Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.), principal sponsor of a Senate-passed bill to limit imports of textiles and clothing, buys custom-made suits from a Korean tailor shop, where his picture hangs on the wall as a famous customer.
Only two weeks ago Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), at the request of a U.S. Embassy official in Korea, carried a tailor-made suit for Hollings from the Seoul shop back to Washington. "It was a simple personal favor," said an aide to Lugar, who voted against the textile quota bill when it was approved by 68 to 32 in July.
Hollings, whose state is a major manufacturer of textiles and clothing, is well-known for his support of the textile industry and his strongly worded floor speeches against imports. His anti-import views are so strongly held that he has railed against staff members who drive foreign cars.
In floor debate over the textile bill, Hollings argued that imports are killing the domestic cloth and clothing industry despite its modernization. If trends continue, he said in a letter to The Washington Post last month, "there will be no textile and apparel industry left by the end of the century."
Hollings's office had no comment on his ordering custom-made suits from Seoul.
President Bush, arguing that the textile bill is protectionist legislation that threatens to scuttle global free-trade talks, has said he will veto the bill. The House is expected to approve the legislation, probably later this month.
Hilton Lee, the owner of the bustling Seoul shop that is a favorite with U.S. Embassy personnel and visiting Americans, said Hollings bought suits during visits to Korea in 1988 and 1989.
For the suit Lugar brought back two weeks ago, Lee said, Hollings "sent the material from the United States to here and we just sewed it. Someone took it to the United States from here."
Custom-made English wool suits cost between $230 and $350 at his shop, Lee said, but he charged $100 for the labor in sewing the suit Hollings just bought. "Senators and Congressmen, those people we give a very reasonable price to," said Lee.