A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Carnahan Ad Gets VH1-Inspired Treatment


Are you a fan of VH1’s revolutionary "Pop-Up Video" program? And a political junkie? (And maybe even a St. Louis Rams fan?) Well, we have a treat for you.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch website, stltoday.com, has launched a fact-checking effort called "Pop-Up Politics." Last week, reporter Jake Wagman gave the first ad from Democratic Senate hopeful Robin Carnahan the VH1 treatment, sticking factual nuggets in the video of the ad itself, à la the popular music video show. Viewers do need some speed-reading capability at times — those bubbles pop up and disappear kind of quickly — but we found the fact-checking to be spot on. And entertaining. One pop-up interjects that 1999 was a "Great year for the Rams" — and yes, that’s totally true.

Here’s more on the Carnahan ad, which attacks Republican Rep. Roy Blunt:

Carnahan is Missouri’s secretary of state and daughter of Mel and Jean Carnahan, the former governor and senator, respectively. Her ad criticizes Blunt for voting to "deregulate Wall Street" in 1999. Blunt did vote for the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which eased banking regulations. (Voting yes on the bill was very popular — the bill passed with wide bipartisan support, 343-86 in the House, with 138 Democrats voting for it. And it was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. We also pointed this out recently when Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey was attacked for his role in the bill.) The phrase "deregulate Wall Street" may give some viewers the impression that the legislation eliminated all regulations, but that’s not correct.

The ad then gives Blunt a lot of credit — or blame, you be the judge — for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, commonly called the "bailout," which propped up failing financial institutions. The ad says Blunt "takes charge of passing the $700 billion Wall Street bailout." And that’s true.

Blunt was a lead negotiator. Others — namely President George W. Bush, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke — arguably played a greater role. But Paulson, for one, felt that Blunt’s participation was key, and that’s according to Blunt. The congressman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in November 2008 that Paulson called to tell him "this rescue effort (for the $700 billion financial rescue) appeared not to be happening ‘until you and (New Hampshire Sen.) Judd Gregg stepped up and made it happen.’ "

As we’ve mentioned before, attacking a politician for supporting a "bailout" — of any kind — is a common theme this campaign season. Worth noting is that the cost to taxpayers for TARP has been dropping rather dramatically, and it won’t cost anything close to the $700 billion figure mentioned in the ad. It’s currently expected to cost $66 billion over the life of the program, according to the latest Congressional Budget Office projections released this month. (That’s partly because of legislation that reduced the total Treasury could spend to $475 billion.) TARP’s impact on the deficit could turn out to be even less than $66 billion, as banks and automakers keep paying back the government.

Finally, the ad implies that Blunt’s work on the bailout bill garnered him financial support from "Wall Street" totaling more than $1.6 million. Not mentioned is that those donations from employees of financial institutions and their political action committees came over the course of his career, which began in 1996. Plus, Blunt’s biggest donor is a St. Louis-based bank, Edward Jones. For the record, St. Louis is about 950 miles from Wall Street.