Carnahan uses audio of Clay's voice in attack mailer, calls for debates
U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan is deploying a new attack tool – his rival’s own voice – as Carnahan seeks to portray U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay Jr. as more beholden to donors than to his constituents.
On Thursday, Carnahan campaign manager Maurice Henderson unveiled a campaign mailer fashioned like a greeting card with an audio chip. Only instead of a song, the audio captures Clay speaking at a 2008 convention in St. Louis of the rent-to-own industry.
In the audio, Clay states, “And one of the things that I’m most proud of is our success in advancing the vital interests of the rent-to-own industry…I will always do my best to protect what really matters to you [the Rent-to-Own industry].”
The audio also includes a woman’s voice disparaging Clay’s comment.
On the front of the card is a photo of Clay and the headline, “The secret tape Lacy Clay Jr. doesn’t want you to hear.”
The card states inside that Clay has received more than $80,000 in campaign donations from the rent-to-own industry.
Henderson said 15,000 of the cards will be sent to targeted voters in the 1st District, including those deemed most likely to vote in the Aug. 7 primary. Another 45,000 similar mailers, but without the audio, will be sent out to other prospective voters in the district.
Henderson said the talking political mailer is believed to be the first of its kind used in a Missouri campaign, and may even be a first nationally this election cycle. “We think this piece of direct mail speaks to the question, ‘What are the priorities of Mr. Clay?’’ Henderson said.
Clay's campaign said in a statement that he "has never supported unscrupulous lenders. Clay’s real record of fighting predatory lending goes back to the Missouri state house and extends to the current Congress. Carnahan’s ad intentionally deceives and confuses voters about the rent-to-own industry and the very different pay day loan industry."
Clay has said that it is improper for Carnahan to equate the rent-to-own industry -- which rents furniture and electronic equipment to customers -- to the payday loan industry, which both congressmen oppose.
Clay says rent-to-own is often the only way low-income people can get furniture and televisions. Carnahan says the 400 percent interest rates charged by some rent-to-own firms is too high.
Clay also notes that Carnahan has cosponsored at least two of Clay's bills dealing with the rent-to-own industry. Henderson said Carnahan withdrew his name once he discovered that the bills helped the industry.
Carnahan is leveling similar attacks in a TV ad that began airing Wednesday night on St. Louis stations. Clay's campaign said, "Carnahan’s ad intentionally tries to deceive and confuse voters about the rent-to-own and pay day loan industry."
Clay also is airing a TV ad, but it is a positive spot that doesn't mention his rival.
Meanwhile, Henderson also announced that Carnahan has accepted three invitations to debate: One that he said was organized by the League of Women Voters on July 28; a radio debate on July 30 on KMOX (1120), hosted by Charlie Brennan; and a televised debate July 30 on KETC-TV, Channel 9.
Clay's camp says that, so far, it has only agreed to the KMOX debate. The other two remain under consideration.