Boeing supporter steps up anti-Airbus campaign

NEW YORK, March 5 (Reuters) - One of Boeing Co's BA.N leading congressional supporters is stepping up her campaign to discredit EADS EAD.PA and its Airbus unit after the European company won a key role in a lucrative $35 billion refueling tanker contract from the U.S. Air Force.

The press office of Sen. Patty Murray, a Washington state Democrat who is campaigning vehemently against the tanker award, mistakenly sent out a five-year old press release on Wednesday, attacking job creation claims by Airbus.

“The idea is to slap a new headline and intro on it and draw attention to the last time Airbus’ job claims were investigated,” said Murray’s press secretary Matt McAlvanah in a message accompanying the e-mail, which he later said was sent in error.

Murray has been a staunch supporter of Boeing, which has its main commercial plane-making plants in her state. Boeing planned to build the airframe of its refueling tankers on the 767 production line in Everett, Washington. The loss of the tanker contract could mean the closure of the 767 line and job cuts in Washington state.

The supporters of Boeing and EADS, which teamed with Northrop Grumman Corp NOC.N to bid on the tanker contract, have both made aggressive job claims for their projects.

Backers of the Northrop/EADS team, which is planning to assemble the tankers at a new facility in Mobile, Alabama, have said it will create 25,000 jobs at 230 U.S. companies. Murray says a Boeing win would have created 44,000 U.S. jobs.

On Wednesday, Murray said the tanker award to Northrop/EADS would hurt U.S. workers for years to come and noted the United States had a World Trade Organization complaint pending against Airbus for unfair state subsidies.

“With this Air Force contract, Airbus is not creating American jobs, it’s killing them,” she said on the Senate floor.

Murray’s press office now plans to “focus on Airbus’ checkered history,” and “put together a document on Airbus’ shady dealings,” according to the e-mail message from McAlvanah.

But efforts to raise the WTO dispute may come to little if the tanker contract award is formally protested. The trade dispute was explicitly excluded by the Air Force from its request for proposals.

Michael Golden, spokesman for the Government Accountability Office, a congressional agency that evaluates contract disputes, said Boeing could not challenge the exclusion of the WTO matter, since it had implicitly accepted the terms of the competition when it filed its final proposal on Jan. 3.

“They would have had to file protests about the terms of the competition earlier,” Golden told Reuters this week. (Reporting by Bill Rigby and Andrea Shalal-Esa in Washington; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)