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    Political Notebook

    Huntsman campaign targets Romney on factory closings

    cheryl senter/Associated Press
    Jon Huntsman, taking questions during a town hall meeting at BAE Systems in Nashua, N.H., on Tuesday, has made the Granite State the focal point of his campaign.

    The campaign of Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman attacked rival Mitt Romney yesterday over the closure of manufacturing plants in two early voting states by a company controlled by Romney’s firm Bain Capital.

    “I was shocked at the realization that someone who’s running for president was part of something that would close down a plant, and people would lose jobs,’’ said Scott Pope, who was the mayor of Claremont, N.H., when the Holson Burnes plant closed in his city.

    Pope spoke on a conference call with Huntsman aides and reporters. He was referring to reports from the Associated Press this week that detailed the closure of the South Carolina and New Hampshire plants of the Holson Burnes Group, a photo album manufacturing company.


    Pope, a Huntsman supporter, said he was surprised to hear that Romney said on “Fox News Sunday’’ he was never about “buying things, taking them apart, closing them down.’’

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    “He did close down the plant and broke apart the business,’’ Pope said.

    Romney has been on a three-day bus tour of New Hampshire, ending tomorrow. The former venture capitalist and Massachusetts governor has remained the front-runner in the Granite State, beseeching voters to view him as a jobs creator. Huntsman, former governor of Utah and US ambassador to China, has made New Hampshire the focal point of his campaign, often visiting small manufacturing plants throughout the state.

    The Associated Press reported that Bain bought two companies - Hallmark’s Burnes of Boston and the Holson Company in the late 1980s, when Romney ran the firm. Bain combined them into the Holson Burnes Group and built a factory in South Carolina. But while sales grew, Holson Burnes was operating at a loss, the AP reported. The company closed the South Carolina plant in 1992, laying off workers there and moving the remaining jobs to Claremont, N.H. However, those jobs also did not last long.

    The Claremont plant began furloughing workers after just seven months, as it sent more jobs overseas.


    Pope said in the call that on April 7, 2005, he and the city manager received a letter notifying them that the Holson Burnes plant was closing. At that point, there were 37 people still working there, down from about 65 the previous year - and others had been laid off earlier. Overall, Pope said around 100 jobs were lost at the Claremont plant.

    “They were not lazy people, just people who wanted to live a small piece of the American dream,’’ Pope said.

    Pope said the reason he was given for the closure was that the company was going to move plant operations to Mexico.

    Asked by a reporter whether this was simply the free market at work, Pope said the president has a responsibility to provide opportunity for people. And he said, while Romney has talked about creating jobs, “What I saw in the past, that didn’t happen.’’

    Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul responded, “President Obama and his friends on the left are continuing their attacks on the free enterprise system - and by attacking free enterprise they are willingly dividing Americans. Mitt Romney has a quarter-century of experience working with entrepreneurs and real businesses in the real economy.’’

    — Shira Schoenberg

    Barbour plans to return to lobbying firm, source says


    JACKSON, Miss. - When Mississippi’s governor, Haley Barbour, leaves office on Jan. 10, he’ll return to the lobbying firm he founded in 1991, according to a person with direct knowledge of the plan.

    The Republican will return next month to the BGR Group, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Barbour’s plans were not yet public. The firm is a government affairs, strategic communications, and investment banking firm.

    The person said Barbour’s new office is under construction in Washington, and newly hired people will work for him.

    Barbour has recently worn BGR golf shirts at public events. He cannot seek a third term as governor.

    His spokeswoman said the governor had no comment.

    Earlier this year, Barbour, a conservative with a strong Southern base, explored a run for the presidency. He declined to pursue a candidacy, saying that he did not have the passion and ambition to mount a comprehensive bid.

    — Associated Press

    New election rules could help unions draw members

    WASHINGTON - In a win for organized labor, the National Labor Relations Board yesterday approved sweeping rules that would speed the pace of union elections, possibly making it easier for unions to gain members at companies that have long rebuffed them.

    Business groups quickly denounced the move, saying that it limits the time that employers have to educate workers about the impact of joining a union.

    The US Chamber of Commerce has already filed a federal lawsuit challenging the rules.

    The rules, which take effect April 30, simplify procedures and reduce legal delays that can hold up union elections after employees at a work site gather enough signatures to form a union.

    “This rule is about giving all employees who have petitioned for an election the right to vote in a timely manner and without the impediment of needless litigation,’’ NLRB chairman Mark Pearce said.

    Unions say the old rules allowed companies to file frivolous appeals, stalling elections for months or years.

    The new rules could help unions make inroads at such businesses as Target and Walmart, which have successfully resisted union organizing for years.

    But business groups claim the new plan allows “ambush’’ elections that don’t give company managers enough time to respond.

    “This decision erodes employers’ free speech and due process rights and opens the door to rushed elections that will deny employees access to critical information and time to consider the issues at hand prior to entering the voting booth,’’ said Katherine Lugar, executive vice president for public affairs at the Retail Industry leaders Association.

    Most union elections currently take place between 45 to 60 days after a union gathers enough signatures to file a petition.

    The new rules could shorten that time by several weeks, depending on the situation.

    — Associated Press