- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 11, 2004

A Nebraska businessman withdrew from consideration to be President Bush’s manufacturing czar yesterday after Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, raised questions about his company shipping U.S. jobs to foreign countries.

The Bush administration said Anthony Raimondo’s withdrawal was related to Nebraska political issues and not the flap raised by the Kerry campaign.

But the nomination had appeared in doubt after the Kerry campaign attacked the Bush administration for picking someone to guide government efforts to halt the hemorrhage of U.S. manufacturing jobs who had laid off 75 of his own workers in 2002 after announcing he was constructing a $3 million plant in China.

Mr. Raimondo, the chief executive of Behlen Manufacturing Co. of Columbus, Neb., could not be reached immediately for comment after the White House announced late yesterday that he was withdrawing from consideration for the post.

Industry insiders had expected the Bush administration to announce yesterday morning that Mr. Raimondo would lead a special office in the Department of Commerce focusing on manufacturing.

But the announcement was quickly scuttled when the Kerry campaign revealed that the firm had plans to build a $3 million factory in northwest Beijing.

“Their manufacturing czar, the person they choose, has been a poster person for the very depths of their policy that have affected millions of Americans negatively across our country,” Mr. Kerry said in a rare appearance this year in the Senate.

The issue of “outsourcing” U.S. jobs overseas has become a hot political talking point for Mr. Kerry, who has pledged to do more than Mr. Bush to stop it — or at least slow it down.

Behlen Manufacturing “said they really didn’t want to have to do this,” Mr. Kerry said, “but they were forced to do it because they didn’t get any help” from the federal government.

Laura Brown Narvaiz, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Manufacturers, a D.C. trade association where Mr. Raimondo is an active member, suggested Mr. Kerry’s claim is wrong, and that Behlen’s activities in China support jobs in the United States.

“It’s not an example of outsourcing. It actually creates jobs,” she said. “He opened up the factory in China to be closer to the customer. He doesn’t export [from China] to the United States. He produces in China for that market.”

Without such proximity, Mr. Raimondo probably would have lost customers, Mrs. Narvaiz said.

“There are jobs in the U.S. that depend on his company’s continued success in the Chinese market,” Mrs. Narvaiz said.

The flap over Mr. Raimondo arose late Wednesday afternoon when the Kerry campaign was tipped off about the executive’s possible appointment as manufacturing czar and spread the word to some reporters.

A Republican consultant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity before the White House announced the withdrawal, suggested the Bush administration should have investigated Mr. Raimondo’s history before his name was floated as a prime candidate for the job.

“This just played right into Kerry’s hands,” the consultant said. “It wouldn’t have taken much effort to find out that his company built a plant in China. They had to know it might look bad.”

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