Huffpost Politics

Sarah Steelman, John Brunner Battle Over Farm Animal Ad In Missouri Senate Race

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A pair of Missouri Republican Senate candidates are in something of a barnyard fight over an ad that accuses one of them of donating to a farm animal rights group. The candidate, businessman John Brunner, calls the ad an attack on his family because the donation really came from his daughter.

The ad, aired by the campaign of state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, accuses Brunner of giving $10,000 to an "extreme animal rights group that was founded to give farm animals rights."

The spot goes on to say that the group, the Humane Farming Association, worries about the animals' feelings, and asks, "What's next, therapy?"

It then segues without warning to Steelman saying she opposes partial-birth abortion and gay marriage and that she "love[s] to hunt."

WATCH the ad:

Brunner hammered the ad Monday, saying Steelman was taking pot shots at his family. His problem, his campaign said in a statement, is that the donation actually came from his daughter, Ginny Becker.

According to the campaign, the Brunner household's Christmas tradition is to donate to military families through the Brunner family foundation. But some years the kids have been allowed to choose their own charity, and once Becker chose Humane Farming, which says its goals are "to protect farm animals from cruelty and abuse, to protect the public from the misuse of antibiotics, hormones, and other chemicals used on factory farms, and to protect the environment from the impacts of industrialized animal factories."

Brunner's campaign didn't quibble over the Steelman camp's description of the group, but did release a statement from Becker owning up to the donation. "My charitable donation has nothing to do with a political race, and in my opinion, there are more significant issues to discuss today,” Becker said.

Brunner's campaign wants Steelman to pull the ad and apologize.

“The latest ad from Sarah Steelman is a despicable attack on John Brunner’s family and is completely outside the bounds of a political campaign,” said Brunner spokesman Todd Abrajano. “Sarah Steelman should be ashamed of herself for putting this ad on the air and I call on her to apologize to John Brunner’s family immediately.”

Steelman's campaign on Monday showed no signs of doing so.

UPDATE: 4:15 p.m. -- The Steelman campaign stood by its charge that Brunner and his wife tried to aid farm animals, sending along the Brunner Foundation's 990 report to the IRS from 2008, when the donation was made. The report shows that Brunner and his wife are the only trustees, and that they gave away $359,000 in 2008. Much went to educational, religious and veterans' institutions, but the Brunners did appear to care about animal welfare, also donating to the Humane Society of Missouri and the St. Louis Zoo.

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