Three years ago, with the auto industry at a near standstill, American Manufacturing Inc. of Toledo was down to its last four employees. Office manager Danielle Letellier said the office employees helped out in the shop to help process the few orders that trickled in because owner Chuck Gotberg had laid off almost everyone else. She helped to operate the drill press and the stencil. Even Ms. Letellier and the company’s chief financial officer took layoffs “When the auto industry took a hit, the orders fell off,” Ms. Letellier said. “It was a scary time.”
Before the sudden collapse of the market for automobiles in 2008 and 2009, the steel-fabricating company at 2375 Dorr St. had 125 people manufacturing industrial steel containers for automotive-parts suppliers. After nearly shutting its doors in 2009, American Manufacturing is now back with more than 100 workers and looking for additional welders.
On Monday, Mr. Gotberg hosted an event with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) and officials of the U.S. Small Business Administration to give credit to the 2009 American Recovery Act, also called the stimulus package. They also praised the 2009 $80 billion bailout of General Motors and Chrysler with the turnaround in American Manufacturing Inc. — and American manufacturing in general.
“The automotive bailout was the key to my recovery,” said Mr. Gotberg, a Northville, Mich., resident. “If General Motors and Chrysler would have failed I’m convinced the supply base in total would have failed, because once it’s dead, it’s dead. You can’t just say that some other company’s going to take the place of General Motors. They can’t.” He said he considers himself a Republican but has no political activity other than voting.
Sherrod Brown is the top target in the Senate:
Even though it’s only spring, corporate cash is already flooding into the state as big money looks to unseat one of the most progressive members of the Senate, Sherrod Brown. “They see this race as important to getting a majority in the US Senate regardless of what happens in the presidential race,” Brian Rothenberg of ProgressOhio told AlterNet. “Ohio is a swing state in a couple of ways; one is the presidency but the other is the Senate.”
And Greg Sargent at the Washington Post noted recently, “In what may come as a surprise to many Democrats, the Ohio Senate race appears to be the target of more spending by GOP-aligned outside groups than the [Elizabeth] Warren contest or any other Senate race in the country.” “They’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars weekly already but the poll numbers aren’t changing,” Rothenberg pointed out. “In a post-Citizens United world, these are businessmen, you gotta wonder whether they look at the polls.”
When Greg Sargent, with data provided by the Brown campaign, crunched the numbers, he found that nearly $5 million had been spent on ads attacking Brown alone. Those ads have been funded by groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS ($800,000) and Concerned Women for America (an anti-abortion group). The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has spent heavily on the state, and new reporting from Lee Fang at Republic Report traces funding for the Chamber back to corporations such as Coca-Cola, eBay, AETNA and Chevron. The Sunlight Foundation also reports that the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks (another right-wing group funded by the Koch brothers) have ponied up for the race (the Club for Growth is the top donor to Mandel’s campaign) and he’s gotten $283,490 from investment banks.
With so much money pouring in so early in states like Ohio, local activists are starting to wonder if the ads will make a difference in the end. Many people no longer get their news from the TV, let alone from the big major networks, and services like TiVo allow viewers to skip over ads, while web viewing provides audiences an entirely different set of advertisements. Rothenberg wondered if people in swing states are bombarded with so many negative ads that they just end up tuning them out, or decide not to trust any of them.
“It’ll be interesting to see how this goes for the rest of the year, but at some point you would think that if the numbers don’t change, despite all the commercials they’re running attacking a US Senator, that either their messaging is off, or they’re going too negative too early, or they’ve got a bad candidate and people know Sherrod Brown,” Rothenberg said.
Hopefully, it’s “all of the above”.
We have two Obama 2012 organizers in town, and I spoke to one of them last night. She said “it’s a tough county to work in because it’s so Republican, but no one has anything bad to say, ever, about Sherrod Brown”. Someone has something bad to say, because Brown rarely polls higher than 50% but that’s probably the high water mark for a liberal populist whose mere presence in the US Senate inspires this kind of sustained, massive attack from moneyed interests. I wonder myself how effective attack ads that began shortly after Christmas for an election the following November will be, and whether at some point this crazy-expensive attack from 30,000 feet just becomes a dumb investment.