ST. LOUIS | Missouri state Sen. Jeff Smith told a federal magistrate today that he will resign amid federal charges tied to his failed 2004 congressional campaign.
Smith, of St. Louis, and fellow Democrat Rep. Steve Brown of Clayton, along with a Smith campaign official, are facing federal charges, but specifics were under seal. Bond for Smith and Brown was set at $10,000 apiece at a hearing Tuesday. Bond for Nick Adams, who was Smith’s campaign treasurer and deputy campaign manager, was not immediately known.
Smith announced during a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Terry Adelman that he would resign in the afternoon. Art Margulis, an attorney for Brown, said Brown also would resign Tuesday.
Smith’s failed 2004 congressional campaign has come under scrutiny for its alleged connection to a supposedly independent group that distributed postcards and fliers critical of his primary opponent, Russ Carnahan.
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Some of the materials claimed they were paid for by www.rustycarnahan.org while others included no mention of the source.
Carnahan’s campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, which decided in December 2007 not to take any action against Smith, saying there was no reason to believe federal laws were violated.
As part of the FEC investigation, Smith denied any connection to the critical Carnahan materials in a September 2004 affidavit.
“To the best of my knowledge and belief, no one who was part of the Friends of Jeff Smith Committee nor any other group or organization under my control participated in any manner in the creation, printing, copying, distribution, mailing, or financing of any of the documents,” Smith said in the sworn statement.
The FEC’s probe focused on a political campaign committee called Voters for Truth, which ordered direct-mail postcards for distribution to about 25,000 residents in the 3rd Congressional District. A report to the FEC from its general counsel on Dec. 10, 2007, said Milton H. “Skip” Ohlsen III “was most likely the person responsible for the formation/activities” of Voters for Truth.
Ohlsen told investigators that Adams and another Smith campaign aide were primarily involved in Voters for Truth. He also said Brown was responsible for soliciting funds for the committee.
But investigators were unable to find contact information for Brown. They concluded that Adams’ denial of involvement with Voters for Truth was more credible than Ohlsen’s allegations.
The report states that investigators believed Ohlsen was seeking to implicate Adams while downplaying his own involvement.
Tuesday’s court hearings come at a crucial time should either Smith or Brown resign.
Laura Egerdal, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state, said 10 weeks’ notice is required for a special election — meaning 5 p.m. Tuesday is the deadline if a special election is to be on the Nov. 3 ballot.
“Special elections can be held any Tuesday, but it would be incredibly expensive” if it isn’t on a traditional Election Day, Egerdal said.
The governor’s office hasn’t received a resignation letter from either lawmaker.
Smith was considered an underdog in the 2004 congressional race, and the campaign was the subject of a documentary called “Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?”
Carnahan, who still holds the seat, is the son of former Gov. Mel Carnahan and U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan. Smith lost to Russ Carnahan by fewer than 2,000 votes out of the more than 107,000 cast in the Democratic primary. The documentary’s creators said the film attempted to show political candidates with connections and money have significant advantages over others — regardless of ability.
Associated Press writers David Lieb and Cheryl Wittenauer in St. Louis and Chris Blank in Jefferson City contributed to this report.