This week, the Koch Brothers funded American for Prosperity began a $1.4 million ad campaign attacking Democratic Senate candidate over jobs losses in Wilmington. Freshman Republican Rob Portman, coincidentally, had just wrapped up a social media campaign testing web ads on attacking Strickland on the economy and had publicly stated it felt bringing up Wilmington was the strongest line of attack shortly before the Koch Brothers group put such an ad on TV.
As the Cleveland Plain Dealer pointed out, the Koch Brothers ad is (shocked face) a bit misleading about the facts on Wilmington. The Plain Dealer pointed out that nobody believe there was any way for the Strickland Administration to know beforehand of DHL’s decision to close the Wilmington Air Park and prevent it. But Strickland, along with Ohio Republicans, began a massive, but unsuccessful, lobbying campaign to try to prevent the closure and then did everything within their power to help the people of Wilmington. By using Wilmington, the Koch Brothers and Portman are trying to present Wilmington in a light that was proven false five years ago.
While the ad presents the jobs losses as the result of job migrating out of the state, the Plain Dealer points out “that criticism rarely addresses the national recession that contributed or the fact that Ohio’s unemployment rate was improving in Strickland’s final months.” In fact, we pointed out, back in 2010, that using the best data available, the best case Portman and the Republicans could make is that less than 2% of the jobs lost during the recession in Ohio could be attributed to moving jobs out of Ohio. That means over 98% of the jobs simply vanished as a result of the global financial meltdown on 2008-2009. The closure of DHL moved the work to Kentucky, but the jobs already existed there. The jobs at DHL didn’t leave; they vanished.
But worse, the ad ignores the bipartisan leadership Strickland demonstrated to help Wilmington deal with the sudden and unexpected loss of 8,000 jobs. In the same year as DHL announced it was planning on closing Wilmington, the Strickland Administration secured an economic development deal to create over 400 jobs at the airpark.
Not only did Strickland do that and aid in a bipartisan effort to secure federal training assistance (over $11 million) to provide funding to help retrain those unemployed DHL workers for new positions, but the Strickland Administration also got DHL to donate the air park to the community so the community would be in a position to utilize it immediately for economic development. At the time, it was called the single largest private donation for economic development in the country.
Here’s what one Republicans said about Strickland’s efforts in Wilmington to secure the air park:
“Let us never forget June 2 as the day we turned the corner,” — Randy Riley, then a Clinton County commissioner, now Wilmington’s Mayor. [Source: Dayton Daily News (6/3/10), “DHL Donates Wilmington Air Park.”]
As a result of Strickland’s efforts by 2010, Clinton County went from seeing its unemployment rate go up 7.8 points over the course of 2009 to a peak of 20.1% by January 2010 to a drop of five points over the course of 2010. In 2010, thanks to the bipartisan efforts of Ted Strickland, Clinton County saw the sharpest drop during a year in its unemployment it’s seen yet since the DHL closure. In fact, it was the largest drop in Clinton County’s unemployment rate since at least 1990.
What has Rob Portman done as Senator the last five years for Wilmington? Well, not much except use Wilmington as a political backdrop to try to criticize President Obama on the economy in ’12 and now again to criticize Ted Strickland before the ’16 elections. Beyond that, as an United States Senator, Portman did vote twice to cut funding for the very foreign trade training programs that were used to provide training for the displaced workers at Wilmington.
Rob Portman’s official office, not his campaign, just recently did a five-day “jobs tour” designed to highlight Portman’s record on jobs. It featured a stop at a Ford auto plant where the United Auto Workers were able to reach a deal that has resulted in 1,000 manufacturing jobs to return from Mexico (Portman’s involvement…. none.) Conspicuously absent? Any stop for the people of Wilmington.
The facts are that while Ted Strickland wasn’t responsible for DHL’s closure he was an integral role in the efforts to help the people there and to start Wilmington’s recovery, just as he did for all of Ohio. That is a stark contract to Rob Portman and his billionaire patrons the Koch Brothers only use Wilmington as a political backdrop for partisan attacks while continue to push and promote the very policies that allow foreign investors to do precisely what DHL did to countless other communities across the country.
We can either have an United States Senator who is willing to work in a bipartisan manner to help all of our communities no matter how steep the challenge, or an ideologue who sits on the political sidelines and only considers the people of Wilmington as nothing more than political campaign ad fodder while he does nothing to help them. The mere fact that the Koch Brothers are already spending money to try to defeat Ted Strickland shows how much of a threat Strickland is to their agenda.