Bain “Offshoring” Is A Big Deal Because Voters Want American Manufacturing

Dave Johnson

The big brouhaha over when Mitt Romney left Bain Capital began when the Obama campaign accused Romney/Bain of offshoring jobs. Romney called Obama a “liar,” saying he left Bain before the company did most of its offshoring. Then a Washington Post investigation found that Bain “pioneered” offshoring. Romney doubled down on “I wasn’t there.”

A new poll shows why it was so important to Romney to appear to not be part of the offshoring of jobs.

This is just out from the Alliance for American Manufacturing: New National Poll: Voters see manufacturing as the “irreplaceable core of a strong economy.”,

Voters say that creating jobs, specifically in manufacturing, and strengthening manufacturing in the U.S., are top economic priorities, according to the findings of a new poll and focus groups conducted by a bipartisan team of prominent Republican and Democratic pollsters.

By a sizable margin, voters rate manufacturing as the industry “most important to the overall strength of the American economy” and support a national strategy to restore America’s global leadership in manufacturing.

… “It’s striking how clearly voters—Republican and Democrat alike—see strengthening manufacturing as the key to rebuilding the U.S. economy,” said Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), a non-partisan, non-profit partnership of leading U.S. manufacturers and the United Steelworkers (USW) that commissioned the poll.

From the press release, the key point,

Voters of all affiliations overwhelmingly support getting tough with China, even when posed with the argument that getting tougher on China’s trade violations could “start a trade war.” Fully 83 percent of those surveyed also had an unfavorable view of companies that outsource jobs to China. In contrast, voters maintain extremely favorable views of goods manufactured in the U.S. (97 percent favorable).

Poll results like this would certainly explain why Romney is scrambling to disassociate himself from Bain Capital after reports they were heavily involved in the offshoring of our jobs. Voters understand what has been going on, and are very, very ready — 83 percent worth of ready — to punish someone.

Romney/Bain Offshoring?

The “when did Romney leave Bain” controversy began with a June 20 ad by the Obama campaign that said, Romney “shipped jobs to China and Mexico:”

On June 21 the Washington Post Fact Checker tried to help the Romney campaign, with 4 Pinocchios for Obama’s newest anti-Romney ad

But then, on June 22, the (very same) Washington Post published an expose, Romney’s Bain Capital invested in companies that moved jobs overseas

Mitt Romney’s financial company, Bain Capital, invested in a series of firms that specialized in relocating jobs done by American workers to new facilities in low-wage countries like China and India.

During the nearly 15 years that Romney was actively involved in running Bain, a private equity firm that he founded, it owned companies that were pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to overseas call centers and factories making computer components, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Then the Obama campaign ran this ad:

Fact Checkers continued to try to help Romney, saying he was not at Bain after 1999. On June 29, FactCheck.org: Obama’s ‘Outsourcer’ Overreach, The president’s campaign fails to back up its claims that Romney ‘shipped jobs’ overseas says the offshoring occurred “occurred after Romney had left the company.” and “But there’s no evidence that he took any active role in Bain’s decisions after he left in February 1999.” The Washington Post Fact Checker continued to claim that Romney was not there when Bain was offshoring.

Documents Contradict Romney

On July 10, Talking Points Memo, in No, Romney Didn’t Leave Bain in 1999, turned up SEC documents from July 2000 and February 2001 in which Romney lists his “principal occupation” as “Managing Director of Bain Capital, Inc.” Romney himself had signed these documents.

On July 12 the Romney campaign ran an ad saying Obama lied when he said Romney offshored jobs:

Then, on July 12 The Boston Globe ran a story (without crediting TPM) that gained national attention, Mitt Romney stayed at Bain 3 years longer than he stated. (The Globe later gave credit to TPM.)

Government documents filed by Mitt Romney and Bain Capital say Romney remained chief executive and chairman of the firm three years beyond the date he said he ceded control, even creating five new investment partnerships during that time.

Romney has said he left Bain in 1999 to lead the winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, ending his role in the company. But public Securities and Exchange Commission documents filed later by Bain Capital state he remained the firm’s “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president.”

Also, a Massachusetts financial disclosure form Romney filed in 2003 states that he still owned 100 percent of Bain Capital in 2002. And Romney’s state financial disclosure forms indicate he earned at least $100,000 as a Bain “executive” in 2001 and 2002, separate from investment earnings.

Since then more and more documents have turned up, showing that Bain and Romney claimed that Romney was, indeed, very much involved. However, this may have been done to reassure investors and partners that the company had stable management, assuring them Romney was still running things, when he really was not, in order to get them to continue their financial relationships with the firm.

New Poll Shows Why So Much Concern

In the AAM poll, when participants were asked what they wanted Congress to focus on, the number one issue was creating jobs in the United States (91%), followed by creating manufacturing jobs in the United States (85%).

Scott Paul, executive director of Alliance for American Manufacturing, pointed out that the top-of-the-line issues for voters are American jobs and made-in-America policies. This is because voters across party lines recognize Buy American policies are essential for creating jobs (90%) and agree that the United States cannot have a strong economy unless we make things in the United States (78%).

Of those surveyed, Republicans in Congress had the lowest approval in regards to trying to improve manufacturing. Only 36 percent of voters said they’ve seen improvement in manufacturing, but recognized the Democrats in Congress as at least trying to do something about it.

Products made in China have a bad reputation primarily because of the lack of government regulation. Mark Mellman—whose company, The Mellman Group, conducted the survey of 1,200 likely general election voters—used the examples of toxic toys and food imported from Chinese factories.

When it comes to outsourcing and China’s cheating, more than two-thirds of respondents said that China’s violations of international trade rules were costing the U.S. jobs. Nearly 62 percent said that the United States should stand up to China for cheating on currency and other trade obligations. Americans want to get tough with China rather than worrying about a trade war, and this is also strong across party lines. Most of those surveyed (83 percent) had an unfavorable view of companies that outsource jobs to China and 97 percent said that they had favorable views of goods manufactured in the U.S.

The poll also showed broad support for a national manufacturing strategy, with many respondents reasoning that manufacturing jobs do not require higher education but often pay better compared to other careers with equal educational background. More of these higher paying jobs would ideally stimulate our economy.

Paul said he is optimistic about the politics of advancing a progressive manufacturing strategy. “500,000 manufacturing jobs have been added” since President Obama took office, he said; “most voters aren’t aware of that.” He points to legislation that would cite China as a currency manipulator as a sign of hope. “It has passed over multiple filibusters and shows the political currency of the issue.”


Justin Conway contributed to this post

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