Mitt Romney will show his true colors tonight, when he slips behind closed doors in a foreign capital to collect money from international bankers who are mired in scandal.
The presidential contender is officially in London to cheer on the US team in the Olympics. But Romney doesn’t always cheer for Team USA. When it comes to global economics, Romney remains very much the “vulture capitalist” his Republican primary foes decried. And tonight, he’ll be swooping into central London to party with masters of the universe who know no country—and, it would appear, no ethical bounds.
London is abuzz over the Libor (London InterBank Offered Rate) scandal, which saw some of the biggest banks in the world report false interest rates in order to fool investors and game the international economy. Bob Diamond, the top man in Barclays Bank, had to resign from his position after that bank paid almost $500 million in fines.
Not to worry. Another Barclay’s insider (chief lobbyist Patrick Durkin) took Diamond’s place as a co-chair for the Romney event, along with officials of Bank of Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Goldman Sachs, Blackstone and Wells Fargo Securities—and, of course, Bain Capital Europe.
As the investigation of banks implicated in Libor rate-fixing expands, Romney’s decision to go ahead with the London fundraising events is an act either of boldness or recklessness. The presumptive Republican nominee for president seems to think he can get away with raising as much as $2 million at a series of fund-raising events held on foreign soil. The cheapest of Romney’s “lavish” London events has a $2,500-per-person entry fee, while the evening gathering where the most scandal-plagued of international bankers will mingle with their favorite American charges from $25,000-per-person to $75,000 a head.
That’s the kind of event that candidates like to keep secret.
But grassroots activists in the United States are upping the ante by demanding that Romney immediately reveal the names of the bankers and financial insiders attending his London fundraising events. In particularly, they are pushing for the release of any and all information relating to Romney’s interactions with donors associated with Barclays and any other institutions that have been linked to the Libor scandal.
The Center for Responsive Politics identifies Barclays as the largest source of campaign donations to Romney, and a Maine state legislator who has been in the forefront of campaign finance reform and corporate watchdog fights wants to know more about the relationship between Romney and the Barclays donors.
“Americans have a right to know who Romney’s donors are so they can understand what policy agendas are in line with those donations,” says Maine State Representative Diane Russell, D-Portland. “We all have the right to donate to political campaigns, and the responsibility to own up to those donations. It’s part of the democratic process.”
Russell has launched a national petition drive demanding that Romney come clean about the Barclays ties and the London fundraising event.
It’s time we return to government of, by and for the people—not government of, bought, and paid for by special interests. The job of a Wall Street banker is to get a good return on their investment, and unfortunately, they’ve taken those skills to Washington—and now the presidency.
Mitt Romney is attending an elite London fundraiser—$25,000 to $75,000 per plate—hosted by the CEOs at the center of the Libor scandal threatening our already fragile economy. Executives of at least three other banks under investigation are co-chairs of the fundraiser, according to invitations obtained by The Washington Post.
At the same time, too many Americans are falling out of the middle class when they are working hard to climb the ladder into it. In fact, middle-class workers have seen their incomes drop by nearly 8 percent in three years and their wealth disappear by a staggering 40%.
We believe politicians should work for us, not their corporate sponsors. It is time for Mitt Romney to fully disclose his donors—and how much they are giving to his campaign.
Russell set out to collect 10,000 signatures.
She’ll get them. And a lot more.
Mitt Romney’s connection to Barclays and the Libor scandal is a big deal. Americans have a right to be angry that a man who wants to be president of the United States jets off to London to collect checks from international banksters. And the more they learn about Romney, Barclays and Libor, the angrier they’ll get.
