Updated at 2:45 p.m.
Missouri Republican Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin was arrested at least eight times in the 1980s at anti-abortion protests, according to newly obtained records.
That is four arrests in addition to four the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported last month based on a review of its contemporaneous coverage of protests. The four additional arrests each appear to have occurred outside a women's health clinic in Ballwin, Missouri in St. Louis County between 1985 and 1987.
"Right Wing Watch," a project of People For the American Way, a nonprofit group critical of Akin's ties to what it calls radical elements of the pro-life movement, obtained incident reports on the arrests Friday from the St. Louis Country Police Department under Missouri's sunshine law, and provided them to National Journal.
Akin was arrested on October 26, 1985, April 19, 1986 and February 28, 1987 for trespassing. A December, 27 1986 arrest was for "trespassing and peace disturbance." The arrests reported by the Post-Dispatch came in the same period, between March 1985 and May 1987, but occurred at other clinics. Three were in St. Louis and one in Granite City, Illinois. The paper said protesters tried to block access to the clinics and refused to leave. In one case, Akin was carried out by police. The last known arrest came shortly before Akin's 1988 election to the Missouri State House, where he served for 12 years before he joined the House.
Akin campaign spokesperson Rick Tyler declined to comment on the new arrest records. Tyler has dismissed past Akin arrests as "something that happened a quarter century ago," and said they are less relevant to the Senate race than charges by the Akin campaign and conservative media outlets about business practices of Joseph Shepard, the husband of Akin's opponent, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, including suggestions McCaskill personally benefited from millions of dollars in federal grants won by Shepard's firms.
A few days before Tuesday's election, news of additional arrests may not much affect views of Akin. His staunch pro-life stance is a big part of his political pitch. His arrest record emerged in part because he boasted of it to supporters. Akin's statement that "legitimate rape" rarely causes pregnancy and his opposition to emergency contraception for rape victims, along with other statements, have been hammered in ads aired by McCaskill. They have already generated pitched opposition to his candidacy from many voters and helped McCaskill open a large lead among likely female voters, and a solid lead in most polling.
But critics hope Akin's record bolsters Democrats' contention that his actions and beliefs, in addition to his statements, make him unacceptably extreme for most Missouri voters. While Akin noted he was arrested in a "peaceful protest," People for the American Way has worked to
document Akin's ties to people in the anti-abortion movement who advocated violence against doctors who perform abortions.
Akin was arrested with members of an anti-abortion group later taken over by Tim Dreste
, who pushed aggressive action against abortion clinics and was arrested hundreds of times at anti-abortion protests. In one case Dreste held a sign referencing a doctor in Florida who was murdered by protestors. In 1993 Akin contributed to Dreste's longshot state house campaign. After Dreste started a militia group, Akin was listed as a speaker at a 1995 rally held not long before the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City, though he apparently did not address the rally.
In 1999, Dreste lost a civil lawsuit that charged he threatened to kill pro-choice plaintiffs who sued him in 1995. He was then censured by the St. Louis Country Republican Central Committee and forced to resign from a seat on the committee. "We condemn the use or threat of violence," the group said in a letter explaining the action.
Tyler said Akin now has no relationship with Dreste. But in 2011, shortly before Akin announced his widely expected Senate run, Dreste registered eight Akin-affiliated domain names, such as "ToddAkinFor Senate.org." People for the American Way also cited a picture posted by Dreste's wife on Facebook showing Akin and the couple's daughter.