Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

September 29, 2012

Truth Squad: No foul on Stabenow ad

Michigan truth squad analysis: "Companies like Mine"

Who: Stabenow for Senate

What: TV and Web ad

Truth Squad call: No foul

Questionable statement: "At American Expedition Vehicles we have over 500 employees and their jobs are in jeopardy due to counterfeit parts coming out of China."

American Expedition Vehicles is a Livonia-based company that builds custom vehicles and products for the Jeep aftermarket. The company says it has been a victim of low-quality knockoffs from a variety of countries, including China, Germany and Malaysia.

"Counterfeit products harm our customers and our company. Due to quality concerns, many of the counterfeits we have found entering the market can impact vehicle performance and make them potentially dangerous to operate," the company says on its website.

It has posted photos of counterfeit products, including information about a Chinese counterfeit front bumper. Michigan has lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs over the past decade, and both business leaders and many members of Congress on both sides of the aisle say counterfeit parts and unfair trade practices contribute to the problem.

Questionable statement: "That's why Debbie Stabenow wrote the bill cracking down on unfair Chinese trade violations and currency manipulation that hurt American businesses." When the narrator asserts that Stabenow "wrote the bill," he would more accurately say she "wrote a version of a bill." The screen cites S1830 of 2011 (The Protect American Innovation Act) and S1027 of 2009 (The Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act), both sponsored by Stabenow.

A bipartisan version of the currency reform law passed the Senate, but not the House. The Protect American Innovation Act hasn't been considered, although Senate committee chairman Sen. Max Baucus said he would take it up later this year after Stabenow agreed not to try to attach the measure to other legislation.

Questionable statement: "Senator Stabenow understands the threat of counterfeit products coming out of China and she is working with companies like mine all over Michigan saving manufacturing jobs."

Stabenow has worked a great deal on legislation to combat unfair trade practices, including counterfeiting and currency manipulation. In 2006, she called for the creation of an international trade prosecutor's office. She has proposed an American Competitiveness Plan that targets currency manipulation, creates a trade enforcement office to hold countries accountable for violating trade laws and strengthens penalties for counterfeiting and technology theft.

When she introduced her television ad in Grand Rapids, she had the backing of a Republican businessman, Alexander Dodds' CEO Mark Chappell, who says his company has been hurt by Chinese counterfeiting and he is supporting her because of her efforts to fight counterfeiting.

There is disagreement over whether Stabenow's approach would be effective. For instance, on the issue of currency sanctions, Derek Scissors, a research fellow in Asia Economic Policy at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, contends the jobs would instead shift to other low-wage countries such as Bangladesh or Vietnam, rather than come back to the U.S.

Overall impression: In launching her first television ad of her re-election campaign against Republican Pete Hoekstra, Stabenow casts herself as a fighter for Michigan businesses and workers. After a decade of struggle, Michigan's recovery is under way, and Stabenow believes fair trade practices will serve to strengthen the economy. It's largely a noncontroversial ad because no one will support counterfeiting.

Foul or no foul: No foul.

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