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U.S. Senate Republican candidate Mike Gibbons gives a response during Ohio's U.S. Senate Republican Primary debate March 28, 2022. (Columbus Dispatch via AP) U.S. Senate Republican candidate Mike Gibbons gives a response during Ohio's U.S. Senate Republican Primary debate March 28, 2022. (Columbus Dispatch via AP)

U.S. Senate Republican candidate Mike Gibbons gives a response during Ohio's U.S. Senate Republican Primary debate March 28, 2022. (Columbus Dispatch via AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher April 22, 2022

In Ohio US Senate race, Gibbons levels misleading attack against Mandel about China

If Your Time is short

  • Mandel was the administrator of a state fund that invested public money in multinational corporations such as U.S.-based Exxon and Apple. The companies do business in China, but are not based there.

  • Mandel in 2012 said he did not support a federal bill that would have allowed for imposing tariffs on countries that manipulated their currency. But he said China should be held accountable through diplomacy.

When verbal sparring between candidates nearly gets physical, you wouldn’t expect it to let up as primary election day draws near. In the race for the U.S. Senate in Ohio, you’d be right. 

During a debate in March, Republicans Mike Gibbons and Josh Mandel literally got toe-to-toe after Mandel accused Gibbons of making millions from business dealings related to Chinese companies.

Now, with early voting underway for the May 3 Ohio primaries, Gibbons accused Mandel of being "weak on China" — a theme common in 2022 campaigns across the country.

 In a video ad on Facebook and Instagram, the narrator said: 

"As Ohio treasurer, Josh Mandel loaned your money to Chinese business interests, and Mandel opposed a bill holding Communist China accountable when they cheated and stole American jobs." 

On the money lending part of the claim, Gibbons cites the investment of Ohio public funds in companies such as U.S.-based Exxon and Apple, which many Americans are invested in. The companies do business in China, but they are multinational corporations, not Chinese companies.

Mandel indicated in 2012 that he opposed tariffs on China as proposed in 2011 federal legislation, saying he preferred diplomacy to dissuade China from manipulating its currency.

Money not loaned to ‘Chinese business interests’

To back the first part of the ad’s claim, Gibbons’ campaign cited to PolitiFact investments made by the State Treasury Asset Reserve of Ohio while Mandel was treasurer, from 2011 to 2019. 

STAR Ohio is a fund consisting of pooled assets from Ohio government subdivisions, including counties, municipalities and school districts. The fund is administered by the treasurer.

Citing STAR Ohio’s 2018 annual report, Gibbons’ campaign pointed to investments the fund made in Toyota Motor Credit Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp., JPMorgan Securities, Credit Suisse AG, MetLife Funding Inc. and Apple Inc. The campaign argued that at the time, each company had business operations in China or did business with companies in China.

The companies or the parent companies are multinational corporations based outside of China, not "Chinese business interests." 

Toyota is based in Japan; Credit Suisse AG is based in Switzerland; and Exxon, JPMorgan, MetLife and Apple are based in the United States.

David Dollar, an expert on China's economy and U.S.-China economic relations at the Brookings Institution, said the companies "cannot be characterized as Chinese business interests. Their shareholders would mostly be from the USA and other developed countries, not China."

‘Opposed a bill holding China accountable’

On the second part of the ad’s claim, the Gibbons campaign referred to a 2011 federal bill that would have pressured China to allow its currency to appreciate. 

By manipulating the value of its currency, China can gain a competitive advantage over American manufacturers by keeping its export prices low. A weaker yuan, relative to the U.S. dollar, means Chinese goods can be exported more cheaply to the United States, because each dollar in sales revenue translates to more yuan back in China. 

Supporters argued that Chinese "cheating" on the issue cost the United States more than 1.6 million jobs.

The Gibbons campaign cited a 2012 Cleveland Plain Dealer story in which Mandel, in his first run for U.S. Senate, indicated opposition to the bill.

The bill would have moved the U.S. toward imposing tariffs on countries that manipulate their currency, but more hurdles would have had to have been cleared, said Derek Scissors, an expert on the Chinese economy and trade policy at the American Enterprise Institute.

The newspaper reported that Mandel believed China manipulated its currency and should be held accountable through diplomatic means. 

"We must be vigilant in taking them on and making sure they play by the rules. At the same time, my approach would be a diplomatic approach, not a legislative approach," Mandel said.

The bill passed the Senate but was not taken up by the House. 

Mandel’s campaign did not reply to our requests for comment.

Ohio race could help decide Senate control

The Ohio Senate seat is opening because Republican Rob Portman, who was elected in 2010, is not seeking reelection. 

Besides Mandel and Gibbons, the Republican candidates include Ohio state Sen. Matt Dolan,  former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken and "Hillbilly Elegy" author J.D. Vance. The leading Democratic candidates are U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan and consumer protection attorney Morgan Harper.

Overall, the race is rated by campaign watchers as "leans" Republican, "likely" Republican and "solid" Republican.

Our ruling

Gibbons claimed in an ad that Mandel, as Ohio’s state treasurer, "loaned your money to Chinese business interests and Mandel opposed a bill holding Communist China accountable when they cheated and stole American jobs."

Mandel led a state fund that invested public money in multinational corporations such as U.S.-based Exxon and Apple that do business in China, but are not based there.

Mandel indicated he did not support a 2011 bill that would have allowed for imposing tariffs on countries that manipulated their currency. But he suggested holding China accountable through diplomatic efforts.

Gibbons’ statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

Our Sources

Meta, Mike Gibbons ad on Josh Mandel and China on Facebook and Instagram, started running April 7, 2022; active as of April 21, 2022

Email, Mike Gibbons campaign senior communications advisor Samantha Cotten, April 18, 2022

Email, David Dollar, an expert on China's economy and U.S.-China economic relations at the Brookings Institution, April 20, 2020

Ohio State Treasurer, "STAR — State Treasury Asset Reserve," accessed April 19, 2022

Ohio State Treasurer, "STAR Ohio 2018 annual report," accessed April 19, 2022

Fox News, "Ohio GOP Senate showdown: Gibbons hits Mandel on China in ad that returns to root of combustible feud," April 6, 2022

Email, Derek Scissors, senior fellow on the Chinese economy and trade policy at the American Enterprise Institute, April 19, 2022

Washington Post, "China currency bill demands House, White House action, senators say," Oct. 12, 2011

Plain Dealer, "U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel voices skepticism about global warming in pre-convention interview," Aug. 27, 2012

Email, Don Chance, CFA, James C. Flores endowed chair of MBA Studies; professor, Department of Finance, Louisiana State University, April 19, 2022

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In Ohio US Senate race, Gibbons levels misleading attack against Mandel about China

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