2005-08-27 / Editorials

Michigan Politics By

Governor Granholm
George Weeks

George Weeks

Governor Jennifer Granholm may want to reconsider her re-election strategy of attacking Republican businessman Dick DeVos on the Asian front. A Red Herring on Red China?

"Maybe you remember reading about how he outsourced Michigan jobs to China when he took over the family business," Granholm said in a June 29 campaign fundraising letter that began with four paragraphs denouncing DeVos, former president of Amway/Alticor. "…the last thing Michigan needs at a time like this is an extreme governor who supports outsourcing."

Granholm, upon returning from her important recent trade/investment mission to Japan, understandably trumpeted it as Michigan's most important Asian trading partner, importing about $1 billion in Michigan products last year.

Guess what? Of the $267.4 million exported to Japan by Ada-based Alticor, now parent of Amway Corp., co-founded by DeVos' father, $173.5 million came from Michigan--17 percent of the $1 billion touted by Granholm. Alticor's exports to China include $68.2 million directly from Michigan facilities--third best after $82.5 million to South Korea.

These figures were provided by Alticor in response to my request of about 11 weeks ago when DeVos announced his intention to run. That day, Democratic State Chairman Mark Brewer accused DeVos of outsourcing Michigan jobs to China, citing 1998 and 2000 downsizings as part of a 21 percent reduction in global workforce.

The DeVos camp initially said it would not respond to Brewer every time he attacks on Granholm's behalf. Then, wisely, it said Alticor would compile job and economic figures. The long delay gave Brewer an opening to periodically complain that DeVos was stonewalling about the land of The Great Wall.

"This is somebody who could have invested in Michigan, and chose not to," scolded Brewer.

Flyspecking Democrats, and economists, may find contrary information in the details that Alticor will release generally Monday. But it strikes me they support DeVos' contention that jobs did not move from Alticor in Michigan to Amway China, which, it says, "is legally required to manufacture in China all of the products it distributes in China."

Meanwhile, having reported for many weeks on those who have rapped him on the issue, here's what DeVos had to say after release of the Alticor material when I talked to him by phone last week while he campaigned in the Upper Peninsula (where ex-Lt. Gov. Connie Binsfeld of Maple City and Munising Friday endorsed DeVos, saying she was "saddened to see" results of Granholm's watch):

"The way I read it is that despite the rhetoric that Democrats put out, to be going negative, to be attacking me as a candidate as early as they did on this whole (outsourcing) issue, would suggest how nervous they are about their situation (and) how viable they consider me as a candidate. The clear message (is) they must be lacking positive messages about their own candidate that they are already quickly trying to take me down.

"It appears they'd rather talk about me than talk about the lack of accomplishments of this administration."

DeVos said Granholm's letter was replete "with inaccurate assertions, simply misleading and not true. This (campaign) ought to be how to make Michigan better, not harm your opponent. We have a positive vision about the future."

He said, "The result of expanding in China hasn't taken one job from America, or from Michigan, and has in fact added hundreds of jobs to Michigan as a result of expansion there. You go all the way back to when I got involved in the international side of the Amway business and began to push its growth, the result has been hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars of Michigan exports."

DeVos, after weeks of silence, has offered a good case, and we'll see how it plays out in months ahead.

George Weeks is the political columnist for The Detroit News and is syndicated by Superior Features.

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