Politics & Government

Outside money pouring into Missouri U.S. Senate race

WASHINGTON — As the fall campaign enters its final weekend, outside groups so far have spent nearly $13 million on the U.S. Senate contest in Missouri.

Unions, the Missouri Farm Bureau, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a variety of advocacy groups like Missouri Right to Life, have all opened their wallets to help elect either Democratic candidate Robin Carnahan or Republican hopeful Roy Blunt.

In the past week alone, a conservative policy group called RightChange.com spent nearly a quarter of a million dollars to help Blunt, a congressman from southwest Missouri.

The group is funded largely by Frederick Eshelman, president of RightChange’s board of directors, according to Internal Revenue Services records. He also heads Pharmaceutical Product Development Inc., a North Carolina-based drug research company.

In the past month, RightChange has spent more than half a million dollars to help elect Blunt, according to federal campaign records compiled by the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan advocacy group for government transparency.

Some of the groups that are spending money in Missouri don’t have to publicly reveal where their money comes from because of federal tax laws. Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, started in part by Republican political operative Karl Rove, has spent more than $1 million in Missouri on ads and others expenses against Carnahan and to boost Blunt.

“Every indication is that this election will shatter previous records for independent spending,” said Paul Ryan, an attorney with the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Foundation, which studies campaign-related issues.

Groups hoping to elect Carnahan, the Missouri secretary of state, spent more than $4 million on ads, phone banks and other campaign services targeted against Blunt.

Groups backing Blunt spent an equal amount directed at her.

But if that battle was a standoff, Blunt enjoyed a significant advantage on another financial front. Many of those same outside groups spent more than twice as much to help him than was spent to aid Carnahan; nearly $1.5 million compared to about $700,000.

In the race to unseat longtime Democratic Rep. Ike Skelton in Missouri’s 4th Congressional District, outside spending has reached $2.6 million, according to Sunlight. The money is nearly evenly divided between Skelton and Vicky Hartzler, the Republican candidate and a former Missouri state House.