmakers into a sense that they most oppose progress if it falls within someone's definition of "too close". That will be a very sad day.