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Politics

One man’s anti-Romney story, in part

In an inflammatory new television spot, the pro-Obama “super PAC” Priorities USA Action attempts to link the closing of a Bain Capital-owned steel mill to the death of a wife of one of the former steelworkers, who lost his health insurance when he was laid off.

In the spot, former GST Steel employee Joe Soptic recounts how his family lost healthcare after the Kansas City mill closed, and suggests his wife was afraid to seek medical care because of the cost. She died of cancer.

“I don’t know how long she was sick, and I think maybe she didn’t say anything because she knew that we couldn’t afford the insurance,” he says in the ad, which is running in five states. “And then one day she became ill and I took her up to the Jackson County Hospital and admitted her for pneumonia, and that’s when they found the cancer, and by then it was Stage 4. It was -- there was nothing they could do for her. And she passed away in 22 days.”

But the commercial fails to note that his wife, Ilyona “Ranae” Soptic, died in 2006, five years after the steel mill was shut down. A June 26, 2006, obituary in the Kansas City Star reported that at age 55, she “went to the hospital for pneumonia, but doctors found signs of very advanced cancer, and she died two weeks later on June 22.”

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The obituary quotes Joe Soptic calling his wife “the one.”

“She was my soul mate and the love of my life,” he told the newspaper. “We were married for 30 years, and I loved every minute of it.”

Meanwhile, CNN reported Tuesday that after Joe Soptic lost his job at the steel mill, his wife continued to have her own health insurance for a few years through her job at a local thrift store.

Bill Burton, a strategist for Priorities USA Action, said the group stood by the spot.

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“This is another in a series of ads that demonstrates how long it took for communities and individuals to recover from the closing of these businesses,” he said in a statement. “Families and individuals had to find new jobs, new sources of health insurance and a way to make up for the pensions they lost. Mitt Romney has had an enduring impact on the lives of thousands of men and women and for many of them, that impact has been devastating.”

Soptic said he still blamed Romney for his family’s lack of insurance.

“That is the way I feel,” he told CNN. “Mitt Romney is a very rich man. I mean, it is obvious if you watch him on television he is completely out of touch with the average family -- you know, middle-income people. I don’t think he has any concept as to how when you close a big company, how [it] affects families, the community -- you know, it affects everyone.”

The Los Angeles Times/Tribune Washington Bureau reported last year that GST Steel was part of a company Bain formed in the early 1990s by merging plants in Missouri, South Carolina and other states. The company went bankrupt in 2001, two years after Romney took a leave from Bain to run the Salt Lake City Olympics. More than 700 workers were fired, losing not only their jobs but health insurance, severance and a chunk of their pension benefits. Bain partners received about $50 million on their initial investment, a 100% gain.

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matea.gold@latimes.com

Twitter: @mateagold


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