The following month, Dobbs featured ITT Industries, an engineering and manufacturing firm. One of the things he liked about ITT, he told readers, was that CEO Louis Giuliano “puts such a high premium on his employees, and their involvement in ‘value creation.’ A lot of CEOs view employees simply as fat to be cut in service to the bottom line or in pursuit of a better stock price. Louis is one CEO who knows better than that…” Is ITT on Dobbs’ list of companies moving jobs overseas? By now, you know the answer.
And in February of this year, Dobbs focused on energy company Pinnacle West. After touting the company’s “rapid growth,” he told readers, “The second reason I like Pinnacle West is its model corporate governance.” He went on to ask CEO William Post: “Last year, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council awarded you the Outstanding Regional Contribution award, recognizing a lasting contribution to regional economic development efforts. How important is it to you, as a corporate leader, to contribute to your region’s economic development?”
Pinnacle West — like Toro, Greenpoint, Boeing, Bank One, Washington Mutual, ITT Industries and Office Depot — appears on Dobbs’ list of companies that are “exporting America.”
Dobbs is careful in his televised comments for CNN not to attack individual companies directly by name, and he’s never called for viewers to boycott companies that outsource. But by posting their names on a website titled “Exporting America,” and by making on-air declarations like, “U.S. multi-nationals are shipping jobs for only one reason…cheaper labor costs,” Dobbs leave little doubt about how he wants his attitude toward the companies to be perceived by viewers.
Dobbs says the website was set up merely to fill a vacuum. In an email to Campaign Desk, he wrote: “We began compiling our list of companies outsourcing jobs overseas because the information was not available anywhere, and we wanted to know how widespread the practice is, and report it to our viewers. The Labor and Commerce departments, the Business Roundtable, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have never kept records of jobs lost to outsourcing. Our list of corporations now exceeds 800, and grows daily.”
And he sees no contradiction in fingering outsourcers with one hand, while recommending the same companies as investment opportunities with the other: “[Y]ou seem to be suggesting that one cannot criticize corporate America without calling for its destruction,” he told us. “Or because one believes a company to be well-managed that’s its beyond criticism…Surely, you don’t believe that your readers or my viewers are incapable of abhorring a business practice, and at the same time acknowledging the success of a corporation?” He makes a distinction, he said, between bad practices and those who practice them.
But Dobbs’ newsletter doesn’t just “acknowledge” successful corporation. He goes further, painting his featured companies as good corporate citizens — and encourages readers to invest in them partly on that basis — without mentioning that they conduct business practices that, by his own admission, he “detests.”
Most of Dobbs’s CNN viewers don’t have access to the information in “Money Letter,” his investment guide. So the larger public sees only one Lou Dobbs: the outspoken anti-outsourcing crusader. The other Lou Dobbs is available only for that $398 fee. And that’s the Lou Dobbs who doesn’t appear to be putting his money where his mouth is.
Chase Behringer and Hali Felt of the Columbia Journalism Review contributed additional reporting to this story.