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AP Exclusive: Anti-outsourcing senator’s family business uses Mexican labor

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., arrives for a vote on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 6, 2017. Donnelly railed against Carrier Corp. for moving manufacturing jobs to Mexico last year, even while he profited from a family business that relies on Mexican labor, according to records reviewed by The Associated Press.(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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One of the most vulnerable senators up for re-election in 2018 – Democrat Joe Donnelly of Indiana – has staked his nearly two-decade political career on opposition to outsourcing and free-trade agreements that ship American jobs abroad.

Following up on a tip from Washington, D.C., colleague Erica Werner, Indiana Statehouse reporter Brian Slodysko pulled together public documents and customs records to reveal that Donnelly has benefited financially from the very free trade policies he has decried since his first run for Congress. As Slodysko reported in his “Only on AP” story,Donnelly earned thousands of dollars in 2016 alone from stock in the arts and crafts business his family has owned for generations, which ships raw materials to its Mexican factory that produces ink pads and other supplies.

The story resonated immediately. It appeared on front pages around the state,dominated Indiana news broadcasts and was alerted by The Indianapolis Star,which used it at the top of its homepage the rest of the day. It generated buzz in Washington after it was quoted at length in Politico Playbook, and was a major topic on Indiana’s weekend political talk shows.

A day after Slodysko’s exclusive,the senator announced he would sell his company stock,which disclosure forms listed as being worth up to $50,000. Without mentioning AP,his campaign released a statement that read: “Some folks in Washington want to make the stock I’ve owned in my brother’s company into a distraction from our work to end outsourcing and keep American jobs here instead of shipping them to other countries. I won’t let them distract us,so I’m selling the stock in my brother’s company.”

The story was just Slodysko’s latest scoop on the 2018 race. He previously documented how the wife of likely GOP candidate Luke Messer had a lucrative legal services contract with an Indianapolis suburb that pays her $20,000 a month for part-time work that she does from her home in suburban Washington.

For shining light on something a politician would have preferred left unknown to his constituents, Slodysko wins this week’s $300 Best of the States prize.

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