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McCain Calls For Anti-Trust Investigation for Ohio Community Facing Job Losses

CINCINNATI, Ohio — Sen. John McCain paid a visit to Wilmington, Ohio, where a potential deal between shipping giants DHL and UPS could result in the loss of 8,000 jobs. McCain met with community activists at Wilmington College to discuss the issue. At a July 9 town hall meeting in Portsmouth, Ohio, Mary Houghtaling — who runs a hospice in the Wilmington-area — brought the situation to McCain’s attention. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported Tuesday that Sen. John McCain and his campaign adviser, Rick Davis — a former lobbyist who worked on behalf of DHL — played a role in the events that set the possible job losses in motion. From the Plain Dealer:

Little known to those citizens, McCain and his campaign manager, Rick Davis, played roles in the fate of DHL Express and its Ohio air park as far back as 2003. Back then, however, their actions that helped DHL and its German owner, Deutsche Post World Net, acquire the Wilmington operations resulted in expansion, not retraction.

In a private meeting Thursday, Wilmington residents will ask McCain for help in stopping DHL’s proposal to quit using the airport as a hub, which could cost more than 8,000 jobs. DHL says that it wants to stay in the freight business but that it can stem financial losses if it can put its packages aboard the planes of a rival - United Parcel Service - before delivering them in DHL trucks. UPS flies out of Louisville, Ky., so the proposed change would render the Wilmington airport unnecessary.

None of that was anticipated in 2003, when McCain and Davis, who was a Washington lobbyist before managing the presidential campaign, first got involved. Several Wilmington civic leaders said that what happened in 2003 created an economic gain for their community, lasting several years.

But because that gain, and now the prospective loss, came from the decisions of a foreign-owned corporation, look for some Democrats and labor to seek to tie Wilmington’s current troubles to McCain.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) yesterday called for McCain to send Davis to Germany to use his connections to lobby on behalf of the Wilmington workers. During the meeting, McCain vowed to write a letter to the CEO of Deutsche Post requesting the company hear from the people who will be affected by the deal. He also promised to push for a congressional hearing into the matter. In a statement to reporters after the meeting, McCain called for an anti-trust investigation into the proposed DHL-UPS deal. From the pool report:

My concerns are being reinforced in my meeting today with those facing the most personal consequences of what may happen here if the agreement pending between DHL and UPS is finalized. Should this happen, DHL will cede significant elements of control over cost and service quality to one of its chief competitors. This raises serious concerns that consumers all over America would suffer in terms of cost and quality in the services provided. And I’m a strong supporter of our anti-trust laws and I believe they should be vigorously enforced. I fully support a federal anti-trust review of the case, but I do not prejudge its disposition. In the meantime, planning must proceed to ensure that in the even the transaction does go through the rapid-response assistance mechanism—local state and federal—are in place. Job retention must remain our overriding concern and we should explore all options for proceeding with a viable commercial development plan if DHL ceases operations in Wilmington.

National emergency grant funding should be released to assure any potential response efforts have the resources necessary to meet the challenges ahead and we must have an effective displaced worker assistance and training program in place.

Now, I believe that congressional oversight is necessary. I believe that the Justice Dept. should conduct a thorough and complete investigation as rapidly as possible. I believe it would be important for the chief decision-makers at Deutsche Post would come here, come here to Wilmington and come here to Ohio and explain the reasons and rationale for their decision and meet with the people and their representatives because of the impact this decision made a long ways away from the state of Ohio.

McCain also cautioned the community activists that he could not promise any results. From the pool report:

Then he talked directly to Mary Houghtaling, the woman who asked the question at the town hall meeting on July 9 and who asked the campaign for this meeting.

‘I have to give you straight talk Mary,” he said, adding that he knew about the situation before that day but “I never knew it in the way that you described it to me in the human terms.”

Then he repeated his disclaimer: “I can’t look you in the eye and say I’m sure we’re going to avert this.”

He said he would do everything to fight it not just for the community but also on constitutional and legal grounds. “You have my sympathy but you also have my support — because of the legalities and the anti-competitiveness of this that you so eloquently stated.”

This is likely the reality of the situation. McCain got called out on an issue in which he was unwittingly involved — in one of the most important swing states. He had no choice but to give the appearance that he could do something about the situation, and he did. But, unfortunately for the poor people of Wilmington, the chances are probably pretty slim that McCain will be able to do much — without a change of heart in DHL’s executive board room.

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