Elections

Goyle, Pompeo spar over jobs in 4th District race

As the 4th Congressional District campaign enters its final week, Raj Goyle is questioning rival Mike Pompeo's job-creation claims and accusing him of outsourcing to China, while Pompeo says Goyle is a liberal ex-ACLU lawyer masquerading as a fiscal conservative.

Goyle, a Democratic state representative, said he's disturbed by information showing that Pompeo runs a Kansas firm acting as an agent for a major Chinese oil-field equipment manufacturer and that Pompeo's main company, Sentry International, was granted more than $400,000 in government subsidies to create 120 jobs in Oklahoma and Texas.

"In a desperate attempt — that's failing — to hide his extensive outsourcing, he wants to claim credit for putting Oklahomans and Texans to work," Goyle said. "What's clear is he does not have a plan to put Kansans back to work."

Pompeo, a Republican national committeeman, charges that Goyle shifted his voting stance in the Legislature this year to appear more conservative than he really is.

He also criticized Goyle — who like Pompeo is a Harvard-educated lawyer — for past jobs working for the ACLU and the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank.

And he points out that Goyle has created no jobs.

"Rep. Goyle, if elected to Congress, will continue to support big government," Pompeo said. "He has had an impact on Kansas jobs, no doubt about that. It just happens to be negative."

Links to China

Goyle has repeatedly accused Pompeo of supporting manufacturing jobs in China that Goyle says should go to Kansas workers.

Pompeo has vehemently denied that, saying he has created American jobs by importing oilfield equipment from China and installing and servicing it in the U.S.

Secretary of State records show that Pompeo is the registered agent for a Kansas company called SJ Petro Pump Investment. He said the company acts as an agent that sells and distributes high-pressure pumps made by the Chinese firm SJ Petro.

He said the local firm does no direct manufacturing and shares employees, primarily sales force, with Sentry International.

Pompeo characterized the Chinese SJ Petro as a supplier to his company, part of an international supply chain of products that Sentry buys and sells, sometimes under its own name and sometimes under the name of the original manufacturer.

The Texas and Oklahoma incentive packages for Sentry International are in addition to $85,000 in government subsidies that the state of Kansas provided to Thayer Aerospace and a subsidiary when Pompeo was CEO there.

On the campaign trail, Pompeo is a steady critic of government involvement in business and the free market, which he refers to as "government picking winners and losers" in the economy.

He is also an opponent of Bush and Obama administration programs to aid General Motors, various banks and other companies threatened by the recession.

On Friday, he reiterated his position that as a congressional candidate, he favors

eliminating government incentives for businesses, along with cutting taxes and regulations. That, he said, would create an environment that encourages entrepreneurs to take the risks of creating or expanding businesses.

As president and CEO of Sentry, he said, it is his responsibility to his investors, employees and their families to keep up with competitors in seeking economic aid packages.

Since 2006, Pompeo has expanded Sentry by opening offices and manufacturing/service centers in Midland and Kilgore, Texas, and Duncan, Okla., records show.

According to documents obtained under the Oklahoma and Texas open records acts, the total value of subsidies approved by the three cities was $406,100.

* Midland agreed to pay the company $250,000 to create 50 jobs. Sentry had 42 workers on the payroll in January 2009, but had cut that to 12 by September 2009, according to compliance documents filed by the company.

The company can qualify for the final $50,000 installment from the original agreement if it reaches 50 employees by June 1, 2011.

* Kilgore agreed to pay Sentry and a subsidiary $156,100 — $112,500 for jobs created and $43,600 to help renovate business space.

* Duncan granted Sentry an incentive package worth $82,500 to create 25 jobs. In May, the agreement ended with Sentry having created 13 new jobs and receiving $63,761, records show.

Goyle called Pompeo a "hypocritical CEO" who takes taxpayer money but wants to stop tax incentives for other companies.

He also said he doubts Pompeo's oft-repeated claim of creating 400 Kansas jobs through Sentry and Thayer.

At Thayer, Pompeo "purchased several companies that already had hundreds of employees and claims them as jobs he's created," Goyle said.