By: John Nichols, The Nation, July 26, 2012
Mitt Romney may need to brush up on how he handles the topic of gun control, because what he said in an interview today with Brian Williams made no sense. Asked whether he could “see the argument” of people who question whether citizens should be allowed to buy AR-15 assault rifles or purchase 6,000 rounds of ammunition online, Romney responded:
ROMNEY: “Well this person shouldn’t have had any kind of weapons and bombs and other devices and it was illegal for him to have many of those things already. But he had them. And so we can sometimes hope that just changing the law will make all bad things go away. It won’t. Changing the heart of the American people may well be what’s essential, to improve the lots of the American people.”
Let’s break this down, piece by piece:
“Well this person shouldn’t have had any kind of weapons and bombs and other devices and it was illegal for him to have many of those things already. But he had them.”
We don’t yet know what chemicals Holmes used to make his booby traps or how he acquired them. But the weapons he used — including a semiautomatic assault rifle with a 100-round magazine — to actually shoot dozens of people were all purchased legally. That’s, uh, why he had them.
“And so we can sometimes hope that just changing the law will make all bad things go away. It won’t.”
Literally nobody believes that stricter gun-control laws would “make all bad things go away.” The point is to save lives by making it more difficult to kill people. Romney knows this — after all, he signed an assault-weapon ban into law as governor of Massachusetts.
“Changing the heart of the American people may well be what’s essential to improve the lots of the American people.”
Is that his actual plan? Let’s call up the Care Bears, maybe they can bathe all of America in the glow of their belly-rays and dissuade everyone from carrying out any more massacres.
By: Dan Amira, Daily Intel, July 25, 2012
The Keystone State goes to court this week over its voter-ID law. So what is that again? And where does the Department of Justice fit in?
We get it. Real-life court dramas are not as exciting as Judge Judy (and definitely not as exciting as Judge Joe Brown). So we totally don’t judge you for not knowing why the hell Pennsylvania’s voter-ID law is suddenly in court.
Of course, you thought you’d covered your bases when you read our early explanation of voter-ID laws. (If you didn’t, well, you only need to be a little embarrassed.) You know there’s basically no evidence of in-person voter fraud where one person impersonates another—the only type of fraud voter ID guards against. You know that the big fights were in Texas and South Carolina. So why is everyone so worked up about some court case in Harrisburg?
Well let us be quick and leave you plenty of time for Court TV.
So a bunch of states have voter-ID laws—what’s the big deal about Pennsylvania?
Well, not shockingly in a presidential election year, a lot of it boils down to politics. Pennsylvania is a swing state in a close election, so every vote each side can pull counts big. Most people believe voter-ID laws help Republicans win elections, because poor and nonwhite voters tend to vote Democratic and also tend to be the populations less likely to have the necessary ID. In case there was any doubt about those intentions, the state House majority leader told an audience that passing voter ID was “going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” (He evidently didn’t get the whole memo about pretending we need this to combat nonexistent voter fraud.)
But as it turns out, the number of voters in Pennsylvania who might get disenfranchised is huge. The state law requires a government-issued photo id with an expiration date. The law was geared toward voters using an ID issued by the state Department of Transportation. During the debates earlier this year, the governor’s office said that 99 percent of state voters already had such an ID. But when the secretary of the commonwealth did a study in early July, it showed that as many as 758,000 people—or 9 percent of voters—didn’t have an ID from the Department of Transportation. Other studies estimate that there could be a million Pennsylvania voters without ID. That’s more than the margin of victory Barack Obama had in 2008.
While some people are worked up about what this means for the presidential election, there’s also this little-bitty other detail: that the right to vote is a cornerstone of our democracy. In Philadelphia (you know, that place where the Declaration of Independence was signed) as many as 18 percent of voters lack the necessary identification. Democrat or Republican, the whole denying-tons-of-people-their-right-to-vote thing has got some pretty upset as well.
Is someone trying to fight the law?
Damn straight someone is. Wednesday is the first day of court for a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Advancement Project, and other voting-rights groups. This lawsuit argues that the voter-ID law violates the “free and equal” elections clause in the state constitution and adds a new and unnecessary burden to voters. The case has some pretty sympathetic plaintiffs, including a 93-year-old civil-rights activist who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. Several of the plaintiffs are elderly women of color who cannot get a photo ID because they cannot get copies of their birth certificates.
