It’s getting personal: Foxx, Carter campaigns hurl insults, accusations

by Keith Barber

Last Friday, Roy Carter, Democratic nominee in the 5th Congressional District race, issued a scathing press release after incumbent US Rep. Virginia Foxx voted for the second time against the $700-billion financial bailout package aimed at addressing the nation’s economic crisis. The measure passed the House by a vote of 263-171, but that didn’t stop Carter from lambasting Foxx for opposing the bill.

“Virginia Foxx’s vote against the financial rescue plan is yet another example of her putting politics above the people,” Carter said. “Virginia Foxx helped create the problem and now she’s unwilling to be part of the solution. She cares more about getting re-elected than she cares about the economy of the district.”

Carter’s statement reflects the highly negative tone the race for the 5th District seat has taken in recent weeks. In the same press release, Carter criticizes Foxx for voting against the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008. The measure, which passed the House by a vote of 312-112 earlier this year, prohibits creditors from using information obtained in consumer reports or from credit scores to raise interest rates on consumers. The bill also requires credit-card companies to give advance notice of rate increases, and prohibits double-cycle billing.

A quick check of the congressional record affirms Carter’s assertion on Foxx’s vote. Foxx voted against House Resolution 5244. However, the Carter campaign has made other statements in recent days that hint at the fact the campaign for the 5th District seat is devolving into an exchange of insults and accusations.

For example, Ryan Eller, Carter’s campaign manager, has been highly critical of a trip Foxx made to Taiwan in 2007. Eller accuses Foxx of attempting to pave the way for a free-trade agreement between the US and the Taiwanese government at a time when signs of the current domestic economic crisis were clearly visible.

“I find it extremely troubling that a representative from northwest North Carolina would travel to a country like Taiwan during the buildup of what has now become an extraordinary housing crisis while she’s voting against trying to secure the financial markets,” Eller said. “She is going and staying in five-star hotels paid for by the Taiwanese government and coming back and voting for continuing resolutions that imply that we would like to move toward a free trade agreement with Taiwan.”

The congresswoman’s campaign manager, Todd Poole, acknowledged that Foxx visited Taiwan last year, but said the purpose of the trip was to improve US-Taiwan relations, not to lay groundwork for a free trade deal.

“There’s no free trade agreement with Taiwan,” Poole said. “It’s a flat-out lie.”

The congressional record reveals that in September 2007 Foxx voted to support a bill that encouraged China to remove all foreign investment ownership caps on banking, life insurance, asset management and securities. Foxx has never supported a free trade agreement with Taiwan.

In response to Eller’s statement, Poole accused Carter of taking campaign contributions from the adult-sex industry, citing cash and in-kind donations from his Roy Carter’s son, Todd. Campaign finance records reveal Todd Carter has donated nearly $600 to his father’s campaign. Todd Carter’s employer is listed as Sportsheets International of Laguna Beach, Calif. Todd Carter is listed as the director of sales and marketing on the company’s website, which describes itself as a “couples-oriented adult novelty industry.”

Eller responded, “Todd is a great, compassionate human being. To my knowledge, the purpose of the company, which was founded by a couple to try to curb divorce rates. That’s an honorable thing to do.

 “This is not a issue that matters to voters,” Eller added. “Our campaign has never attacked Virginia Foxx’s personal life. I don’t think that has a place in politics. Roy Carter has made a pledge to only attack her voting record.”

Eller also stated that Foxx voted against funding the Appalachian Regional Development, but the congressional record indicates otherwise. Foxx voted for the Appalachian Regional Development Act Amendments of 2006, which would have appropriated $510.9 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission, a state-federal agency that promotes regional development in Appalachia. The Carter campaign’s highly questionable accusations notwithstanding, Eller, in fact, believes the Foxx campaign has lowered the level of discourse.

“It’s their goal to get down in the dirt,” he said. “Foxx is desperate. Her approval numbers are barely above 40 percent.”

In August, Public Policy Polling conducted a survey on behalf of the Roy Carter for Congress campaign. The survey found Foxx leading 51-41, but a number of other facts that indicate a close race. According to PPP, Virginia Foxx has only a 45-percent approval rating with voters in the district, well below the 50-percent threshold that is considered safe for an incumbent. In addition, 49 percent of the survey’s respondents picked the economy as their biggest concern from a list of eight major issues; among those voters Carter leads Foxx 48 percent to 45 percent.

“If Carter is able to keep the campaign focused on the bread-and-butter issues that most affect the daily lives of people in the 5th District, he will have the upper hand,” states the PPP website.

Despite the mudslinging and barrage of attack ads, Eller said the campaign is about voters from the 5th District choosing between change and more of the same. Voters will not be distracted from the issues that matter most — the economy, health care and the war in Iraq, Eller contends.

“If we vote for the same thing in the Fifth District, we’re going to get the same sorry results,” he said. “The citizens of the Fifth District are far more intelligent than our opponent gives them credit for. This year, I don’t think they’ll be fooled. They understand if they vote the same people to Washington, they’ll get the same results…. Voters are going to see through all this stuff.”

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