GOP incumbent U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt on Thursday denied ownership of pro-tobacco legislation that he tried to place in a homeland security bill in 2002, a criticism that has dogged him for a decade.
Locked in a tight battle with Democratic challenger Jason Kander, Blunt has been the subject of attack ads that say he inserted the provision that would have helped the Phillip Morris Co. within a homeland security bill. It was first reported by The Washington Post in 2003.
At the time, Blunt was dating a Phillip Morris lobbyist, Abigail Perlman, whom he later married. Blunt’s son, Andy, currently Blunt’s campaign manager, was also lobbying for the company in Missouri. At the time, the Post reported Phillip Morris donated $120,000 to committees connected to Blunt.
The issue was also used in attack ads in 2010 when Blunt was running against Democrat Robin Carnahan and Politifact found the claims to be “mostly true.” But Blunt denied that he was behind the plan during an appearance Thursday on KCUR’s Up To Date.
“It wasn’t my provision. It wasn’t my provision,” Blunt said. “It was a provision that eventually becomes part of the federal law, that is putting that big package together after 9/11.”
Asked to respond to the discrepancy, Blunt’s campaign said he “was responding to the impression that he alone was behind a provision that no one else supported.”
“Roy's response was that many members of Congress, including the majority leader and several senators, supported the homeland security provision that ultimately became law,” Burson Taylor Snyder, Blunt’s deputy campaign manager, wrote in an email. She also attached a 13-year-old letter of support from then-Majority Leader Dick Armey.
The provision was aimed at the sale of contraband cigarettes, making it more difficult to sell tobacco products online. Blunt on Thursday defended the provision as part of the law aimed at fighting a money stream for terrorists.
“It eventually, by the way, became law, the so-called PACT Act, trying to prevent terrorists from having one of their modes of finance selling illegal cigarettes that nobody was paying taxes on, and it’s the law today,” Blunt said.
Peggy Lowe is investigations editor at KCUR and Harvest Public Media. You can find her on Twitter at @peggyllowe.