In The Matter Of Mrs. Santorum

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THE STUMP FEBRUARY 15, 2012

In The Matter Of Mrs. Santorum

As you may have heard, there’s been chatter this week about Rick Santorum’s views on women—their effect on the emotions of soldiers in combat, their right to have some control over when they bear children, their decision to enter the workplace. On that last point, George Stephanopoulous challenged Santorum in an interview Sunday over this line in Santorum’s book, “It Takes A Family”: “The radical feminists succeeded in undermining the traditional family and convincing women that professional accomplishments are the key to happiness.” Santorum defended the line by, well, blaming it on his wife, Karen Santorum: “That section of the book was co-written, if you want to be honest about it, by my wife.”

Most of the subsequent talk had focused on the propriety of Santorum throwing his wife under the bus (under the minivan?) I’m a little surprised that there hasn’t been more focus yet on the fact that Karen Santorum, who is trained as a lawyer and as a neonatal nurse, has a lengthy work history, and it includes a job that raised a few eyebrows back in the 1990s—working for the media firm that did, and still does, the advertising for Rick Santorum’s campaigns. From a 2003 UPI report

Federal Election Commission records reviewed by UPI show Santorum’s campaign making payments to BrabenderCox totaling nearly $4 million and $6 million in the 1994 and 2000 elections for media work. Most contracts allow political ad firms to keep around 15 percent of the payments.

Santorum’s Senate financial disclosure forms show a salary from the company to Karen Santorum in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998, although Senate rules do not require a disclosure of the amount.

In a telephone interview, John Brabender said he paid Karen Santorum around $4,000 a month, mostly for “client development.”

“She helped us try to get accounts and often acted as our Washington representative,” Brabender said. “She was both a stay-at-home mom and a professional at the same time.”

Brabender said his hiring of Karen Santorum had “nothing to do” with Sen. Santorum hiring BrabenderCox.

The Senate Ethics Committee approved the hiring in 1995, but it raised concerns with good-government groups; after all, it’s against the law to convert campaign funds to personal use, and the hiring at least raised the appearance that that might be happening in this instance. “When you have a spouse being paid by a company that receives money from the senator’s campaign, it raises some legitimate questions,” said Larry Noble, a former general counsel with the Federal Election Commission.

The campaign did not respond to my query about the hiring, which is just another small reminder of how little has been dredged up about Santorum’s past, given how belated his second surge in the polls has been, and how unseriously many in the media are still taking a candidate who is about to be outspent 29-1 in Michigan by Mitt Romney. His bare-bones campaign team—which I profiled last month—apparently can’t even remember to include the standard “I approve this message” disclaimer in his campaign ads. Maybe Brabender Cox needs to bring Karen Santorum back on the payroll to handle that?

Follow me on Twitter @AlecMacGillis

amacgillis@tnr.com

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posted in: the stump, politics, upi, george stephanopoulous, john brabender, karen santorum, rick santorum, senate

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