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Which Economy Is Romney Betting On?

The candidate’s concern for American jobs doesn’t keep him from investing millions in China.

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

One way Mitt Romney claims that he will put Americans back to work, he told the Wall Street Journal, is to “crack down on cheaters like China.” China “cheats,” Romney said, because its government subidizes its businesses, steals American technology and keeps the value of its currency low so that the oceans of Chinese exports, from socks to toys to television sets, that flood into American retail stores undersell American products.

But even as Romney claims that his leading concern is putting Americans back to work, the record shows that he is making money from government-subsidized Chinese companies and from Chinese enterprises that move jobs out of the U.S. One of those companies is putting people out of work even now, as the election comes on.

Romney has investments totalling $2.25 million in three Bain Capital funds that own shares in a Chinese company, Asimco, that makes camshafts for automobiles. In 2007, Asimco closed two factories in Michigan that made camshafts and employed 500 people. Now Asimco manufactures the same products in China, on land donated by the China’s communist government.

Romney also has investments in Sensata Technologies, a Chinese manufacturer of sensors—such as air suspension and four-wheel drive pressure sensors—controls and protectors for automotive vehicles, airplanes and electric engines. Bain owns $2.6 billion worth of stock in Sensata; Romney’s tax records show that he made a charitable contribution of $405,000 worth of Sensata stock that he received as “partnership distributions” in 2010 and 2011.

Even as the election draws near, Sensata is in the process of closing its factory in Freeport, Ill. that made sensors for automobiles. In Freeport, 170 workers are being let go as the company moves operations to an area in China that has been given a special designation as an “export base” for automotive parts, a commodity that China is aggressively marketing abroad. Workers at the Freeport plant have begged Romney to try to save their jobs. In August, workers from the plant who tried to deliver a letter asking for help to Romney’s campaign headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin were first locked out, then arrested.

In recent weeks, while voters across the country were reacting to the presidential debates, the Freeport workers and their supporters set up a camp called “Bainport” across the street from the factory to protest the move; some were arrested for trying to block trucks carrying the factory’s equipment away to be shipped to China. Workers say that as Romney talks about being tough on China, the company in which he still holds massive investments—though he no longer heads it—is being tough on them. At press time, Romney had still not talked with the workers.

Romney supporters point out that President Obama, because of his service as a U.S. Senator from Illinois, has some $100,000 in an an Illinois state retirement fund that holds shares in Sensata. But that is dwarfed by Romney’s investment in the company.

Two months before Romney formally announced his candidacy for president in 2011, the blind trust that holds his investments sold its shares in two other Chinese companies. One, Cnooc Ltd., was involved in a multi-billion-dollar deal to develop a gas field in Iran. Romney’s trust first invested in the company in 2009, after news of its business with Iran had broken. The trust sold its shares in Cnook Ltd. in August, 2011.•

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