Wisconsin Rep. Says General Electric Asked Him To ‘Gin Up’ Phony Press Release Blaming Congress For Plant Closure

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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A Wisconsin state representative says the massive conglomerate General Electric sought to make him a pawn in its bid to force Congress to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im).

Scott Allen, who represents the 97th Assembly district, issued a statement on Monday following GE’s announcement that it is cutting 350 jobs from its Power & Water plant in Waukesha. The jobs will be shipped to Canada, where the company will build a $265 million plant within the next 20 months.

In an official statement, the company tied its decision to Congress’ refusal to re-authorize Ex-Im, the U.S.’s taxpayer-funded export credit agency. The GOP-controlled House of Representatives has declined to take up a vote on re-authorizing Ex-Im’s charter, which expired July 1.

“We believe in American manufacturing, but our customers in many cases require Export Credit Agencies financing for us to bid on projects. Without it, we cannot compete, and our customers may be forced to select other providers,” GE Vice Chairman John Rice said in a statement announcing closure of the Waukesha plant.

But Allen, who is in his first term in the state assembly, issued a press release casting doubt on GE’s rationale. In the statement, he indicated that a GE corporate spokesman wanted him to pin blame for the plant closure on Congress. But according to Allen, the flack later said that the decision to move the Waukesha jobs to Canada had already been in the works.

“[GE corporate spokesman Patrick] Theisen was eager to connect me with his public relations department to help me gin up a press release blaming Congress and demanding they act,” Allen stated.

“In the same conversation, practically in the same breath, he told me that the decision on the Waukesha plant was made some time ago and that it was irreversible.”

“I have played a few games of chess and I am familiar with the role of the pawn,” Allen said, adding later in the statement that he will consider personally boycotting GE products and divesting his stock portfolio of GE shares.

Reached for comment on Allen’s claims, GE spokeswoman Meghan Thurlow told The Daily Caller that he “clearly misunderstood our announcement.”

“We contacted a range of Wisconsin officials from both parties about this news and there was no confusion. This is a hard decision, but one we were forced to make in order to continue serving customers who require export credit financing.”

Thurlow did not specifically address whether Theisen asked Allen to “gin up” a press release blaming Congress. She also did not say whether Theisen told Allen that the Waukesha plant decision had been in the works for a while.

But this is not the first time GE has been accused of making misleading claims about Ex-Im and its decisions to send jobs overseas.

NEXT PAGE: Shipping Jobs Overseas

Last week, the company announced that it had signed an agreement with the United Kingdom’s export financing agency for a $12 billion credit line to build engines for the petroleum industry. The agreement could create up to 1,000 jobs in the U.K.

While in its press release announcing the deal GE noted that Congress has not reauthorized Ex-Im, Reuters reported that a GE spokeswoman “said it was unlikely that GE would have made the investments in the United States even if Ex-Im had been operating.”

Instead, “the agreement was representative of the type of opportunities GE can no longer pursue in the U.S. while the bank is closed,” the spokeswoman said.

The company’s behavior also raises questions over whether Ex-Im’s limbo is directly to blame for the company’s decision to “send” 400 U.S. jobs to Europe.

Earlier this month, the company announced that it had signed an agreement with France’s export credit agency, Compagnie Française d’Assurance pour le Commerce Extérieur, to move 400 jobs to Europe from New York, Texas, Maine and South Carolina. Next year, the company plans to move another 100 jobs from a facility outside of Houston to Hungary and China. (RELATED: White House Blames GOP For GE’s Decision To ‘Kill’ 500 U.S. Jobs)

“In a competitive world, we are left with no choice but to invest in non-U.S. manufacturing and move production to countries that support high-tech exports,” GE’s Rice said in a statement blaming Congress for Ex-Im’s holding pattern.

But as The Washington Examiner noted, those jobs do not currently exist. The 500 jobs GE cites are jobs that the company says would have wound up in the U.S. if Ex-Im’s charter had been renewed.

The Examiner also reported that GE’s CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, committed last year to send 1,000 jobs to France, well before Ex-Im’s renewal was blocked.

And as National Review’s Veronique de Rugy noted on Tuesday, GE has shipped tens of thousands of U.S. jobs overseas within the past decade, while Ex-Im was fully operational — casting further doubt on the company’s claim that it needs the bank in order to keep jobs in the U.S.

Between 2004 and 2014, GE’s U.S. labor force fell 18 percent, from 165,000 to 136,000. During that same decade, GE’s foreign labor force increased 19 percent, from 142,000 to 169,000.

The White House has also joined in on politicizing Congress’ inaction on Ex-Im.

“We hear a lot about Republicans complaining about job killing regulations, the fact is, it sounds like, based on what GE has reported today, that Republicans are killing quite a few jobs on their own,” White House spokesman Joshua Earnest said earlier this month after GE announced its French deal.

In contrast to those harsh comments, Earnest declined to criticize GE for the decision to move the jobs. That could be because GE’s Immelt is a big Obama crony. The president tapped the CEO as his jobs czar during the economic recovery and also appointed him as a non-governmental economic adviser.

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