Pompeo said Goyle's statements show a fundamental lack of understanding of the business world and the private sector.

He acknowledged that Thayer bought, and in some cases sold, existing businesses, but said that he and his partners started the company from "zero employees."

He said the company, since renamed, had between 350 and 500 employees when he sold his share of the business five years ago.

In a recent news conference, Pompeo said Sentry created 100 U.S. jobs, about 25 of them in the Wichita area.

He said Sentry has created more jobs in Texas and Oklahoma than in Kansas because the oil fields there are much larger and that's where the bulk of customers are.

Voting scorecards

As a Republican candidate in a Republican-leaning district, Pompeo likes to say that Goyle voted with Democrats 93 percent of the time during his four years in the House of Representatives.

Goyle, meanwhile, says he is a fiscal conservative and social moderate, and he voted with Republicans 80 percent of the time.

Both figures are accurate, because the bulk of the bills voted in the Legislature are routine matters of state business that everyone votes for.

Rep. Steve Huebert, R-Valley Center, who has endorsed Pompeo, said Goyle "has changed how he voted from when he first came in... trying to portray himself as more conservative."

Goyle said he hasn't changed his approach to issues and has sided with whichever party had the best ideas.

He said he worked with a coalition of Republicans and Democrats on his most prominent piece of legislation, a bill to limit the Rev. Fred Phelps and family from protesting at funerals.

To gauge Goyle's voting record, The Eagle analyzed four years of legislative scorecards prepared by Americans for Prosperity, a group that tracks votes of interest to its members.

They show that Goyle's voting record has been less conservative than most Republicans, but more conservative than most Democrats.

The group gave him a 41 percent ranking in 2007, 38 percent in 2008, 9 percent in 2009 and 60 percent in 2010.

In 2007, his first year in office, Goyle tied with seven others for most conservative Democrat in the House on the AFP scorecard.

In 2008 and 2009, he was about at the midpoint; the ratings were heavily influenced by votes on the proposed coal-fired power plant at Holcomb. Goyle opposed the full-sized plant, but voted for a smaller plant worked out in a compromise by Gov. Mark Parkinson.

Goyle's AFP rating also took a hit when he supported requiring third-party groups that get involved in campaigns to reveal their donors. AFP spent $15,900 supporting Pompeo in the primary, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. AFP does not disclose donors.

In 2010, Goyle was alone as the most conservative Democrat in the House.

This year, he got higher marks from AFP for opposing an increase in the state sales tax and the budget based on that increase. Goyle said he opposed the tax because it is regressive and falls hardest on the unemployed and recession-battered workers.

AFP state director Derek Sontag said the organization does not consider Goyle particularly in line with its way of thinking, despite his relatively conservative ranking among Democrats.

"It just so happens that most of the Democrats in the Legislature are liberals," he said.

Goyle said he hasn't changed his approach as a lawmaker.

"I don't put much stock in scorecards," he said. "What I do is focus on the voters and focus on the people of Kansas, voting for public policy that helps the state... regardless of party or special interest."

Eagle research of federal and state court records found three cases Goyle handled for the ACLU of Maryland, which he said he handled as part of a fellowship funded by the law firm he worked for after law school.

His biggest case was representing blind citizens who were seeking to vote without having to tell someone how to mark their ballot. The case was settled when Baltimore County bought voting machines that could be operated verbally, court records show.

Goyle also represented a street comedian and silent-vigil peace advocates who had been banned from Baltimore's Inner Harbor, a popular park, museum and restaurant district; and a man who was told he couldn't run for City Council in Port Deposit, Md., because he lived on a houseboat.

The Inner Harbor case is ongoing, and the court ruled in favor of the houseboat resident, records show.

Pompeo was not directly critical of Goyle's individual work with the ACLU in Maryland, but said Goyle was part of a national team that's "almost always at odds with the conservative values of Kansans."

Goyle said he spent almost all of his time with the ACLU representing the blind, and he doesn't think most Kansans would find fault with that.

"It was a common-sense case that helped blind voters cast a secret ballot," he said.

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