JEFFERSON CITY — Businessman John Brunner has repeatedly dipped into his personal wealth to easily outspend his Republican rivals in a Missouri primary to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.
Federal campaign finance figures reviewed Monday show Brunner's campaign spent nearly $2.8 million this past quarter, much of which went to TV ads and almost all of which came from Brunner's own pocketbook. By comparison, the Senate campaigns of U.S. Rep. Todd Akin and former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman each spent nearly $279,000 during the past three months.
All three are competing in the Aug. 7 Republican primary for the right to challenge McCaskill in the November election. Missouri's Senate race is one of the top targets nationally as Republicans seek to take control of the Senate away from Democrats.
McCaskill, who raised about $2.6 million this past quarter, already has spent $3 million on TV ads for the fall and reported a bank balance of about $3.6 million at the start of July.
Brunner, of the St. Louis suburb of Frontenac, made millions when he sold his majority ownership interest in his family's business, Vi-Jon Inc., to a private equity firm in 2006. When Brunner announced his candidacy in October, he said he expected the Republican primary to cost about $5 million. While declining to say exactly how much of his own money he would spend, he vowed "the bottom line is that we're just not going to run out of gas."
A summary of Brunner's finance report shows he contributed more than $2.5 million to his campaign from April through June, bringing his total personal contribution to nearly $4.8 million. Brunner's own money accounts for almost 90 percent of the cash he has raised for his campaign.
Earlier in the campaign, Steelman also put some of her money into her race with a $400,000 loan. But she did not add more during the past quarter.
Akin has not self-financed his campaign, but he has raised more from individual contributors than his rivals, which his campaign claimed Monday was indicative of grass-roots support.
During the past quarter, Akin raised a total of nearly $284,000, Steelman took in nearly $242,000 and Brunner received about $193,000 from others. After expenditures, Akin reported about $1.4 million in his account at the start of July. Steelman had $562,000. Brunner had less than $183,000, but that comparatively low balance may not matter if Brunner continues to put more of his own money into the race.
Brunner and Akin both are airing a new round of TV ads. Brunner's ad questions whether Akin and Steelman are truly conservative, citing their records in office. Akin's ad is a rebuttal that — like his first ad — features former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee defending Akin's conservative record while in Congress.