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Chrysler, GM, UAW, Brown Rebuke Romney's Auto Ads
NORTH JACKSON, Ohio – Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's comments, television and radio ads that insinuate Chrysler's Jeep division would relocate jobs from Ohio to China drew sharp rebukes Tuesday from Chrysler, General Motors and labor leaders, and provided a flashpoint for U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown's campaign as it rolled through the Mahoning Valley.
"I find it offensive and disingenuous that they would run an ad saying things that are clearly untrue about autos, about China," Brown said after addressing supporters at the union hall of United Auto Workers Local 1112, which represents 3,500 hourly workers at the Lordstown Complex.
Brown's "Road to Ohio Jobs Tour" -- replete with a caravan of Lordstown-made Chevrolet Cruzes and Jeeps produced in Toledo -- was on its fifth day of a seven-day trek across the state touting the auto rescue engineered by President Barack Obama and supported by Brown.
"It was so clearly the right thing to do," Brown said of the auto bailout. "I think the other side is desperate."
Brown is seeking re-election to his US. Senate seat and is opposed by Republican Josh Mandel, the Ohio treasurer.
On Friday, Romney made a speech in Defiance where he referenced a blog posting that inferred Jeep would be shipping jobs from Ohio to China. The Romney campaign continued the line of attack over the weekend when it launched television ads that echoed his comments in Defiance, and followed up with companion radio spots launched this week.
The TV ad states that Obama "took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians, who are going to build Jeeps in China." (WATCH ROMNEY AD)
A new radio ad launched by the Romney camp suggests that auto bailout resulted in more jobs being created in China than the United States.
"Barack Obama says he saved the auto industry. But for who? Ohio or China?" the radio ad says. "Under President Obama, GM cut 15,000 American jobs, but they are planning to double the number of cars built in China, which means 15,000 more jobs for China. And now comes word that Chrysler plans to start making Jeeps in, you guessed it, China."
The ads and Romney's comments have sparked a chorus of denials and denouncements, include a rebuttal from the Obama campaign. (WATCH OBAMA AD)
On Tuesday, Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne addressed the issue in an email to employees. "I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position: Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China," he wrote. "
More than $500 million is being invested to retool Chrysler's Toledo Jeep plant, and Chrysler plans other investments at plants in Detroit and Belvedere, Ill. And Chrysler intends to invest $1.7 billion in its North American operations, Marchionne noted.
"Jeep assembly lines will remain in operation in the United States and will constitute the backbone of the brand. It is inaccurate to suggest anything different," Marchionne said (READ EMAIL).
"They're adding 1,100 jobs [in Toledo]," said Dave Green, president of UAW Local 1714, which represents 1,000 workers at the Lordstown stamping plant. "That they're moving jobs to China is just not true. Our base is very fired up about this and we're making people know it's a complete fabrication."
GM was even sharper in its criticism.
"We've clearly entered some parallel universe during these last few days," GM spokesman Greg Martin told the Detroit Free Press (READ STORY). "No amount of campaign politics at its cynical worst will diminish our record of creating jobs in the U.S. and repatriating profits back to this country."
In Youngstown on Monday, Vice President Joe Biden and former president Bill Clinton took Romney to task on the remarks. "Have they no shame?" Biden exclaimed.
Romney spent Tuesday in Kettering at a relief event to raise money for those affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Romney’s auto bailout ads precipitated a hailstorm of criticism from the UAW at the Brown campaign event Tuesday, which took on the atmosphere of an old-fashioned, charged up, get-out-the-vote rally.
"They're going to lie. They're going to cheat. They're going to steal. They're going to do everything they can do to take Ohio out of the win column for President Obama," thundered UAW International President Rob King.
"These lies are so outrageous, especially about China," King said, pointing to the efforts of Bain Capital, the capital investment firm once run by Romney. "What did [Bain] do? They took American jobs. They took American companies and they shut them down. They really made their fortunes off the misfortunes of workers, cutting workers wages, shipping their jobs to China."
Democrats depict the new Romney ads as a critical mistake in Ohio, a state considered the most pivotal in the presidential race.
"I think Romney's hung himself on this," said U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-17. "It was such a blatant lie, and the power of it is that he wasn't just called out by President Obama, or Sherrod, or me – he got called out by Chrysler."
As a result, voters are likely to see Romney as a "typical politician" who will do anything and say anything to get elected, Ryan continued.
"My opponent called me un-American for voting for the auto rescue," Brown said. "My opponent and others opposed the auto rescue and it's working so well, that they've just acted desperately, and it's too bad, because it's just not been honest."
Polls suggest Brown and Mandel are in a tight race, which Brown attributes to outside money flooding into his rival's campaign from special interests such as the oil industry.
In a statement, Mandel called Brown an example of a career politician who continues to tow the Washington insider line.
"Sherrod Brown says one thing in the Mahoning Valley, and another thing in Washington," Mandel said. "What you won't hear from Sen. Brown is that he's a 38-year career politician who's voted for taxpayer-funded bailouts, a failed stimulus, and a government takeover of health care. "
Brown says the ripple effect of the auto rescue reverberated throughout the economy, from second-and third-tier suppliers to hardware stores. "We knew there were 800,000 people in this state directly or indirectly connected with the auto industry," he explained.
The Cruze, for example, is manufactured in Lordstown, but its engine is produced in Ohio, its transmission is manufactured in Toledo, plastic parts are produced in Akron, components for an airbag are made in Brunswick, the steel is produced in Cleveland, and the seats are manufactured in Lordstown, he said.
"The auto rescue was the beginning of the Ohio comeback," Brown said. "Our unemployment rate, since the auto rescue took hold, has dropped three and-a-half points. It's not enough. We still have too many people unemployed in Niles, Girard, Austintown and Youngstown, but we're moving in the right direction."
Copyright 2012 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.