While most of the Republican Party is still keeping him at arm’s length, Todd Akin is making new friends recently on the right-wing end of the GOP spectrum. On Monday, Newt Gingrich will be hosting a fundraiser for Akin in Missouri. And last week, Akin earned the support of Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), the tea party’s favorite senator.
DeMint’s support came with a requirement Akin sign on to a “no earmark” pledge, which is a big shift from Akin’s recent past. But the Akin campaign says their candidate isn’t selling out, he’s just finding new areas of agreement with members of his party.
On Friday, Akin announced he was taking DeMint’s pledge. That loosened up the purse strings at DeMint’s PAC, opening up a badly needed source of outside cash for the embattled Missouri Senate nominee.
Back home, the move was greeted with skepticism.
“The shift is a remarkable about-face for a candidate who champions the constitutionality of earmarks on his official U.S. House website,” reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The paper noted Akin was highlighted in the national press earlier this year for “his role [in] securing $3.3 million in federal funds for the long-planned northward extension of Highway 141 in St. Louis County, near the area where his family owns property” as part of a Washington Post investigation into earmarking that could constitute “possible conflicts of interest.”
Democrats note Akin pushed back against earmark bans in the Senate primary campaign this year. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s (D) campaign released a highlight reel of Akin defending earmarks online Monday and accused Akin of changing his tune for money.
“It’s shocking that Todd Akin’s willing to sell his support for an earmark ban, especially after defending the practice in campaign ads just two months ago,” said Erik Dorey, McCaskill for Missouri spokesman.
Rick Tyler, the former Gingrich adviser now helping Akin, acknowledged that signing DeMint’s ban had been a condition for DeMint’s support.
“The earmark ban was a hangup,” Tyler told TPM. “But when you start to discuss it with them, it turns out they have the same position on earmarks.”
“A spending measure that is added to the spending bill in the middle of the night right before the vote and is not germane to the bill I think we can all agree is an earmark,” he said. “That’s a bad practice and Todd is against that.”
What Akin supports, Tyler explained, is continuing keep the the “Constitutional ability to have spending oversight” where it is now, in Congress.
“If legislation goes through the normal legislative process and it’s germane to the bill, DeMint’s PAC is fine with that,” Tyler said. “So in the end, there really wasn’t any daylight between what Sen. DeMint wants to ban as a practice and what Todd wants to ban as a practice.”
Tyler said he wasn’t worried about McCaskill’s attacks on Akin’s newfound love of earmark bans.
“If she’s going to promote the fact that we’re anti-earmarks I have a list for her,” Tyler said.