“Working in manufacturing, I know we need a prepared workforce, better trade deals and less red tape for the economy to thrive.”

Campaign ad for Bryan Steil (R), House candidate in Wisconsin’s 1st District, Sept. 11, 2018

Steil: “Worked in manufacturing for the past nine years, in Rock County, for employers in my home community ...”

Mike Gouscha, WISN: “But you’re a corporate attorney; you’re not a manufacturer per se.”

Steil: “But my employers – my employers are manufacturing company, right? So, my employer was Regal-Beloit Corporation, my employer is Charter NEX. So, every day, I come into the office and it’s focused on how do you bring in raw material, manufacturing, get it out of the door. My focus in particular is business development, and how do you grow the company and how do you grow jobs for those companies?”

Interview on WISN, May 6, 2018

“Lyin’ Bryan Steil has not manufactured anything in his life. ... [He] worked to send Wisconsin jobs overseas.”

Campaign ad for Randy Bryce (D), House candidate in Wisconsin’s 1st District, Sept. 7, 2018

Who has the most manufacturing street cred in this Wisconsin House race?

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) is retiring, and the major-party contenders for his seat are Randy Bryce, a mustachioed ironworker and the Democratic nominee, and Bryan Steil, a corporate lawyer and former Ryan aide running as the Republican.

Steil in his ad briefly appears on a factory floor wearing safety goggles as sparks fly in the background, and speaks of “working in manufacturing.” Bryce in his own ad features a woman calling Steil a liar who “has not manufactured anything in his life.”

It’s possible to be “working in manufacturing” as a lawyer for a manufacturing company, and we don’t see an issue with Steil’s ad on that account. But the Bryce campaign also pointed out that the manufacturer where Steil spent the most time working, Regal-Beloit, outsourced many U.S. jobs while Steil was an associate general counsel from 2009 to 2017.

Did Steil have any role in outsourcing those jobs? Is he lying about his experience, as Bryce’s ad claims?

The Facts

Steil worked at Regal-Beloit Corp., a manufacturer of electric motors, as an assistant general counsel from August 2009 to December 2017, and was not part of senior management, according to his campaign spokesman. He then went to work at Charter NEX, another manufacturer, as general counsel.

“At Regal Beloit, Bryan was an assistant counsel and worked on business development projects and sales agreements utilizing his business and legal background," said Andrew Iverson, Steil’s spokesman. According to the minutes of a November 2017 meeting of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, on which Steil sits, he has said he also worked on mergers and acquisitions.

Around the time Steil was at Regal-Beloit, the company outsourced a substantial number of jobs to foreign countries, or it discontinued some U.S. operations and laid off workers because it began to buy products or parts from other countries, according to notices from the Department of Labor.

In 2009, Regal-Beloit subsidiary Marathon Electric laid off U.S. workers, as did another subsidiary, Hub City. Both decisions were made before Steil joined the company in August 2009, according to his campaign. However, records show that Steil was named secretary of Hub City after he joined Regal-Beloit, and he disclosed to Wisconsin state officials that he was named a director of the company that owned Marathon Electric.

Regal-Beloit also made moves that cut workers in Erwin, Tenn.; West Plains, Mo.; Springfield, Mo.; and Mt. Sterling, Ky. But the company said Steil had no role in those decisions.

"Bryan was never involved in the decision making process to relocate manufacturing facilities,” said Regal-Beloit spokesman Paul Goldman. “During his time at Regal, Bryan worked on the successful completion of a number of acquisitions that resulted in an increase in our global and U.S. employee base.”

“He was not in senior management at Regal Beloit and was not involved in any way with those decisions” to outsource jobs, said Iverson, the Steil spokesman. (Even if Steil was not one of the deciders, these statements don’t go so far as to say he had no role at all in executing the company’s plans to outsource jobs.)

According to Regal-Beloit filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company had nearly 4,200 U.S. employees at the beginning of 2010 and 5,407 employees at the end of 2017, when Steil left the company. That’s a net increase of more than 1,200 U.S. jobs. The Steil campaign sent us an article showing that some of those new jobs were located in Wisconsin’s 1st District.

On the other hand, the Bryce campaign pointed out comments from Regal-Beloit’s chief executive and chief operating officer, in which they said outsourcing jobs was part of the company strategy. (Outsourcing jobs has been a common thread among many U.S. manufacturing industries over the past decades.)

“Steil is in fact not a manufacturer — he is a lawyer that did M&A [mergers and acquisitions] for a company,” said Bryce campaign spokeswoman Julia Savel. “The company happened to ship jobs overseas during his time there and made that a part of their core strategy, but regardless of that, he still misrepresented what he did for the company time and time again.”

The Pinocchio Test

Steil in his ad said he had been “working in manufacturing” before running for Congress. Although he was on the corporate-lawyer side of things, his work was entirely and exclusively for manufacturing companies since August 2009. Steil never claimed in his ad that he, himself, was screwing parts together on the assembly line.

Regal-Beloit outsourced a substantial number of jobs while Steil was at the company, which seems to neutralize his claim during the WISN interview that his role was to “grow” jobs in part. But there are two big caveats here: No evidence shows Steil had a hand in sending these jobs outside the United States, and Regal-Beloit ended up with roughly 1,200 more U.S. jobs by the time Steil left the company.

He did, however, work for a manufacturer whose leaders said outsourcing jobs was part of their strategy, and records show Steil did have a role in Marathon Electric and Hub City. Even if he was not part of the decision to outsource those jobs, these records suggest he had a role executing the plan.

In the end, we conclude that it’s not fair for Bryce’s ad to call the Republican “Lyin' Bryan Steil” based on the evidence provided. The Bryce ad earns Three Pinocchios.

Three Pinocchios

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Three Pinocchios
"Lyin’ Bryan Steil has not manufactured anything in his life. ... [He] worked to send Wisconsin jobs overseas.”
in a campaign ad
Friday, September 7, 2018