- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 28, 2004

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, John Kerry, has been vacationing in Idaho at one of several luxurious getaways owned by his wife, Teresa, who inherited an estimated $700 million from the Heinz ketchup fortune controlled by her late husband. Still smarting from the endorsement he recently received from the rabidly anti-Semitic Mahathir Mohamad, the former longtime Malaysian strongman, Mr. Kerry must have taken comfort from a Sunday editorial in the New York Times, which took note of “the golden day that his staff discovered Mr. Bush’s pick for the symbolic post of czar for job-saving was a businessman who was building a new factory in China.” One can almost visualize Mr. Kerry snickering in the lap of luxury provided to him by the extraordinary wealth generated for his wife by the worldwide business operations of H.J. Heinz Company, which basks in its self-styled reputation as “the most global U.S.-based food company.” (Having inherited her fortune more than a decade ago, Mrs. Heinz Kerry has no significant financial relationship with the firm today.)

By all accounts, Heinz is a remarkably successful company. However, for all the great wealth Heinz has bestowed upon the Kerry household, Mr. Kerry would do well to look in the gold-plated mirror before he seeks to further exploit the political gains he realized from the unfortunate rejection of Anthony Raimondo as the Commerce Department’s new assistant secretary for manufacturing. The widely expected appointment was canceled after Mr. Kerry’s campaign gleefully revealed that Mr. Raimondo, a Nebraska businessman, had laid off 75 of his U.S. workers in 2002 as he prepared to open a factory in China. Combined with the Kerry-induced hysteria over outsourcing, that was enough to scuttle the nomination.

It did not matter that the U.S. layoffs were necessitated by America’s economic slowdown. Nor did it matter that the plant Mr. Raimondo built in China was established solely to serve China’s booming economy and would not have jeopardized a single American job.

Interestingly, under the rules promulgated by the Kerry campaign, William Johnson, the chairman, CEO and president of Heinz, would ipso facto have been disqualified for the same Commerce position. After all, in March 2001, 10 days after Heinz revealed it would not meet its quarterly financial targets, the company announced that it would be cutting 1,900 jobs. Most of the job cuts would come from shutting down all tuna operations in Puerto Rico, whose nearly four million residents are U.S. citizens. Since early 2001, when Heinz announced it would be jettisoning nearly 2,000 jobs, the company established new operations in Mexico, Venezuela, Costa Rica, France, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and at least two locations in China, where it has owned factories for 20 years.

Nothing Heinz did was wrong. Like Mr. Raimondo’s factory in China, Heinz establishes foreign subsidiaries to serve local markets. (In fact, even if Heinz exported to the United States foreign goods that could be made more cheaply overseas — a legitimate practice it does not pursue — the company would be providing welcome benefits to American consumers.) But under the new, politicized rules being exploited by Mrs. Heinz Kerry’s husband, the CEO of the firm that bestowed nearly unimaginable wealth upon the Kerry household would qualify for the unfair vilification Mr. Kerry heaped upon another highly regarded American businessman.

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