WASHINGTON -- For days, Republicans have struggled to defend Mitt Romney against attacks from President Barack Obama's campaign labeling the presumptive GOP nominee an "outsourcing pioneer" who shipped U.S. jobs overseas during his private equity career.
But the Republican National Committee launched a website Tuesday morning that workers said they hope will shift momentum in the political debate largely aimed at winning voters in Rust Belt states including Ohio.
The RNC website is labeled "Obamanomics Outsourced," and focuses on "how Obama shipped the recovery overseas." It is a catalogue of how U.S. taxpayer money spent as part of the $831 billion economic stimulus in 2009 went to foreign-owned companies, or to companies that hired workers overseas.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus plans to show up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa -- an hour before Obama is set to host two campaign events in the same city -- to promote the website and to hit back at the president on the issue.
The RNC site has examples of U.S. jobs being outsourced to 22 countries. General Electric, which got more than $1.2 billion in stimulus funds, is mentioned more than once. There is a claim that a British private equity firm, Terra Firma, "received over $40 million in stimulus funds through an American wind consortium it bought just days before the stimumuls [sic] funds were awarded."
There's also a note about the Environmental Protection Agency giving the government of Indonesia $1.5 million for a "Breathe Easy Jakarta" program intended to reduce pollution in its capital city.
But most of the projects and companies mentioned are in alternative energy, specifically wind power. And even though independent fact-checkers have knocked down some claims made by Republicans about taxpayer money going overseas through the stimulus, there is evidence that it did in fact happen.
As early as the fall of 2009, there were reports of stimulus money financing jobs in other countries. The Investigative Reporting Workshop reported that 84 percent of the first $1 billion awarded in wind power grants -- $849 million -- had gone to foreign companies, creating as many as 4,500 overseas jobs.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has battled the Obama White House on the issue, resisting administration arguments that giving U.S. government dollars to wind turbine manufacturers in other countries will help create a U.S. market and manufacturing base that will render such expenditures unnecessary in the future.
Republicans have been searching for ways to stem the political damage being caused by the Obama campaign's attacks on Romney, which have called the Republican an outsourcer because of his time at Bain Capital, a private equity firm. Obama has made the criticism a centerpiece of his stump speech, and his campaign is running TV ads slamming Romney on the issue. FactCheck.org said some of the Obama campaign's claims of Romney outsourcing are "untrue" and "others are thinly supported."
Some of the Republican claims of stimulus money going overseas have been similarly questioned by FactCheck, which acknowledged "it’s fair to say that the stimulus money likely created some jobs overseas."
"It’s not fair to say that all of that money went to foreign jobs," FactCheck said.
But in the last few days, the Obama campaign has shifted its fire once again and has focused criticisms on Romney's personal finances, accusing him of storing money in offshore bank accounts.
Romney responded Monday night in a radio interview in Iowa that his investments are handled by a trustee who "follows all U.S. laws."
"All the taxes are paid, as appropriate. All of them have been reported to the government. There’s nothing hidden there," Romney said.
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