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By Bob King
Mitt Romney's meandering statements and plain falsehoods about the auto industry finally caught up to him earlier this week when he told a big whopper that cannot be squared with the truth during a speech in Defiance, Ohio. He said that Jeep, the American icon and great Toledo institution, "is thinking of moving all production to China."
Everyone paying attention to the election called him on it. Chrysler Group LLC has set the record straight, stating it has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America.
Defiance is an Ohio auto town whose most important employer is the General Motors (GM) plant that was saved by President Barack Obama. Voters there recognize that Romney's claim is just plain foolish, because Jeep is expanding, not contracting -- it's been all over the Ohio press for a year.
Though the fact-checkers and the media unanimously shot down Romney's claims, no one was more stunned at the sheer craziness of Romney's statement than the workers at the Jeep factory, just down the road from Defiance. Chrysler is investing $500 million, adding 1,100 jobs and will actually add new models to one of the Jeep plants in Toledo.
Yet none of this would be occurring if the Obama administration had followed Romney's plan to rely on private capital to restructure Chrysler. No one, least of all voters in Ohio, who have lived through the ups and downs of the auto industry, believes that Romney's plan would have resulted in anything except the liquidation of Chrysler.
Chrysler's CEO Sergio Marchionne said that it would have been "impossible" for Chrysler to get financing from the private markets in 2009.
The court records are clear, too, but Romney wants voters to forget what Judge Arthur Gonzales said when finalizing Chrysler's restructuring plan: "The sale transaction is the only alternative to liquidation available to the debtors."
All of which has brought us to a truly Etch-a-Sketch moment, where Romney, knowing he is sunk if he admits that his plan would have forced Chrysler into liquidation, tries desperately to flip the script with a big lie about Jeep moving out of Toledo.
And, rather than take the opportunity to exhibit honesty and presidential character by correcting his misstatement, Romney doubled down with a misleading campaign spot about Jeep running in Ohio.
Using Chrysler to take on the Obama administration's results in saving the domestic auto industry is an odd choice. After all, the Chrysler restructuring has been a great success, starting with Chrysler having paid back all of its loans from the federal government six years ahead of schedule.
Just a few days ago, Chrysler reported that it had its best September sales in five years and that its third-quarter profit was up 80 percent over 2011. Since 2009, Chrysler has hired more than 7,000 workers in the United States and is hiring thousands more, starting with adding an additional shift at a plant in Detroit that builds the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
And while Mitt Romney sticks to his false Chrysler narrative, an even more damning story about the dirty dealing of Mitt Romney's investment partners during the 2009 restructuring of GM is beginning to emerge.
Mitt Romney and his partners made a killing on the GM bankruptcy by gaining control of bankrupt parts supplier Delphi, then threatening to withhold components critical to the production of GM vehicles. Romney's business partners were willing to force GM into liquidation and cause a national economic calamity unless they got more money. In the end, the Romney investor group got what it wanted and earned a profit of more than 3,000 percent on its initial investment.
This is the real Romney, a man who objected to the rescue of the domestic auto industry, then made astronomical profits after his business partners threatened the survival of GM. A man who lies about Chrysler moving jobs to China, when his history at Bain Capital, the private equity firm he founded, shows that he has invested in Chinese factories where workers are grossly exploited. Romney won't even act to stop the Sensata factory in Illinois, in which he is an investor, from closing the doors and moving to China the day before the election.
Mitt Romney won't come clean on Chrysler, won't come clean on his Chinese investments and threatened the restructuring of GM for his own profit. That is the picture of a me-first hedge-fund investor, not someone who has the judgment or character to be President of the United States.
Bob King is president of the UAW. This opinion piece originally appeared on the USA Today website on Oct. 31, 2012.