For Immediate Release
November 6, 2008
Fair Trade a Winning Election Issue in Oregon — and Across the Nation
Merkley Made Trade Policy a Key Issue in His Campaign for the Senate; Trade Unexpectedly Referenced in Other Oregon Races
Portland, OR — Trade policy and the offshoring of jobs was a major focus of Jeff Merkley’s winning campaign for the U.S. Senate, according to an analysis released today by the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign. Trade was referenced in more than a dozen paid television ads within Oregon’s U.S. Senate race and other successful races in the state. The issue also played a role in more than three dozen other successful Congressional bids throughout the nation.
“Merkley’s campaign was outspent by a three-to-one margin. Trade was an issue that allowed Merkley to connect with voters across the state on a matter of utmost importance to many Oregon families — namely, jobs,” said Arthur Stamoulis, director of the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign. “Trade is something that resonates with people across party lines, and can be used to both mobilize one’s base and attract swing voters at the same time. Not many issues do that.”
According to the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign:
- The majority of the Merkley campaign’s major television ads featured trade in some way, as did additional ads in the Senate race produced by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and others.
- Trade messages were included in eight of the fifteen television ads archived on the Merkley campaign website. No other single issue received as much attention. By comparison, middle-class tax cuts were mentioned in five ads. Other issues, such as the war in Iraq and health care, were mentioned with less frequency.
- President-elect Barack Obama also aired television advertisements in Oregon focused on the offshoring of jobs.
- The offshoring of jobs was even the centerpiece of a winning television ad in the State Treasurer race, an office that has relatively little to do with international trade policy.
- Nationwide, at least 37 newly-elected U.S. Senators and Representatives besides Merkley ran on “fair trade” platforms, and at least 133 paid campaign ads referenced trade-related messages. Visit: http://www.citizen.org/trade/
“Merkley’s printed campaign materials drew a connection between unfair trade policies and local job loss early on in the primary, but during the general election trade really heated up as the major focus of his television ads,” said Stamoulis.
Merkley’s “Places” ad featured narration promising, “As U.S. Senator, Merkley will fight to end trade deals that ship our jobs overseas.” His “Tax and Trade” ad claimed, “Washington has been giving tax breaks to corporations that ship our jobs overseas… Spending your tax dollars to export Oregon jobs and subsidize companies building factories in China and Mexico.” Merkley’s “Call It” ad featured the candidate saying, “They call it ‘free’ trade. Problem is, there’s nothing ‘free’ about it. And Oregon’s paid a very heavy price with nearly 70,000 jobs shipped overseas. Families with no savings, no health care, and no security. How could Washington allow American jobs to become one of our country’s biggest exports?”
The offshoring of jobs was a theme also referenced in Merkley’s “A Decade,” “Breaks,” “Trailer” and “Stories” ads. Even the campaign’s “Important Message from Barack Obama” ad featured Obama saying, “Jeff will put fairness back in the system and strengthen our economy by cutting taxes for the middle class, not corporations who ship our jobs overseas.”
Indicative of just how important trade was this election cycle was an ad attacking State Treasurer candidate Allen Alley, which highlighted that, “[Alley] says he created jobs in Oregon, but really he outsourced jobs to China while paying himself millions of dollars.” The visual featured a cartoon depiction of Alley with a stack of money standing next to a factory in China. Alley lost to Ben Westlund.
An ad by Congressman-elect Kurt Schrader, who did not make trade policy a central part of his campaign, still made reference to an economic recovery plan that includes “job training for renewable energy jobs that can never be outsourced.” The words included on screen were not about protecting the environment, reducing energy costs or even improving the economy generally. Instead, they very specifically read “Kurt Schrader: Jobs That Can Never Be Outsourced.”
“Clearly politicians have found a way to capitalize on public anger over trade and the economy,” said Stamoulis. “What remains to be seen is what will change once they’re in office. I’m hopeful we’ll see some real shift in the nation’s trade policy over the coming year, but constituents can’t let up on reminding elected officials that they will be held accountable.”
The Oregon Fair Trade Campaign is a statewide coalition of labor, environmental and human rights organizations working together on issues of international trade.