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Missouri Senate race simmers

Rachael Marcus Aug 3, 2012

Democrats have decided who they don’t want to face in the Missouri race for U.S. Senate — Republican businessman John Brunner.

Majority PAC, a super PAC that supports Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate, spent $358,000 on an ad opposing Brunner, who is one of several candidates running for the GOP nomination, which will be decided in the Aug. 7 primary.

Again,” which was released yesterday, challenges Brunner’s record on job creation.

“After saddling his company with over $245 million in debt, Brunner merged with another company that already had hundreds of existing jobs. In Tennessee,” the narrator says. “That’s not creating jobs. He’s taking credit for jobs that were already there.”

Brunner, who frames his campaign around his business credentials, is the leading Republican candidate and is expected to challenge Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in the fall. McCaskill has been the subject of a steady stream attack ads from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Republican super PACs.

Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., and former Republican state treasurer Sarah Steelman are considered Brunner’s biggest challengers. Majority PAC is the biggest spender in the Missouri Senate election so far, despite not having a candidate to oppose, having spent $1.1 million against Brunner and no money against the other Republican candidates.

Brunner is the former CEO of his family’s business. Vi-Jon Inc., a health and beauty care products business. The company had been in St. Louis for almost 100 years before a private equity firm purchased it in 2006 and merged it with a rival firm in Tennessee. Brunner remained CEO of Vi-Jon for three more years.

As the ad claims, the merger, which Brunner helped orchestrate, did leave Vi-John in debt. However, Brunner had left the company before its growing debt led to Moody’s downgrading its credit rating, according to PoliticMo.

Because Vi-Jon is a private company, it is difficult to fact-check the jobs creation claims. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that under Brunner, the company grew from about 50 Missouri employees to 500 by the time he stepped down.

Now Vi-Jon employs about 1,400 people, but about 800 of them came from Vi-Jon’s merger with the Tennessee-based company, as the Majority PAC ad points out. The Majority PAC ad is correct in its assertion that Brunner did not add “over a 1,000 American jobs,” as Brunner’s campaign ads claim. Many did already exist.

Nonetheless, Brunner responded Thursday with a new ad. In “Stop Them,” Brunner calls the claims “false attacks” and promises that “this Marine will never back down.”

The U.S. Senate race in Missouri has attracted much attention from outside spending groups. In addition to the $2 million Majority PAC has spent in the state, the Chamber, supporting Brunner, Patriot Majority, supporting McCaskill, and the Now or Never PAC, supporting Steelman, have contributed to the total $3.2 million spent thus far by outside groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Majority PAC’s biggest financial supporters include James Simons, president of Euclidean Capital, Fred Eychaner, CEO of NewsWeb, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

In other outside spending news:

  • Democrat-aligned super PAC American Bridge 21st Century released a web video blasting U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla., for missed votes in Congress.
  • Restore Our Future, a pro-Mitt Romney super PAC, reported spending of $7.2 million, which paid for its “Olympics” ad airing in 11 swing states, as the Center for Public Integrity reported July 30.
  • Neoconservative nonprofit Emergency Committee for Israel posted “Next Year, President Romney in Israel,” an ad supporting Romney and criticizing President Barack Obama that will air in Florida. Footage of Romney’s recent visit to Jerusalem is featured prominently. The ad drew a strong rebuke from the National Jewish Democratic Council.
  • Conservative super PAC Liberty for All spent $358,000 on TV ads opposing psychologist and teacher Nancy Cassis, who is running against teacher Kerry Bentivolio in the Aug. 7 Republican congressional primary in Michigan for the 11th District.
  • Iowans for Integrity in Leadership in Storm Lake, Iowa, registered as a new super PAC with the Federal Election Commission.

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