Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin drew fire from fellow Republicans in the '90s for praising a private militia group associated with extreme anti-abortion actions, according to a 2000 St. Louis Post-Dispatch article.
According to the article, Akin wrote a letter of praise to the 1st Missouri Volunteers in 1995, which was read aloud at one of their rallies. The Volunteers were connected to the militant anti-abortion movement through Tim Dreste, who was for a time their captain according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, and who was connected to invasions of abortion clinics in New York and Atlanta with the American Coalition of Life Activists.
In the letter, Akin reportedly wrote "The local militia can bring a positive influence to our community. Your patriotism and concern for our state and nation is to be commended."
At the time that Akin's ties to the group were published in 2000, Akin was running for Congress as a state representative. His opponent sought to make the militia a campaign issue. The Post-Dispatch writes:
The 1995 rally drew attention when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed one month later. The 1st Missouri Volunteers, a St. Louis area group, dissociates itself with violence, hate groups and survivalists, but John Hickey of Missouri Pro-Vote charged that some members of the group have ties to anti-abortion extremists.
Hickey said Akin's participation in the event "says something about where he's coming from and who he associates with."
Akin said he was invited to speak to the group but was uncomfortable and turned down the invitation.
"I did not want to speak there," Akin said. "I didn't want to have any part of it."
McCaskill, a key Obama ally in 2008 who is now in a difficult spot in a conservative state, sees a path to victory in disqualifying her opponent, who defeated two more moderate Republicans for the nomination. The militia letter offers yet another opening for McCaskill. Even before he won his primary, the McCaskill campaign has tried to portray Akin as an extremist, and they recently set up a website called TruthAboutAkin.com that features bits of information about Akin under the heading that "Throughout his campaign, Todd Akin has adopted policy stances that align with the most conservative members of Congress."
Spokespeople for Akin and McCaskill did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Rosie Gray is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. Gray reports on politics and foreign policy.
Contact Rosie Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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