Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO) confirmed in a press conference yesterday that a man identified as a suspect in an alleged arson at Carnahan’s campaign office is a former paid campaign worker.
The man, Chris Powers, was arrested but has not been charged in the arson case. In a phone interview this morning with TPMmuckraker, Powers denied having any involvement with what local reports have described as a “fire bombing.”
“I’m innocent,” Powers said. “I was at home when Congressman Carnahan’s office was fire bombed. I have nothing to do with it.”
In the early morning hours of Aug. 17, someone broke a back window in Carnahan’s St. Louis campaign office and set a small fire, which caused minor damage in the office. Police arrested a suspect some hours later. They released him the next day, but have not divulged the suspect’s name. Police say it is up to the prosecutor’s office whether to issue a warrant; without it they can’t hold a suspect or release his name.
Powers’ identity was first reported yesterday by the St. Louis blog Gateway Pundit. After the claim gathered steam online, Carnahan held a press conference and confirmed that Powers is a former campaign worker. Carnahan said Powers was paid as a canvassing worker for about a week, but was fired for “not doing his job.”
When TPM asked Powers if he was the person initially arrested by police, Powers referred us to his lawyer, who was not immediately available for comment.
As several blogs have reported, Powers wrote a reader blog at TPMCafe under the name Ripper McCord. (Any TPM reader can create a reader blog and comment on the site, and Powers is not affiliated with TPM.)
Late update: Powers’ lawyer, Susan Roach, confirms that Powers had been arrested in connection with the fire. Roach also said that Powers has been “disgruntled” because he was having issues getting paid by the campaign.
“He’s basically a disgruntled employee,” she said. “And perhaps a convenient scapegoat.”
Carnahan’s campaign also got back to us. A spokeswoman said they don’t want to name names or confirm that Powers is the person questioned by police. However, she did confirm that Powers worked for the campaign.
[This story has been edited from the original.]