JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri Rep. Todd Akin has backed millions of dollars in pet projects in recent years. He even proudly defended one for military armor during a television ad in his Republican Senate primary.

Now Akin has aligned himself with a group that wants to ban home-state spending items known as earmarks. And the membership of the Senate Conservatives Fund has pledged $290,000 to help finance his cash-strapped campaign against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.

Akin denies that it's a reversal and rejects any assertion of a quid pro quo for campaign cash.

But his nuanced position has opened a line of attack for McCaskill, who has been a vocal opponent of earmarks. McCaskill claims Akin's evolution undercuts his claim that he is a "principled conservative" who stands firm for his beliefs.