- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 5, 2004

The Senate race in conservative South Carolina has become a referendum on outsourcing, pitting protectionist Inez Tenenbaum, a Democrat, against free-trader Rep. Jim DeMint, a Republican.

Mr. DeMint supports trade policies that critics blame for the loss of more than 50,000 jobs in this overwhelmingly Republican state since President Bush took office.

The debate could not have gotten starker than it did earlier this week when reporters discovered that Mrs. Tenenbaum was using a company that hired foreign workers to handle her conference calls with reporters.

“This lady comes on the phone and she sounds French, so the reporters start asking her all these questions,” said one person who was on the call. “It turned out, she was in Montreal.”

Mrs. Tenenbaum, the state’s popular superintendent of education, swiftly fired the company — BellSouth — and apologized for the mistake.

“Outsourcing is real and we were the victims of it,” said Tenenbaum spokesman Adam Kovacevich. “We thought we were working with a local company, and they were outsourcing their jobs abroad.”

The next day, news broke that Mr. DeMint’s campaign T-shirts were sewn in Honduras. But there was no apology from his campaign.

“The cotton in that T-shirt is from South Carolina,” DeMint spokeswoman Kara Borie said. “It was sewn in Honduras. You can’t do it without outsourcing certain jobs.”

DeMint campaign officials defended not only their campaign, but also Mrs. Tenenbaum’s for hiring the Canadians.

“She is missing the point about globalization,” Ms. Borie said. “Just because a company is outsourcing doesn’t mean that it’s not helping workers here in South Carolina.”

She said 136,700 South Carolinians work for U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies, a number Mrs. Tenenbaum’s campaign did not dispute.

“If you asked those workers about globalization, they would say that their paychecks depended on it,” Ms. Borie said.

By firing BellSouth, she said, Mrs. Tenenbaum took her business away from a company that has thousands of South Carolinians on its payroll.

But the Tenenbaum campaign wasn’t about to defend hiring foreign workers.

“Jim DeMint thinks outsourcing is great,” Mr. Kovacevich said. “It’s a wonder he hasn’t called here for the number of our conference call company.”

Of the 50,000-plus jobs lost in South Carolina since Mr. Bush took office, Mr. Kovacevich primarily blamed outsourcing. And although his boss opposes outsourcing, the Tenenbaum spokesman said, she isn’t a complete trade isolationist.

“She wants to trade with every country in the world,” he said. “But the fact is that South Carolina has gotten a raw deal for years because we haven’t been enforcing the trade deals we have in place.”

Mr. DeMint’s campaign position is that outsourcing is inevitable and that globalization on the whole is good for South Carolina. Although the campaign staffers acknowledge that jobs have been lost during the past three years, they point to statistics showing that the number of jobs in South Carolina has increased by 234,000 since 1994, when the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect and paved the way for outsourcing.

Mrs. Tenenbaum’s promises of bringing old jobs back and placing a moratorium on outsourcing is “misleading,” Ms. Borie said. “It’s political rhetoric and it’s a shame. It won’t happen and people should be honest about it.”

Anyway, the DeMint spokeswoman added, “We don’t want to go back to having textile mills in the South. There are good-paying, high-tech jobs we’d rather have.”

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