Circulating among Iowa labor circles, I am told, is this leaflet, which looks to be a standard opposition-research paper against former Sen. John Edwards, D-NC. The shocker? It's from Mr. Positive, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois.Not that it's a shocker that Obama is drawing contrasts. (UPDATE: The Obama campaign says this document came because a local union requested information on the differences between him and his opponents.)It's a shocker because Obama chief strategist David Axelrod told ABC News that "One of the things people appreciate about (Obama) is he’s not a cheap-shot artist" and this flier is full of cheap shots. The cheapest shot ... that Edwards somehow has something to do with Whirlpool when the company was closing down Maytag plants in Iowa, Illinois, and Arkansas.Why is that a cheap shot? Because the link is that Edwards worked for the controversial Fortress Hedge Fund while it owned stock in Whirlpool as it was shutting down those plants.But some argue a far more direct link exists between Obama and those plants shutting down. It's not one I agree with -- I think both are silly attempts to link candidates to lost jobs -- but I think the one linking Obama to the Crown family to those lost jobs is slightly less ridiculous.
The Crown family -- Lester, Renee, James, Paula -- have been supporters, fundraisers, and bundlers for Obama. Lester Crown was on the board of Maytag when it decided to shut down a plant in Galesburg, Illinois, and sent those jobs to Mexico. In August 2005, Crain's Chicago Business reported that the Crowns stood "to reap an estimated $86 million from the sale of appliance maker Maytag Corp. to rival Whirlpool Corp. After a bidding war, Newton, Iowa-based Maytag agreed Monday to sell to Whirlpool for $21 a share in cash and stock. Maytag has said the Crowns hold about 4.1 million shares." Shortly after that merger was announced, Whirlpool shut down those plants in Iowa, Illinois, and Arkansas.Do I think Obama is responsible for the plants shutting down? Nope. But he should know better than to attack Edwards on the same subject.People in glass houses in Newton, Iowa, shouldn't throw Maytag dishwashers. Or something like that.-- jpt
(NOTE: This blog has been updated to reflect the Obama campaign's confirmation that they created the document, and to better convey my skepticism about both charges.)