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TV Ad Attacks Blunt

It took less than three weeks after his elevation to Majority Leader for Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) to become a target, as a pair of liberal watchdog groups last week unveiled a television ad in his district that ties the lawmaker to an alleged money-laundering scheme involving Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

The Public Campaign Action Fund and American Family Voices began airing the spot on seven broadcast television stations in Blunt’s district last week. After receiving a complaint letter from Blunt’s lawyers alleging the spot was “false and potentially defamatory,” four of the seven stations had pulled the ad off the air as of press time Friday, according to a PCAF spokeswoman.

The spokeswoman said her group already had sent “documentation” for the ad’s claims to the stations and would attempt to convince them to put the ad back in rotation today.

Another PCAF official said the Blunt ad was part of a larger buy of roughly $100,000 that would target “four or five” different lawmakers for their ties to DeLay. The group says it will announce the additional targeted Members this week.

The Missouri ad alleges that Blunt funneled money from DeLay to the campaign of his son Matt, a Republican who was elected governor of Missouri in 2004.

The spot features cartoonish cutouts of DeLay’s and Blunt’s heads swirling around in a washing machine full of “dirty money.”

“It is outrageous that Republicans in leadership think they can substitute one bad egg for another,” said AFV president Michael Lux. “Roy Blunt is guilty of the same shady dealings that Tom DeLay has been indicted for, and yet their friends in Congress keep rewarding them.”

Blunt’s office was strongly critical of the ad and its contents.

“The ad is patently false,” said Blunt spokeswoman Burson Taylor. “Congressman Blunt is not accused of laundering money, and this ad is nothing more than a meritless partisan attack orchestrated by a Washington-based organization trying to influence the voters of Southwest Missouri. It won’t work.”

The allegation at the heart of the ad is based on an Associated Press story from early October that outlined an alleged scheme whereby DeLay’s Americans for a Republican Majority political action committee raised excessive soft money for the 2000 Republican convention, then transferred $150,000 to the non-federal wing of Blunt’s Rely on Your Beliefs Fund.

Blunt’s group, in turn, sent some of the money to a consulting firm that employed DeLay’s wife, Christine, and cut a check for $100,000 to the Missouri Republican Party, which later spent significant sums helping Matt Blunt’s campaign.

When contacted by the AP for that story, Blunt’s and DeLay’s offices said the transfers were neither illegal nor improper. In a letter published in today’s Roll Call, Taylor also writes that there was nothing improper about the transactions.

On Friday, Blunt’s lawyers sent a letter to the seven Springfield- and Joplin-based stations complaining about the ad.

“The ad in question falsely and maliciously accuses Congressman Roy Blunt of a felony,” wrote Blunt’s lawyers, Stefan Passantino and J. Randolph Evans of the Washington, D.C., firm McKenna Long & Aldridge.

In refuting the ad’s allegations, Blunt’s lawyers employed an argument similar to that used by DeLay’s lawyers against the money-laundering charges he faces in Texas.

Just as DeLay’s lawyers argue that the lawmaker had no day-to-day control of the PAC he founded, Texans for a Republican Majority, Blunt’s defense contends that he serves only as “honorary chair” and has “no legal control over” the ROYB Fund or any money transfers the group made.

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