JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A conservative fundraising group endorsed embattled Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin on Thursday and said its membership had pledged $290,000 to help replenish the Republican's financially strapped campaign against Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.
The announcement by the Senate Conservatives Fund marks the most high-profile financial commitment Akin has received as he seeks to recover from the loss of millions of dollars of planned advertising by other national groups that aid Republicans. Those groups withdrew their support after Akin remarked last month that women's bodies have ways of averting pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape."
Akin has apologized repeatedly since then while rejecting calls from top Republicans — including presidential nominee Mitt Romney — to quit the race. He's hoping his campaign can gain momentum after he let pass Tuesday's final deadline to drop out of the race.
Akin, a congressman from suburban St. Louis, said he was thankful and "very enthusiastic" about winning the support of the Senate Conservatives Fund.
"I think it's logical — I am a conservative, they're conservatives, I think it's a common-sense type of thing," Akin said during a campaign stop Thursday at the Missouri Capitol, where he began his political career as state House member in 1989.
The Senate Conservatives Fund said it endorsed Akin because he is a Republican nominee, the race against McCaskill remains competitive and Missouri is important to Republican efforts to gain the four seats necessary to win control of the Senate. The organization said it hopes to get $100,000 of the pledged money to Akin's campaign by Sunday, which is the cutoff for the quarterly financial reporting period.
The fund has gained prominence in recent years with the aid of Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., a favorite among tea party activists. Among other things, the Senate Conservatives Fund supports a ban on congressional spending earmarks, which use legislation to direct particular amounts of money to specific entities in a particular state or congressional district.
Akin has used earmarks in the past to direct funding to such things as highway projects and military armor, although he and Matt Hoskins, the executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund, both have said Akin supports the group's ban on earmarks.
Akin said Thursday that he's against amendments that are slipped into bills at the last moment that direct money to specific projects, particularly if joint House and Senate conference committees add items that weren't in versions that originally passed the chambers. But he added: "Don't take the definition (of earmark) so broadly that the members of Congress don't have any input into the budget process."
The aid from the Senate Conservatives Fund follows Akin's endorsement Wednesday by DeMint and former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, whose Patriot Voices political action committee said it was contributing money to Akin and hiring staff to work in Missouri. The Freedom's Defense Fund, which backs conservative candidates, also said earlier this week that it planned a $250,000 advertising campaign benefiting Akin.
But Akin will need even more outside help to keep pace with Democratic-leaning groups supporting McCaskill.
Emily's List, which backs Democratic women who support abortion rights, and the Service Employees International Union issued a joint statement Thursday saying they had bought $1 million in ads in support of McCaskill to run in the state's largest TV markets of St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which already has spent about $1 million on TV ads in Missouri, has reserved $4.3 million of additional advertising to begin running Oct. 9.
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