Claim Check: Chris Murphy’s Buy-American Initiatives

by Categorized: Claim Check, Employment, Finance, Politics Date:

Since heading to Washington 5 1/2 years ago, U.S. Rep Chris Murphy has made a name for himself trying to strengthen laws favoring U.S. manufacturers over foreign competitors in federal procurement decisions. “Buy American” is frequently described as Murphy’s signature issue – and, not surprisingly, it has featured prominently in his political campaigns, showing up in ads for his 2010 re-election bid, and more recently in his quest to step up to the U.S. Senate.

But persistence  is not the same as tangible, on-the-books success, and Murphy’s latest ad, while technically accurate, sidesteps the fact that his buy-American efforts have yet to yield concrete changes in federal rules on purchasing decisions.

The ad, “George and Marc,” features two factory owners, George Dewey of J. Dewey Manufacturing in Oxford and Marc Nemeth of Jonal Laboratories in Meriden.  “I run a factory here in Connecticut,” Dewey says. And later he adds: “When I needed help I went to Chris.”

Nemeth chimes in that “no one in Washington fights harder for Connecticut jobs than Chris Murphy.”

Murphy then takes over the screen, touting his record as two newspaper headlines appear: a July 2011 New Haven Register story titled “U.S. Rep Chris Murphy Seeks to Tighten ‘Buy American Act’” and a May 2012 Courant article with the headline “Buy American Amendment Passes House.”

“When manufacturers told me that our military buys too many parts from overseas,” Murphy tells viewers, “I brought Republicans and Democrats together to start bringing those jobs back.”

That claim is accurate. Two years ago, Murphy co-founded the bipartisan Buy American Caucus, made up of lawmakers who support strengthening domestic procurement laws. But the word “start” in Murphy’s quote is critical; while the caucus, and Murphy’s broader efforts, may indeed exist for the purpose of “bringing those jobs back,” that has yet to happen, as none of Murphy’s legislative initiatives have made it into law.

The New Haven Register story reports on an amendment Murphy proposed a year ago that would promote the purchase of American-made goods  by the state Department. But that amendment was dropped from the version of the bill that was approved out of committee.

The Hartford Courant headline accurately reports that an amendment introduced by Murphy was part of the Defense Authorization Act that was approved by the House. But the amendment still needs the support of the Senate, and even if approved, may have less impact than many viewers assume.

Murphy’s amendment does not require federal agencies to give preference to American firms, but rather permits those firms to submit a jobs-impact statement telling agencies the number of jobs that would be created or retained if the firm won the contract. If the legislation is approved, agencies would be permitted, but not required, to consider the impact on local jobs when evaluating bids. Still, that may qualify as a “start.”

Murphy has one more piece of buy-American legislation in play. Factory-owner George Dewey’s quote that he contacted Murphy “when I needed help” is a reference to Dewey’s losing a contract with the Transportation Security Administration to a Virginia firm that sources materials from Korea. That prompted Murphy to introduce the Full Disclosure in Federal Contracting Act , which would attempt to crack down on federal agencies’ granting waivers to federal buy-American laws. In the ad, Dewey praises Murphy as someone who “listens, and get things done,” although the bill is still awaiting action by a House committee.

The “George and Marc” ad obscures the status of Murphy’s specific initiatives in a way that may lead some viewers to conclude he has accomplished more than he has. But Murphy can fairly claim credit for promoting the buy-American agenda, and this ad is careful enough in its language to avoid any false statements.

The ad’s failure to acknowledge the preliminary nature of Murphy’s claimed victories keeps it from earning a top grade. But overall, we rate this ad Generally Accurate.

Watch Murphy’s ad below. And click here for more information on Claim Check.

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