With a series of polls showing movement in her direction, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer took aim at her rival Carly Fiorina in a new ad Friday that targets the Republican candidate's decision to move American jobs abroad during her 51/2-year stint heading Hewlett-Packard.
The three-term senator amplified that message at a fundraiser featuring Vice President Joe Biden on a sun-soaked terrace overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Laguna Niguel, and later before an audience of several hundred people at a retirement community in Laguna Woods.
"My opponent never cared much for American jobs," Boxer told supporters in Laguna Woods. "She laid off 30,000 workers and shipped their jobs to China, to India, to Malaysia, all over the world, and while she was doing it she enriched herself."
Campaigning at a trucking company near Carson, Fiorina charged Boxer with hypocrisy since the three-term senator has accepted money for her reelection bid from companies — including Hewlett-Packard — that have dismissed American workers and relocated jobs to other countries.
"She has taken tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from companies that have outsourced jobs — that have outsourced for years," said Fiorina, who has argued that her experience grappling with those decisions has prepared her to help American companies retain jobs if she is elected to the Senate. "Barbara Boxer can't have it both ways. If she thinks outsourcing is an evil, then she ought to give the money back."
Boxer said she didn't see the contributions from those companies "as an issue at all." "People who are giving me a contribution, be they individuals … or businesses, know that I'm working to end tax breaks to companies who ship jobs overseas," Boxer told reporters in Laguna Woods. "It's her way of diverting attention from her record."
Boxer's focus was on fundraising on her first trip west since the Senate wrapped up its legislative session to allow lawmakers to hit the campaign trail. Biden's visit was his third this election cycle to help Boxer, who has vastly outraised Fiorina so far and will get some additional help from First Lady Michelle Obama later this month. The Biden-Boxer event, at a private home, was expected to raise $250,000.
Biden told the 200 guests that "the reports of the death of the Democratic Party are greatly exaggerated."
"I don't have a single doubt in my mind that we're going to retain the House and the Senate and pick up some important governor seats," he said, adding that the choice in many races around the country as well as in the California Senate race "is between two philosophies that are really stark."
At a trucking company in the South Bay, Fiorina sought to highlight Boxer's ties to labor by focusing on the "clean trucks" program at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The program, which has been boosted by an alliance of labor and environmental groups, has dramatically reduced dirty diesel truck emissions — one of the largest sources of pollution in California — by swapping older cargo trucks for lower-emission vehicles.
Fiorina praised the environmental goals of the program and its results. But she criticized a rule imposed by the Port of Los Angeles prohibiting drivers at the port from being independent contractors and requiring them to become employees of trucking companies.
The rule, sought by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Teamsters union, was intended to force the companies to buy and maintain the new trucks instead of shifting those costs onto low-paid drivers. But the provision was also viewed as making it easier for drivers to organize and it has been challenged in the courts by American Trucking Assns.
Flanked by independent truckers and company representatives who oppose the rule, Fiorina criticized federal legislation sponsored by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) that would change federal trucking rules and give state and local governments the authority to set their own standards for clean truck programs, above federal requirements.
Fiorina said the legislation, which is backed by the Teamsters, would potentially sweep away all outstanding legal hurdles for the L.A.'s clean trucks program. The result, she said, would be to "drive out independent truckers, small-business owners in favor of big union jobs."
"This is about big union leadership supporting Barbara Boxer's reelection, and Barbara Boxer refusing to do what she claims she wants to do, which is fight for every job."
Boxer's aides said she strongly supports L.A.'s clean trucks program, as well as the goals of Nadler's legislation, and is working with Senate colleagues to craft a Senate version of the bill.
"Without cleaning up the air at the ports, we will not be able to create tens of thousands of new jobs we desperately need," Boxer said.