Big Labor Throws Donnelly a Lifeline

Super PAC funded solely by unions launches major push

Joe Donnelly / Getty Images

Several labor unions have launched a last ditch super PAC to save Sen. Joe Donnelly's re-election bid, even if the Indiana Democrat's family business has outsourced jobs to Mexico.

Vote Hoosier Values, a super PAC that shares an address with United Auto Workers in Indianapolis, launched in October and has spent more than $700,000 in the closing weeks of the race to boost the freshman Democrat. The group has launched online attack ads criticizing Republican nominee Mike Braun for outsourcing. Its website claims that Braun "made millions by importing materials from China instead of supporting American companies and workers," while praising Donnelly for fighting against policies that "make it easier for companies to outsource Indiana jobs."

The website fails to mention Donnelly's own ties to outsourcing. His family owns Stewart Superior Corp., a nonunion arts and crafts and printing businesses, that runs a factory out of Mexico. Its California operations ship material south of the border to Mexican subsidiary Diverstech Color de Mexico. Mexican workers finish the products and ship them back to the United States for sale. The Mexican company appears to provide drastic cuts to labor costs. Job postings dating back to 2016 advertise monthly wages ranging from $375 to $697—about $2.23 to $4.14 per hour assuming a full work schedule, far below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Stewart Superior did not return a call seeking comment.

The company's business practices are in direct conflict with the message of the Vote for Hoosier Values PAC, which aims to "put Indiana workers first." It receives all of its funding from organized labor. In addition to office space, the UAW has poured $200,000 into the group. The political arms of the United Steelworkers and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) have each kicked in an additional $200,000 to give Donnelly a boost.

Neither Vote for Hoosiers Values nor the Donnelly campaign returned interview requests.

Donnelly's family business has drawn scrutiny before given his campaign image as a moderate blue-collar Democrat. He worked for the company prior to launching his political career in 2006, but did not make large investments in it until 2013—about the same time the company was expanding its footprint in Mexico. A 2017 Associated Press report about Donnelly's continued investment holdings in the company led the Democrat to sell off his shares that netted him between $15,001 and $50,000 in 2016 alone.

A Braun spokesman declined comment.

Trump won Indiana by 20 points in 2016, a margin that could set the stage for a major pick-up opportunity for the GOP. Donnelly and Braun are running one of the closest races in the country entering the final days of the midterm elections and could help determine the majority in the Senate. Four polls taken since Oct. 12 have shown Donnelly holding leads ranging from 1 to 7 percentage points while two voter surveys have given Braun a 3-to-4 point advantage. A Real Clear Politics polling average gives Donnelly a 1.2 percent lead.