Hand-Me-Down District

After 32 years, Bill Clay is retiring from his congressional seat. He wants to leave it to his son, but a crowded, eccentric field of candidates is contesting the will.

In a June 3 article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Clay was quoted saying, "I have no relationship with that company in Georgia," referring to ARG Associates Inc. But the release of Clay's W-2 tax forms for 1995, 1996 and 1997 showed that he received $22,000 from ARG Associates during that three-year period. The federal indictments against Dino Rodwell, the owner, and Calvin Rodwell, a sales representative for the company, concern dealings over two years, 1994 and 1995. In '95, Clay's W-2 form shows, he received $1,000 from ARG Associates, though his campaign claims it was for work done in Missouri for ARG Medical of Missouri Inc. Clay says he was a sales representative for ARG Medical of Missouri, dealing with Missouri nursing homes.

State Rep. Rita Days (D-Bel-Nor), a Dooley backer, has asked the Missouri Ethics Commission to investigate Clay's failure to report his 20 percent ownership of ARG Medical of Missouri and his income from ARG Associates Inc. on personal financial- disclosure forms. Clay released his W-2 forms in response to Dooley's divulging his past seven federal tax returns.

Clay says he has no plans to reciprocate. "That was Dooley's prerogative to release his tax return. It's my prerogative not to," says Clay. "I release mine annually to the IRS. That's who deserves to get them, the IRS."

Despite the fact that his former business partners are under federal indictment, Clay seems puzzled that he's drawing flak on this issue. He has not been indicted, and he says he is not under investigation.

"My territory, under my agreement with ARG, was Missouri. I had no idea what the company's operations were in Georgia or anywhere else. My territory was solely Missouri. My board membership was not with ARG Inc., it was with ARG of Missouri. What's so difficult about figuring this thing out?" Clay asks. "I didn't know what they were doing. I don't know what those operations consisted of in Georgia or anywhere else, only in Missouri."

Dooley's camp doesn't see it that way. "For three years, he received income from the indicted company, but he claims it was for work done for the other company," says Dooley campaign manager Lee Brotherton. "If he had nothing to hide, he would disclose his tax returns for those years."

Another recent bump in the road for Clay was a July 3 letter from James O'Mara, who is both a St. Louis County Council member and business manager for Local 562 of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union. O'Mara was a supporter of Lacy Clay's, but in the letter to Clay, he withdrew his support and urged other union members to do the same.

In his letter, O'Mara accused Clay of being only interested in the city's welfare and not concerned about the county. "I can no longer support your actions," O'Mara wrote. "Almost 2/3 of the 1st Congressional District is located in St. Louis County, and if you are elected I fear County residents would have no representation." O'Mara cited Clay's opposition to a proposed casino in Lemay -- which is located just outside the county's boundary with the city of St. Louis -- as one example of Clay's bias in favor of the city: "Had the county subscribed to that same philosophy, the city would not be the home of the Rams, would not have a new convention center, nor a football stadium. It was County Council members who endorsed the financial commitment that the county had to make in order for those projects to move forward."

Clay seems unfazed by O'Mara's criticism. To more than one audience since O'Mara's letter was sent out, Clay has made a point of saying he has had the city's interests at heart, then adding that once he's elected by county voters, he'll look out for them, too.

"His union sent us $5,000, his international, and he wrote the letter to request the money," Clay says of O'Mara's defection. He believes his former supporter's reaction has to do with Clay's appearance before the County Council the previous week to oppose changes in the county health clinics. Does he think O'Mara is miffed about that? "I couldn't care less," says Clay. "I got the money."

Warren sees it not as unethical or weird but as right and proper that the endorsements that were the father's should be visited upon the son. "Clay has been one of the unions' main go-to guys in the U.S. Congress for three decades," he says. "It's a matter of loyalty. They do owe something to Lacy, because Clay Sr. has been so loyal to labor. When he says, 'This is a favor I want: I want you to back my son' -- and they back off? The Pipefitters Union backs off? Give me a break. There's something wrong there."

Another anti-Lacy Clay letter making the rounds comes from Fran Brady, who was a state representative in North County's 73rd District for 18 years before moving to St. Charles. Brady claims Clay became angry and used profanities at a Jefferson City restaurant when Brady told Clay he was going to support Dooley. Brady wrote that "Sen. Clay informed me in a threatening tone that his campaign was going to 'register 50,000 voters' and that once he is elected to Congress 'there won't be any white elected officials left in the district.'" Clay has denied making that statement.

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