Liberal attack groups, expected to play a significant role as the presidential contest goes forward, will ensure such questions are not lost on voters.

"Nothing raises the hypocrisy meter faster than the Republican presidential candidates talking about the economic recovery act. They love to pander to their base by demonizing the bill, yet they are all too eager to seek funding for projects in their district, to use federal dollars to balance their state's budget, or to hold campaign events at successful companies who received stimulus funding," said Ty Matsdorf, spokesman for the independent political group American Bridge, recently established to help Democrats.

Some campaigns and companies involved defend appearances with stimulus beneficiaries as coincidences in states where hundreds of businesses and institutions accepted federal assistance over the last two years. Indeed, entities in the early voting states of New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina received a combined $8 billion from the 2009 package to date.

"There was a tremendous amount of money that went to all sectors. It would be very hard for a Mitt Romney, or a presidential candidate from any party, to go to any manufacturer and find someone who was not directly, or indirectly, affected somehow," said Steven Cohen, president of Ohio-based Screen Machine Industries, which hosted a Romney event in July and received stimulus contracts worth nearly $220,000.

"I think it would be irresponsible for an American manufacturer not to go after their fair share," Cohen told The Associated Press this week. "The question is whether it was a wise investment. That's for someone else to answer."

The stimulus package created or saved as many as 3.3 million jobs and reduced the nation's unemployment rate by as much as 1.8 points, according to updated estimates provided by the Congressional Budget Office in late August.

The campaigns say local companies shouldn't be penalized simply because they took advantage of the federal program.

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