Democratic Missouri Senate candidate Robin Carnahan claimed Friday that special interest groups are trying to "buy themselves a senator" by spending millions of dollars on ads attacking her and backing Republican Roy Blunt.
Blunt countered that Carnahan's criticism about special interest groups was hypocritical because her campaign has received contributions from lobbyists and interest groups.
Missouri's two leading Senate candidates made their comments at separate, nearly simultaneous campaign events Friday. Blunt, a southwest Missouri congressman, began his day at a bakery in St. Louis, while Carnahan, the secretary of state, started with a 5-mile run on the Katy Trail State Park and then spoke to supporters at a downtown Jefferson City diner.
The Sunlight Foundation, which tracks campaign spending, said outside groups have spent more than $12 million on Missouri's open Senate seat. That's the sixth most in the nation, behind Senate contests in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Washington, Illinois and Nevada.
The group's figures show about $5.7 million of that has benefited Blunt - either by attacking Carnahan or supporting Blunt's campaign. About $4.8 million has helped Carnahan.
Much of the money has gone to TV ads. But outside groups also have been running radio ads and mailing fliers to voters' homes.
They've been spending on the race for a year. The League of Conservation Voters has depicted Blunt as having oil-stained hands that left black gooey marks on anyone he touched. Blunt also has been attacked by unions and the VoteVets political action committee.
More recently, American Crossroads - which was formed under the direction of Republican strategist Karl Rove - has been airing ads implying a connection between Carnahan and a $107 million stimulus act grant given to a wind farm company run by her younger brother. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Rifle Association also have been running ads benefiting Blunt.
"We know there are a lot of confused voters out there - there has been all of this money being swamped into our state, telling lies and just trying to make stuff up," Carnahan told supporters in Jefferson City.
"If they think they can spend 7 or 8 million bucks and buy themselves a senator in Missouri, that's going to be a bargain for them," she added. "But it's going to be terrible for us."
Blunt said Carnahan's criticism amounts to nothing more than political theater. Carnahan previously highlighted a ranking listing Blunt as near the top in lobbyist donations. But Carnahan also has received money from lobbyists and interest groups.
"It's just unbelievable hypocrisy," said Blunt, adding: "She has taken money from all kinds of lobbyists and all kinds of PACs."
Blunt was joined in St. Louis by Ed Martin, the Republican challenging Carnahan's brother, U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, in Missouri's 3rd District. Martin, who served as chief of staff to Roy Blunt's son when Matt Blunt was governor, has been endorsed by a St. Louis tea party group.
Martin described Roy Blunt as a reliable conservative who can help rebuild the Republican brand among activists who grew disenchanted with deficit spending after George W. Bush's presidency.
"I call it "one last chance,'" Martin said of Tuesday's election.