JEFFERSON CITY - Attorney General Jay Nixon took his soft-on-crime campaign against U.S. Sen. Kit Bond one step further Tuesday.
With the Jefferson City Correctional Center's stern walls looming as a strategic backdrop, Nixon released memos and letters collected from state archives to support his claim that Bond awarded pardons to supporters and campaign contributors during the two terms Bond served as governor.
The release of the documents was timed just two weeks before Missouri's Nov. 3 senatorial election in a race already pockmarked by finger pointing and accusations.
"This is just another accusation from Jay Nixon that's 20 years old," said Dan Hubbard, a spokesperson from the Bond campaign. "It appears basically inaccurate and it's reckless for Nixon to talk about this when there are obvious flaws in his facts."
In Tuesday's press conference Nixon built upon a campaign that already includes accusations of Bond commuting the sentences of 92 rapists and 55 murderers. Nixon said Bond granted more than 150 pardons during his terms as governor.
"Some of these pardons were blatant political favors," Nixon said. "They were clearly inappropriate ... it was influence peddling -- pure and simple."
Nixon highlighted seven pardons that he claimed exemplified political patronage by Bond. A spokesperson from his campaign office conceded they had conducted no research to determine if the pardons were previously approved by Missouri's Probation and Parole Board.
Furthermore, Nixon's campaign office also acknowledged that they could not rule out the possibility that Bond simply granted pardons to everyone recommended by the Probation and Parole Board.
Documents that the Nixon office provided indicated at least three of the seven highlighted pardons were previously approved by the Probation and Parole Board. Tuesday, neither side was certain if the remaining pardons were also recommended by the Board.
To validate his claim of political patronage, Nixon made use of examples like Edwin Erlbacher. Nixon said Bond granted Erlbacher a pardon from a felony stealing conviction because of Erlbacher's ties to Gene Huckstep, Bond's Cape Girardeau County Coordinator in 1982.
"Nixon tries to call the whole motivation for the pardon political," Hubbard said. "But several other judges and prosecutors supported the release of Erlbacher."
Still, Nixon's corner contends Bond's pardons are relevant to the 1998 race. Nixon said the memos and letters released contradict misleading television commercials sponsored by the Bond office saying the senator has zero-tolerance on crime.
"To stare in the eyes of victims and be unwilling to apologize for his stand on crime is highly relevant," Nixon said.