Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

As Olympics open, a super PAC attack against Romney

This ad, quickly pulled down after pressure from Olympic officials, attacks Mitt Romney against a backdrop of Olympic pageantry.
This ad, quickly pulled down after pressure from Olympic officials, attacks Mitt Romney against a backdrop of Olympic pageantry.

This week, Priorities USA Action, a super PAC supporting President Barack Obama, released an ad that uses the trappings of the Olympics to attack Mitt Romney.

The ad wasn't up for long. Under pressure from the U.S. Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee, Priorities USA Action agreed to take down the ad and scrap its plan to air the ad in battleground states.

Still, the video got widespread coverage and airplay on cable TV, so we forged ahead with fact-checking it.

China

We looked at one claim that "thousands (in China) owe their jobs to Mitt Romney's companies."

We found that two of the companies cited by Priorities Action USA employed workers in China during Romney’s active years as CEO. Another employed workers in China after Romney left to work for the Olympics, but before he severed ties with the company entirely. And we determined that two other companies the group cited are of questionable relevance for proving the ad’s point.

We concluded that it’s plausible that the first three companies we looked at employed "thousands" of workers in China, though we did not receive definitive evidence of that -- much less whether they continue to employ that many workers today. On balance, we rated the claim it Half True.

India

We looked at the claim that India "gained jobs thanks to Romney."

We found that while Romney was governor, Massachusetts had contracts with companies that had customer service call centers in India. That’s not the same as the state directly sending work overseas, but Romney did block a legislative effort to stop that practice. Also, it's reasonable to conclude that India gained some jobs, at least while the Massachusetts arrangement was in effect.

Meanwhile, during Romney’s time at Bain Capital, he was part of a move to invest in a company called CSI that later merged with another firm to form Stream International, a company that had call centers in India a year after Romney departed to run the Olympics. So while India got some jobs from CSI, Romney's influence was early and ultimately indirect. On balance, we rated the claim Half True.

Burma

Did Romney have the uniforms for the 2002 Winter Olympics manufactured in Burma, a country that until recently was shunned for being a repressive regime without fair labor practices?

We found that the Olympics use many different uniforms. One type of uniforms used at the winter games – some 11,000 worn by torch bearers – did come from a supplier in Burma. But it’s not clear that Romney played a direct role in ordering these uniforms. So we rated the statement Mostly False.

Postscript

We also thought we’d point out that the Priorities USA Action ad takes some liberties with sports history. Two of the nations included in the ad -- the Cayman Islands and Myanmar (Burma) -- did not participate in the 2002 Winter Olympics that Romney put together, and which most of the footage in the ad depicted.