U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum charged yesterday that state Treasurer Bob Casey has "been AWOL in the war on terrorism" by failing to ensure that state funds are not invested in firms with ties to nations linked to terrorism.
With little more than a week to go in his re-election campaign, Mr. Santorum offered the indictment of his challenger at an appearance in his Green Tree campaign headquarters with Sarah Steelman, the state treasurer of Missouri, who has led a campaign to steer her state's investments away from firms that do business with countries such as Iran and Syria.
Larry Smar, a spokesman for Mr. Casey, dismissed the assertions as "another example of Rick Santorum being unable to keep his facts straight."
He also maintained that the Republican had accepted campaign contributions from individuals or committees with corporate ties to some of the same countries spotlighted in his investment criticisms.
Mr. Santorum's attack allowed him to link two of his frequent campaign themes -- that combatting terrorism should be a central issue in this race and his assertions that Mr. Casey was generally derelict in attending to his duties as treasurer.
"He's not doing his job," Mr. Santorum insisted. "If you don't show up for work, you have a very hard time taking the initiatives that Sarah has taken in Missouri."
As treasurer, Mr. Casey is directly responsible for the investment of billions of dollars in state funds. He also sits on the boards of the state employees' and teachers' retirement funds.
The a list of investments of the two major pensions funds in companies that it said did business in Iran. They included firms such as China Petroleum and Chemical and Royal Dutch/Shell.
Citing those links, the Republican campaign charged in a statement distributed to reporters: "Bob Casey is aiding and abetting terrorism and genocide."
Mr. Santorum also complained that the treasurer's office had yet to respond to a query from his campaign demanding a list of the treasury's direct investments.
Mr. Smar responded that the attack reflected "hypocrisy" and "desperation" from a campaign trailing in the polls.
A Temple University survey published by the Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday shows the incumbent trailing Mr. Casey, 54 percent to 38 percent, with 6 percent undecided.
Mr. Smar said that the Democrat had directed investment managers in September to scrutinize the treasury's holdings for any ties to certain nations, including Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Syria and Sudan. He also noted that the teachers' retirement fund, hoping to guide its investment decisions, had passed a resolution in September calling on the Bush administration to compile a list of firms with business ties to Sudan.
Ms. Steelman said that she had been frustrated in trying to get such a list from the U.S. State Department but had instead been able to base investment decisions on similar information compiled by private analysts.
Mr. Smar maintained that it was hypocritical of the Republican to try to link terrorism to Mr. Casey through the pension investments. He noted that Mr. Santorum's campaign and political action committee had accepted contributions from executives or political committees affiliated with several of the firms that ended up on the proscribed list compiled for Ms. Steelman's Missouri investments, such as UBS and Deutche Bank.
James O'Toole can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1562.