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North Carolina’s 2022 primary election is more than eight months away, but the negative ads are starting this week — with an Olympic-themed attack on former Gov. Pat McCrory to air on NBC during one of the Games’ signature events.
A group backing Rep. Ted Budd is behind the ad that takes aim at McCrory, the early leader in polling and fundraising in the Republican field, for awarding $1.7 million in taxpayer subsidies to a Chinese-owned company while he was North Carolina’s governor from 2013 to 2017.
“Who took home the honors when Pat McCrory was governor?” asks the ad, which features Olympic imagery throughout. “China. And you paid for the medal.”
Club For Growth Action is running the ad in the Raleigh, Charlotte and Greensboro markets during Thursday night’s primetime Olympics coverage on NBC affiliates. The high-profile women’s gymnastics all-around finals will be televised during the coverage, though gold medal favorite Simone Biles of the United States will not be competing.
The group is spending $60,000 on the ad, a relatively small amount in what promises to be an expensive campaign. It will only run Thursday. Club For Growth Action announced in June that it had raised $5.125 million to support Budd’s candidacy for Senate and said it planned to raise and spend even more.
McCrory, Budd and former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker are the highest-profile candidates in the GOP primary to replace retiring Republican Sen. Richard Burr. The primary election is scheduled for March 8.
“China made a fool of Pat McCrory, and we’d be foolish to make him senator,” is how the ad ends.
McCrory campaign advisor Jordan Shaw said the incentives brought back jobs “to support North Carolina families in areas that needed economic development.”
“For Ted Budd and his DC buddies, who’ve supported pro-China trade policies, to attack job development efforts in rural communities just proves that they have no interest in helping NC families and no credible path to victory,” Shaw said.
Economic incentives from NC
The money was given in 2013 as part of economic development grants through the Commerce Department to KSM Castings, which built a manufacturing facility in Shelby. KSM Castings makes light metal casting products for the automotive industry.
In a press release announcing the awarding of grants from the state’s Job Development Investment Grant program and the One North Carolina Fund, KSM Castings was described as an innovative Germany company that planned to create nearly 200 jobs in North Carolina and invest $45 million into its Cleveland County facility.
The One North Carolina Fund awarded a performance grant of up to $705,000, and the JDIG award could yield up to $2.86 million in benefits to KSM Castings from state personal income tax withholdings tied to new job creation over a 12-year period, the Commerce Department said in 2013.
The city of Shelby and Cleveland County also approved incentives for the company at the time. Republican state Rep. Tim Moore, now Speaker of the House in North Carolina, applauded the decision.
“My administration will work with businesses like KSM Castings to help them grow and expand jobs,” McCrory said at the time. “Today’s job announcement shows that by working together and effectively leveraging our state’s talent and resources, North Carolina can be a leader in manufacturing once again.”
China’s CITIC Dicastal purchased KSM Castings Group, the German-parent company of KSM Castings USA, in 2011, according to multiple reports. The CITIC website lists KSM Casting Group as one of its holdings.
CITIC Limited lists both CITIC Dicastal and KSM Castings as related companies on its website. Per its website, the company was wholly owned by the Chinese Ministry of Finance before 2014 and is now mostly owned by the Chinese government.
In 2016, KSM Castings said it would spend $80 million to expand its facility in Shelby, creating 80 new jobs over five years, The Charlotte Observer reported at the time. It received up to $320,000 from the One North Carolina Fund and other local incentives.
“KSM’s rapid growth in Cleveland County underscores the continued success of automotive components manufacturing across North Carolina,” McCrory said at the time. “The expansion by this major automotive supplier keeps that momentum going.”
The ad scheduled to run Thursday accuses McCrory of using “slush funds” to “subsidize the Chinese government.” The state sent out press releases and held news conferences to announce many of the moves and they attracted plenty of media coverage.
Why Republicans bash China
The ad says China has been “stealing our technology and waging economic war against America for years.” It asks how China spent “the profits” from the subsidies given by North Carolina under McCrory before offering aircraft and lab research as possible answers.
The Joint Development Investment Grant is performance-based and “provides cash grants directly to new and expanding companies to help offset the cost of locating or expanding a facility in the state,” according to the Department of Commerce. These grants use a formula that is tied to new taxes coming from new jobs, according to the department.
The One North Carolina Fund requires local governments to provide an incentive to match, according to the department, with less economically secure counties having to provide less of a match. It is designed to allow the governor “to respond quickly to competitive job-creation projects.”
Apple, Centene Corporation, FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies and Credit Karma have been awarded JDIG grants in 2021 under Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, McCrory’s successor. Lowe’s, Allstate Insurance, Credit Suisse and Honeywell have also been awarded grants under Cooper.
China and its ruling communist party has become a target for politicians, particularly Republicans, for a host of issues, including theft of American technology, cyberattacks and its rising economic and military might. The emergence of the coronavirus from China as well as the nation’s horrific treatment, including possible genocide, of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.
China has become an issue in previous races and in the Senate. In the 2020 U.S. Senate race in North Carolina, Republican Thom TIllis released an 18-point plan to hold China accountable for its role in the global pandemic. The Senate passed a $250-billion bill earlier this year aimed at combating China and increasing American competitiveness with the Asian nation.
In October, 73% of Americans held a negative view of China, according to polling by Pew Research Center. And the majority of Republicans, particularly conservative Republicans, consider China not just a “competitor” but an “enemy,” according to an April poll from Pew.
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