A new "Truthwatch" segment from WDAF evaluating Robin Carnahan's "Mug" ad includes some hilarious spin from GOP consultant Jason Klindt. Klindt, a longtime staffer for Sam Graves, was asked to respond to the statement in the ad, "Congressman Roy Blunt...got caught trying to insert a secret deal for tobacco giant Philip Morris into a bill just days after company executives gave him over $30,000." According to Klindt, the special language inserted into a Homeland Security bill without debate "wasn't exactly a secret" and "lacks context."
Back here in the Real World, we know that no one else in the GOP leadership knew that Blunt was trying to slip in the favor for Philip Morris. As reported by the Washington Post on June 11, 2003, six months after Blunt attempted the dirty deed:
Only hours after Rep. Roy Blunt was named to the House's third-highest leadership job in November, he surprised his fellow top Republicans by trying to quietly insert a provision benefiting Philip Morris USA into the 475-page bill creating a Department of Homeland Security, according to several people familiar with the effort.
The new majority whip, who has close personal and political ties to the company, instructed congressional aides to add the tobacco provision to the bill -- then within hours of a final House vote -- even though no one else in leadership supported it or knew he was trying to squeeze it in.
Once alerted to the provision, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, quickly had it pulled out, said a senior GOP leader who requested anonymity. Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) also opposed what Blunt (Mo.) was trying to do, the member said, and "worked against it" when he learned of it.
The provision would have made it harder to sell tobacco products over the Internet and would have cracked down on the sale of contraband cigarettes, two practices that cut into Philip Morris's profits. Blunt has received large campaign donations from Philip Morris, his son works for the company in Missouri and the House member has a close personal relationship with a Washington lobbyist for the firm.
It is highly unusual for a House Republican to insert a last-minute contentious provision that has never gone through a committee, never faced a House vote and never been approved by the speaker or majority leader. Blunt's attempt became known only to a small circle of House and White House officials. They kept it quiet, preferring no publicity on a matter involving favors for the nation's biggest tobacco company and possible claims of conflicts of interest.
Several in that circle say they were struck by Blunt's willingness to go out on a limb for a company to which he has ties. What's more, he did it within hours of climbing to the House leadership's third-highest rung, a notable achievement for a man who came to Washington less than six years ago.
A senior Republican lawmaker who requested anonymity said some GOP members worried at the time that it would be "embarrassing" to the party and its new whip if details of the effort were made public. Another Republican said Blunt's effort angered some leaders because there was "so little support for" a pro-tobacco provision likely to generate controversy...
Because Blunt's actions in the Philip Morris matter were kept quiet, there were no apparent repercussions or threats to his leadership ambitions. Meanwhile, there is evidence that the majority whip has continued to work aggressively on behalf of companies to which he has ties.
In April, for instance, Blunt managed to have a provision inserted into a Senate bill, without debate, on behalf of United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. The two companies were seeking to block the expansion of a foreign rival's U.S. operations. Blunt's son Andrew also represents UPS in Missouri, as the Wall Street Journal first reported, and the two companies have contributed a total of $120,000 to Blunt since 2001, according to Federal Election Commission data.
Also this spring, Blunt brokered a deal with Rep. Ernie Fletcher (R-Ky.) to fight for a vote on legislation that could open the door to Food and Drug Administration regulation of tobacco, a top priority for Philip Morris, a senior House GOP leader said. Philip Morris would benefit because it is far ahead of its competitors in designing and selling "safer" cigarettes that could be permitted if the FDA gains regulatory power, lawmakers and industry experts said.
Regarding Klindt's complaint that the headline and statement in the ad lack context, I think he's right. The public needs to know that Blunt had a "close personal relationship with a Washington lobbyist for the firm" -- Abigail Perlman, now his wife -- and that Andy Blunt, his son and campaign manager, is a paid lobbyist for the company.