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Rep. Chris Collins, running for re-election to Congress in New York's 27th District in Western New York, is rolling out attack ads criticizing challenger Nathan McMurray's work in Asia.
One side of a Collins mailer states: "Nate McMurray lobbied to send our jobs to China. (And Korea too.) The other side states: "Nate McMurray: American job exporter. Nate McMurray spent many years in Asia working to identify cheap labor and offshoring opportunities for American companies. He lobbied for trade deals that outsourced thousands of U.S. jobs to China and Korea - doubling our trade deficit and devastating American businesses."
We decided to fact-check the Republican's claim that McMurray, a Democrat, "lobbied to send our jobs to China. (And Korea, too.)"
The mailer, paid for by the Collins campaign, lists three sources for the claims it makes, though it does not have a source for the claim we focus on here.
The first source, a Buffalo News story, mentions McMurray’s time working abroad, but it does not say he was "working to identify cheap labor and offshoring opportunities for American companies," as the mailer states. The News story mentions McMurray’s time in Asia, studying law in Seoul, South Korea, on a Fulbright scholarship, and working as legal counsel for Samsung.
To bolster Collins’ claim that McMurray "lobbied for trade deals that outsourced thousands of U.S. jobs to China and Korea," Collins cites a journal article published by the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, co-written by McMurray. The article is about how foreign companies can navigate Korea’s "restrictive employment agreements." There is no reference to any lobbying efforts in favor of trade deals by McMurray.
The mailer’s final citation, from the New York Times, purportedly bolsters the mailer’s claim that the trade deals that McMurray "lobbied for" doubled the trade deficit and devastated American businesses. The story about the start of renegotiations of a trade pact between the United States and Korea includes a quote from Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative. He said the trade deficit in goods between the United States and Korea doubled since the United States Korea Free Trade Agreement took effect in 2012. The pact did not yield the expected increase in exports of American goods, and U.S. goods exports actually went down, Lighthizer said.
Work in Asia
But did McMurray lobby to send jobs to China and Korea?
The lawyer who recruited McMurray to work for a Korean law firm called the claim "utter nonsense."
Thomas Pinansky, the senior foreign attorney and partner at Barun Law in Seoul, South Korea, recruited McMurray to the firm and supervised his work. McMurray helped American companies enter the Korean market, Pinansky said in an interview.
"The comments are utter nonsense, they’re not based factually on what Nathan was doing as an international attorney on the ground in Korea," said Pinansky, a self-described independent voter who donated $300 to McMurray’s campaign.
The law firm works with American companies and others "to help them succeed in historically a difficult market to penetrate, but it’s an important one," Pinansky said.
The claim that McMurray "lobbied" to send American jobs to Asia is false, he said.
"Lobbying is also absurd. It makes no sense at all," Pinansky said. "Lobbying whom for what?"
McMurray worked as a legal adviser in Asia from 2006 to 2013, first in China with Allen & Overy, and then in Korea with Barun Law and Samsung, according to his campaign manager, Victoria Dillon.
"In none of these positions did he have the authority to outsource any jobs," Dillon said.
We attempted to get evidence for this claim from the Collins campaign. Four attempts to contact the campaign, through telephone and email messages, left over two days, were not returned.
McMurray’s work in Asia has been a point of attack for Collins in a recent television ad. An automated phone call also mentioned McMurray’s supposed ties to trade deals that increased the U.S. trade deficit. The identity of the person or group who paid for the automated call is not clear.
In a statement responding to the Collins television ad that had a similar attack, McMurray pointed to endorsements from the labor community. They include United Steel Workers and United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Workers of America.
"Do you think I’d have the support of the local and national labor community if I was going to ship jobs to Asia? Of course not," McMurray said.
McMurray worked in Asia with American companies trying to enter markets there. He also was a co-author of an article about navigating Korea's labor laws.
Collins claimed "McMurray lobbied to send our jobs" to China and Korea. There is no evidence that companies sought McMurray’s legal advice to move jobs from the United States to Asia, or that McMurray lobbied on behalf of trade deals.
We rate this claim False.
Direct mail flyer, paid for by Collins for Congress.
Email conversation with Victoria Dillon, McMurray campaign manager, Oct. 10, 2018.
Telephone conversation with Thomas Pinansky, senior foreign attorney and partner at Barun Law, Seoul, South Korea, Oct. 10, 2018.
"Grand Island supervisor considers run for Congress vs. Chris Collins," The Buffalo News, Dec. 15, 2017. Accessed Oct. 10, 2018.
"For Collins and McMurray, a nasty, brutish and short campaign," The Buffalo News, Sept. 20, 2018. Accessed Oct. 11, 2018.
"Collins ad attacks - and distorts - McMurray’s Korean ties," The Buffalo News, Sept. 22, 2018. Accessed Oct. 11, 2018.
"An Attack Ad From an Indicted Congressman is Panned as ‘Xenophobic,’" The New York Times, Sept. 24, 2018. Accessed Oct. 11, 2018.
"Too Big, Too Small, Just Right, Restrictive Employment Agreements in Korea," AMCHAM Korea Journal, 2nd Quarter, 2011. Accessed Oct. 11, 2018.
"U.S. and South Korea Start Trade Talks Amid Rising Tensions," New York Times, Jan. 5, 2018. Accessed Oct. 11, 2018.
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