From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
The closing of a DHL facility that would cost the town of Wilmington, Ohio, more than 8,000 jobs, has been a hot-button local issue that has crept into the presidential race. On Thursday, McCain met behind closed doors with a group of Wilmington residents at Wilmington College to discuss the situation at the DHL Air Park.
Now the Obama campaign is seizing on McCain's and Campaign Manager Rick Davis' role in helping foreign-owned DHL acquire the space in 2003 with a radio ad running in the crucial swing state of Ohio.
"It was McCain who used his influence in the Senate to help foreign-owned DHL buy a U.S. company and gain control over the jobs that are now on the chopping block in Ohio," an announcer says.
But is this a fair hit? It's true that, as the Cleveland Plain Dealer pointed out on Tuesday, "In 2003, Davis lobbied the Senate to accept the proposal by DHL to buy Airborne Express for $1.05 billion. Airborne Express at the time ran the airport and package-sorting facility in Wilmington."
But is that a smoking gun? Not exactly. The Plain Dealer also pointed out that the acquisition "resulted in expansion, not retraction" and "several Wilmington civic leaders said that what happened in 2003 created an economic gain for their community, lasting several years."
The president of the Ohio AFL-CIO, a union that has endorsed Obama, places the blame squarely on Mccain and Davis. "Those jobs are on the chopping block because Sen. McCain and his campaign were involved in a deal that resulted in control of those positions being shifted to a foreign corporation, and there's no getting around that," Joe Rugola told the Plain-Dealer.
But can McCain and Davis really be held responsible for job cuts five years later after the initial acquisition created growth for the town? And would an American company really have acted any differently if it found a way to cut cost to keep steady or increase profit?
Here's the script:
ANNCR: July 9. 2008. Portsmouth, Ohio. Here's what John McCain said about DHL's plans to eliminate 8,200 Ohio jobs.
JOHN MCCAIN (from Ohio town hall): I gotta look you in the eye and give you straight talk. I don't know if I can stop it or not or if it will be stopped.
ANNCR: But there's something John McCain's not telling you: It was McCain who used his influence in the Senate to help foreign-owned DHL buy a U.S. company and gain control over the jobs that are now on the chopping block in Ohio. And that's not all: McCain's campaign manager was the top lobbyist for the DHL deal...helped push it through. His firm was paid $185,000 to lobby McCain and other Senators. Now 8,200 Ohioans are facing layoffs, and foreign-owned DHL doesn't care.
JOHN MCCAIN (from Ohio town hall): I gotta look you in the eye and give you straight talk.
ANNCR: John McCain. Same old politics. Same failed policies.
BARACK OBAMA: I'm Barack Obama, candidate for President, and I approved this message. Paid for by Obama for America.