In one of the toughest attacks of the 2012 campaign, a pro-Obama super PAC released a battleground ad Tuesday that attempts to link Mitt Romney to the death of a former Kansas City steelworker's wife.
Romney's campaign responded harshly, calling the ad a "contemptible effort" to conceal President Obama's economic record.
But the ad marks a steady escalation in recent weeks in the charges being flung by both sides -- particularly by the super PACs, which are not technically an organ of the campaigns.
The Priorities USA ad focuses on the story of Joe Soptic, a former worker at GST Steel. He was among those affected when the firm declared bankruptcy in 2001, following the takeover by Romney's Bain Capital firm and other companies.
"I don't think Mitt Romney understands what he's done to people's lives by closing the plant," Soptic said in the ad. He recalled how when "Mitt Romney and Bain" closed the plant, his family lost their health care.
"A short time after that, my wife became ill. I don't know how long she was sick. And I think maybe she didn't say anything because she knew we couldn't afford the insurance," he said.
Soptic said that one day he took her to the hospital, where doctors found she had Stage 4 cancer.
"There was nothing they could do for her. And she passed away in 22 days," he said. "I do not think Mitt Romney realizes what he's done to anyone, and furthermore I do not think Mitt Romney is concerned."
The ad condenses a series of events that took place over several years, and Romney's ties to the situation are not clear.
Before the GST Steel closure, Romney left Bain in 1999 to work on the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah. There have been ongoing disputes about his involvement with Bain during that period, since he was still listed as CEO in financial documents, but the campaign has maintained he effectively left the company in 1999.
Further, Soptic's wife died in 2006, according to a Kansas City Star article from the time. This would have been several years after the plant closed down, several years after Romney left Bain and as Romney was finishing his term as Massachusetts governor.
Romney spokesman Ryan Williams rejected the premise of the ad in a written statement Tuesday.
"President Obama's allies continue to use discredited and dishonest attacks in a contemptible effort to conceal the administration's deplorable economic record. After 42 months of unemployment above 8 percent, it is clear that the president and his campaign do not have a rationale for reelection," he said.
Asked about the ad in an interview with Fox News, Romney said Tuesday he hadn't had a chance to see it and couldn't comment. He said he's come to expect almost anything from Obama's team.
So, let's see. The man loses his job when his company, owned by Bain Capital, shuts down his plant. And that was Mitt Romney's fault, because he's an evil heartless monster. Now that I've covered all that liberals will actually listen to, let's hear some of the rest of the story, courtesy of Fausta's Blog.
At the time, GST’s union blamed the company’s bankruptcy on the political class, for failing to hamstring imports. “We can’t compete against the steel imports that are being sold under cost,” said the president of GST’s union in 2001. “Our pleas fell on deaf ears in the political arena.” The Bush administration would ultimately slap on giant tariffs.
The bankruptcies were led by unionized companies that, like airlines and textiles and Detroit, had negotiated pay and benefits that helped drive their employers under. GST’s pension benefits would get passed on to the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which in 2002 received $7.5 billion in claims from the steel industry alone. The PBGC covered GST’s basic pension payouts.
The Obama ad doesn’t note that the broader company, GS Industries, employed 3,500 and that the Kansas City plant (with 750 workers) was the only one shuttered. Other plants were bought and operate today. Nor does it mention Bain’s other steel investment in the early 1990s, in an Indiana start-up called Steel Dynamics. The firm touts innovative technology and a nonunion workforce. It today reports $6.3 billion in revenue—25 times what it claimed in its 1996 IPO—and employs 6,000.
So, let's see- the government refused to put tariffs on cheap Chinese steel until 2001. Lessee, who was before GW Bush? Wasn't it Bill Clinton? So if, according to the unions, the lack of government help put them under, and the government at the time was headed by BILL CLINTON, then why isn't Soptic blaming Bill Clinton for his share? Because, just like many of his brainwashed brethren (just like my dear departed Daddy was), he's a good union man, and if the Union Bosses say it, it must be true.
Next, he "thinks " his wife was holding out on him about being sick because he didn't have insurance. Now I had a job that probably got me 1/3 of his previous take home on a good week. I had health insurance. Point being, he waited five years apparently without health insurance while his wife was getting sick. With the savings I could have had on the pay he made, I could have afforded COBRA, much less a cheaper alternative. Or, like I'm trying to do now, he could have gotten another job- even if it was for less pay. For pete's sake, the man had foundry experience! Now, I apologize for seemingly putting the guy down, but I don't think, even if he knew who Mitt Romney was before last spring, that Mitt was somehow keeping him from getting a new job with health insurance.
And the amount of Romney's influence in Bain at the time is up for debate. But let's say that Mitt was in charge of Bain, gleefully going around grinding out businesses like cigarette butts. That would not account for:
A) the heavily weighted union contracts that forced businesses like GST Steel to sag under adverse economic pressure;
B) a Democrat administration too involved in kissing up to the Chinese to protect what was left of the American steel industry;
C)Soptic's own inability to seek out work that provided health insurance, or purchasing it himself out of the savings he should have been setting aside;
D) or the fact that his poor wife died five years AFTER he lost the job.
The unfortunate thing is that the media will love on this ad, and loyal democrats will accept Soptic's words without bothering to think how really stupid it is. The undecided voters are going to be pelted by this ad and the accomanying media coverage, as they try to turn Soptic into this season's "Joe The Plumber". And some of them will say, "that poor man, look what happened to him." Too many will not even bother to do the five minutes research that I did. And of course, all the illegally voting felons, aliens, and dead people who helped put Obama in office last time certainly won't care, as long as they don't have to show their ID to vote. And every one of those people who still exercise their constitutional right to vote for Obama will be another reason why conservatives will vote for candiates who promise not to compromise.
People movin' out
People movin' in
Why, because of the color of their skin
Run, run, run, but you sho' can't hide
An eye for an eye
A tooth for a tooth
Vote for me, and I'll set you free
Rap on brother, rap on
Well, the only person talkin'
'Bout love thy brother is the preacher
And it seems,
Nobody is interested in learnin'
But the teacher
Segregation, determination, demonstration,
Humiliation, obligation to our nation
Ball of Confusion
That's what the world is today
The sale of pills are at an all time high
Young folks walk around with
Their heads in the sky
Cities aflame in the summer time
And, the beat goes on
Air pollution, revolution, gun control,
Sound of soul
Shootin' rockets to the moon
Kids growin' up too soon
Politicians say more taxes will
And the band played on
So round 'n' round 'n' round we go
Where the world's headed, nobody knows
Just a Ball of Confusion
Oh yea, that's what the world is today
Fear in the air, tension everywhere
Unemployment rising fast,
The Beatles' new record's a gas
And the only safe place to live is
On an indian reservation
And the band played on
Eve of destruction, tax deduction
City inspectors, bill collectors
Mod clothes in demand,
Population out of hand
Suicide, too many bills, hippies movin'
To the hills
People all over the world, are shoutin'
End the war
And the band played on.
-Ball Of Confusion, the Temptations, #1 on Cashbox charts 42 years ago last week.