POLITICAL INSIDER: Ellsworth tries to blame Coats for closed Ind. factory

By Philip Elliott, AP
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

POLITICAL INSIDER: Job loss fuels Ind. campaign

WABASH, Ind. — Democratic Senate hopeful Brad Ellsworth blamed his Republican rival’s one-time employer for sending 800 Indiana jobs to Canada and Mexico — a criticism he later acknowledged might not stick.

Ellsworth, a two-term House member from the southwest corner of the state, met with former employees and union workers to hear their stories and then told reporters former Republican Sen. Dan Coats must explain his role in the GDX Automotive plant’s 2007 closing.

“People have the right to know the record of my opponent,” Ellsworth said, standing outside the gates as workers tore down what used to be a 13-acre factory in Wabash.

EDITOR’S NOTE — An insider’s view of this year’s elections based on dispatches from around the nation.

“This factory is on Mr. Coats’ resume,” he added.

Well, not really.

Coats, who served in the Senate from 1989 to 1999, earned $100,000 last year from Cerberus Capital Management, a hedge fund that bought the automotive company in 2004 and later shut it down. Cerberus also paid Coats’ Washington law firm, King and Spalding, an additional $40,000 over a number of years.

“He was their direct consultant and lobbyist,” Ellsworth claimed, trying to paint Coats as culpable for closing the plant. Once the county’s second largest employer, it paid 1,300 workers at its peak.

However, Ellsworth acknowledges it’s not clear Coats played a hand in shutting down the plant.

“We don’t know Mr. Coats’ direct involvement in the closing of this plant,” Ellsworth said.

But he hastened to add: “It’s the public right to know. … That’s a good question for him.”

Coats answered and then called it “another false attack.”

In lobbying disclosure reports filed during the years the hedge fund worked with GDX in Indiana, Coats’ name never appears on work for GDX or parent company Cerberus.

“If it’s Monday, it’s another false attack from the Ellsworth campaign,” Coats campaign spokesman Pete Seat said. “Consistently trailing by double digits in public polls and struggling to gain any kind of measurable traction, these desperate, convoluted attacks have become expected from Congressman Ellsworth.”

The political arm of the Service Employees International Union is going after Michigan Republican Tim Walberg, airing an ad in the former congressman’s district as he hopes to reclaim the seat.

Walberg lost a costly campaign to Rep. Mark Schauer in 2008 and is staging a rematch this year. Strategists from both parties are watching it closely, and outside groups have been looking to exert their influence in the southern Michigan district, where more than 5,000 SEIU members live.

The union is running $250,000 in ads claiming Walberg’s two-year voting history in the House left him siding with oil companies and Wall Street.

“Tim Walberg wants to go back to Congress. But what did he do to help Michigan the last time he had the job?” the announcer says in the 30-second spot that notes Walberg’s votes against the auto industry bailout and his comments in support of a Social Security overhaul that could include private accounts.

“We already gave Walberg a pink slip. This time, let’s make sure he gets the message,” the announcer says.

The federal government should extend tax cuts for everyone, including the wealthy, during “an economically devastating period,” Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina said Monday.

The former chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Co. was asked during a campaign stop in the Sacramento, Calif., suburb of Rancho Cordova if she would allow Bush-era tax cuts to expire for everyone if she could not get them extended for the wealthy. Fiorina did not say whether she agreed with House Minority Leader John Boehner’s comment that he would support renewing tax cuts for the middle class but not the wealthy if that were his only choice.

Rather, she maintained that everyone should have their tax cuts extended.

“I think this is a really simple matter. We are in the middle of a disastrous economic time here in California,” Fiorina said. “You do not raise taxes in the middle of an economically devastating period of time. Period.”

Like President Barack Obama, Fiorina’s opponent, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, has said she supports extending the tax cuts only for lower-income and middle-class taxpayers. The president on Monday repeated his opposition to extending tax cuts for those with household incomes above $250,000 — but to extend them for everybody else.

Fiorina is challenging Boxer’s bid for a fourth term in the Senate.

Quick hits:

— Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who heads the GOP’s effort to keep or win governors’ mansions, is heading to New Hampshire to help John Stephen’s bid to unseat popular Democratic Gov. John Lynch. Tickets start at $100 for breakfast with Barbour, who is a frequent name on short lists of Republicans who could seek the White House in 2012.

— Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has endorsed three Republicans running for office in Rhode Island, and his political action committee has given to two. Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC said Monday it was supporting John Loughlin and Mark Zaccaria for Congress, and is giving them both $2,500. Romney is also supporting John Robitaille, who faces a four-way race for governor against independent Lincoln Chafee, Democrat Frank Caprio and moderate Ken Block. Romney, too, is a potential 2012 presidential hopeful.

— Colorado gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo says a car knocked him off his motorcycle Sunday, but he walked away with only scrapes and bruises. Tancredo told KMGH-TV in Denver he was riding his Harley-Davidson in the Denver suburb of Littleton when he was cut off by a car entering the street from a parking lot. Tancredo, a former Republican congressman, switched his affiliation to the American Constitution Party and entered the governor’s race after saying the GOP nominee, Dan Maes, couldn’t beat Democrat John Hickenlooper.

Associated Press writer Judy Lin in Rancho Cardova, Calif., contributed to this report.

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