msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 3/11/2004 6:33:58 PM ET 2004-03-11T23:33:58

A Nebraska business executive has withdrawn from consideration to be President Bush’s point man on manufacturing amid Democratic charges he outsourced jobs to China. The controvercy arose Wednesday when Sen. John Kerry raised questions about Tony Raimondo's  stance on shifting U.S. jobs to foreign countries.

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The Bush administration said Raimondo’s withdrawal was related to Nebraska political issues and not the flap raised by the Kerry campaign.

In an interview on CNBC Thursday, Commerce Secretary Don Evans had refused to answer questions about whether Raimondo, the chief executive of Behlen Manufacturing Co., in Columbus, Neb., was still being considered for the position, saying only that the administration was “continuing to look at candidates.”

“It’s not so important when we make the announcement. It’s who it is,” Evans said in the interview.

The administration had scheduled a news conference for Thursday to announce its selection for the job of assistant commerce secretary for manufacturing. Bush last September had announced the position to coordinate the administration’s efforts to bolster the country’s beleaguered manufacturing sector.

However, the planned news conference was scrapped after Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate, and other Democrats raised questions about Raimondo’s stance on shifting U.S. jobs to foreign countries, a hot political issue given the loss of 3 million manufacturing jobs since mid-2000.

As chief executive of Behlen Manufacturing, which makes metal buildings and grain silos, came under fire from Democrats who accused him of having sent jobs to China while laying off American workers.

“On the same day the Bush administration announced it was ready to name the head of the new office for manufacturing, the nominee couldn’t be reached because he was in China, where his company is building a new factory after laying off 75 workers in Columbus, Nebraska,” the Democratic National Committee said in a statement.

© 2013 msnbc.com

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