The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which dropped Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., as a national party-approved candidate last month after his comments about "legitimate rape," sharply shifted its position on Wednesday, a day after the deadline for him to withdraw from the ballot had passed.
More significant than the hum-drum statement of support itself was what it didn't say: whether the NRSC will turn back on the cash spigot. The NRSC—and some major GOP-leaning outside groups—cut off Akin financially after he made his controversial statement.
Neither the statement from NRSC Executive Director Rob Jesmer or follow up remarks from spokesman Brian Walsh reiterated statements by Chairman John Cornyn, R-Texas, as recently as last week, that the committee is “done” in Missouri and will not buy advertising in the state.
Meanwhile, the Missouri Democratic Party filed complaints with the House Ethics Committee and Federal Election Commission charging that Akin broke House rules and campaign finance laws by altering his position on an earmark ban in exchange for fundraising from a conservative political action committee.
Akin on Friday revealed that, in a break with his past position, he will support a complete ban on earmarks supported by the Senate Conservatives Fund, a super PAC founded by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. The announcement came days before DeMint endorsed Akin's candidacy for the Senate, and the fund is expected to follow within days, giving Akin an important fundraising boost with its network of grassroots conservatives.
Akin has not previously backed a ban, and regularly won earmarks for his district until the House imposed a ban. Akin, who has previously called for restricting some earmarks, argues that his position has not shifted. He says that between his staff and SCF, he realized that his position was consistent with the group's.
Missouri Democratic Party Chairman Mike Sanders announced the filings in a call with reporters on Wednesday. The complaints are partly based on National Journal’s reporting on Akin’s shift on earmarks.
Sanders said the party is asking the Ethics Committee and FEC to investigate whether Akin violated rules against bribery and accepting gifts, and laws banning accepting gifts in exchange for an official act.
“It has the flavor of bribery,” Sanders said. “It has the flavor of pay for play.”
He acknowledged however that the party’s FEC complaint is unusual in that it states that Akin and SCF are “about to violate the Federal Election Campaign Act,” which asserts Akin and the group plan an illegal act rather than having already committed one.
Rick Tyler, a spokesman for the Akin campaign called the complaints “amateur hour.”
“Dems got ahead of themselves today by filing their baseless charges BEFORE any expenditure occurred," Tyler said. “The complaint should have been recognized as phony, based on the fact that it preceded the action alleged. It's a complaint based upon their belief that some action that has not taken place will take place.”
FEC complaints are a tactic used by congressional campaigns to draw attention to alleged scandals involving opponents.
The incumbent Akin is trying to unseat, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, is a vocal opponent of earmarking.