Rich Miller

Rich Miller

Pritzker slams GOP over battery-plant beefing

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By Rich Miller

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Illinois Senate Republicans are amplifying complaints made earlier by the Illinois Republican Party and others about a massive economic development project in Manteno.

The ILGOP complained in a recent fundraising email about the “encroachment” of the Chinese Communist Party’s influence on the economy, then connected Gotion, Inc. to the CCP. Gotion’s American subsidiary is building a massive, $2 billion electric vehicle battery plant in Kankakee County with big help from state and local governments.

Elements of the far right, including former state Rep. Jeanne Ives and various newsletters and social media forums have essentially claimed that the communists are using taxpayer funds to build some sort of spy base, or use it to promote CCP activities, or something. It’s not totally clear what. The state GOP claimed the plant would be built “right next to a military base,” which isn’t true, unless you count National Guard and Army Reserve camps in that category.

Anyway, the Senate Republicans expressed their own concerns in what was supposed to be a private letter to Gov. JB Pritzker last week which I obtained. Gotion is based in California, but its parent company was founded in China and has standard language in its Chinese charter about how it will “carry out Party activities in accordance with the Constitution of the Communist Party of China.”

RichMiller 1

Rich Miller

“During your conversations with Gotion Inc.,” the SGOPs asked the governor, “were there any discussions concerning whether the company will continue to ‘ensure necessary conditions for carrying out Party activities’ while in Illinois?”

Man, what I wouldn’t give to see Chinese commies try to organize a cell in Manteno. That would be a hoot.

Look, the Chinese are already here. Several Chinese companies invest in Illinois and several Illinois companies do business in China. The computer used to create that letter was probably made in China or has lots of Chinese components.

More importantly, Illinois Manufacturers Association CEO Mark Denzler pointed out to me when I called that a federal process exists to assess security risks for companies like Gotion and, he said, that process will play itself out here as well. Denzler, a lifelong Republican, doesn’t seem to have any major concerns and was at the project’s Manteno unveiling. Gotion was already given a federal green light in Michigan.

The U.S. Departments of Defense, Justice and State have not expressed any qualms about the project that anyone knows of. The company is required to invest $2 billion and create at least 2,600 good-paying jobs. Gotion is using American workers to build a product with lots of American-made components for American-made automobiles. Yeah, it’s the Chinese government. They have to be watched, for sure. But that’s not the state’s responsibility. That’s on the federal government.

The Senate Republicans’ questions about whether the plant’s workers will be union members or whether there are any safeguards for workers’ rights have some legitimacy, particularly since a majority of the caucus voted for the union-backed Workers’ Rights Amendment.

Manteno is about 15 miles from the Indiana border. If Gotion had opened its massive new plant in Hoosierville, the Republicans would have undoubtedly pounced on the governor’s failure.

Manteno is represented in the House by a Republican, Rep. Jackie Haas, who supports the project. The state party and Senate Republican attacks are not sitting well with the House Republicans, but they’ve had to remain mostly silent.

The governor has put an enormous amount of time and effort into getting this deal done. Illinois has a bad reputation among business types. Overcoming those reputational hurdles ain’t easy, which is why Pritzker has had to work so hard to achieve this goal.

Pritzker also believes that closing this deal will convince other companies to follow along. So, he’s not about to sit back while people dump on this accomplishment.

The letter Pritzker sent back to the Senate Republicans was brutal, accusing them of “doubling down on your own irrelevance.”

“Opposing 2,600 jobs and $2 billion dollars in investment for a community that needs it is a curious position, but I have long since stopped trying to understand what the Illinois Republican Party has become,” he wrote.

The Republicans replied that they were simply asking some questions and would still like them answered. Then again, a cynic could point to the fact that Democratic Sen. Patrick Joyce is up for reelection next year. The Manteno plant is in his district, and he is an enthusiastic supporter.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

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