“What they’re saying in Pennsylvania is that the fundamental right to vote in Pennsylvania is broader than the right to vote under the Constitution,” says Jon Greenbaum, the chief counsel at the Lawyers Committee. That means that even though the Supreme Court said voter-ID laws didn’t violate the 14th Amendment, which guarantees the right to vote, the ACLU and others claim that it does violate Pennsylvania’s guaranteed right to vote.
Greenbaum says that if the court agrees that the right to vote in Pennsylvania is broader than it is under the 14th Amendment, then the state will likely have to prove that the voter-ID law is necessary to prevent voter fraud. That’s going to be tough, because the state has already admitted that there are no known cases of in-person voter fraud.
However, if the state decides that the right to vote in Pennsylvania is no different than it is under the U.S. Constitution, then the burden will be on the plaintiffs. They will have to show that this is an extreme burden for voters and one that will result in many people losing their right to vote. That would be a harder case for them to prove. Either way, the case is supposed to last about a week.
Why isn’t the Department of Justice bringing them to court? Didn’t they stop Texas’s and South Carolina’s laws?
Chill out, Nancy Grace—the Justice Department isn’t just hanging around watching American Idol. As it turns out, not all states get the same treatment when it comes to the old D of J. Texas and South Carolina are both listed under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. That section specifically targets states with a history of voter discrimination, and for the nine states listed, the law requires the feds to approve all changes to election laws. (It’s pithily known as “preclearance.”) So before Texas and South Carolina could implement their voter-ID laws, they had to show the Department of Justice that the laws would not have a discriminatory impact. Neither state succeeded, and the Justice Department prevented the laws from being implemented. (Now both states are suing the department. Fun times in court dramas!) However, Pennsylvania is not listed under Section 5, so it did not need to get preclearance to implement the law.
But the Justice Department just announced that it’s investigating whether Pennsylvania violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits laws that have a discriminatory intent or effect.
So what are the grounds of the investigation, and how is it different from the state lawsuit?
While the state constitution case is about the fundamental right to vote, the investigation dealing with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act will likely be all about racial discrimination. The section forbids any election law that is intended to cause discrimination or that will, in practice, result in discrimination. Greenbaum says that will be the main focus of the Justice Department effort: whether this law will make it disproportionately harder for nonwhite voters to cast their ballot. While in Section 5 cases, it falls to the state to show that it’s not discriminating, in Section 2, the burden is on the department to prove that the state is discriminating.
Right now, the Justice Department is just collecting evidence—it’s asked for tons of documents in 16 different categories. (The paper cuts alone will probably lead to some bitter Pennsylvania state employees.)
If the department winds up taking Pennsylvania to court, in some ways it will be in uncharted territory. Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act is usually used for “voter dilution” cases like redistricting. For instance, a state violates Section 2 when it spreads out minority voters into different districts where their votes are a small percentage, rather than keeping them in a district together where they can elect their candidate of choice. But until the voter-ID fad hit, there weren’t many cases of states trying to deny voters their right. According to Greenbaum, while there’s a lot of precedent to show what you have to prove in a “voter dilution” case, there’s not much to go on when it comes to showing that voters are getting denied the right to vote.
Both the state lawsuit and any potential Justice Department case face a similar hurdle: Trying to prove the impact of a law before an election is a whole lot harder than waiting until the election is over. But the groups cannot wait until afterward to litigate, since that would mean waiting until people were denied the right to vote and the election outcome would already be decided. But litigating the cases now is much harder.
The reasons are obvious. Before an election, you must show the effect of the law before it’s put in place. After the election, you can show exactly what happened and who was denied the right to vote. Before the election, evidence is harder to collect. For instance, many people who currently lack ID may still get one before the election. That’s why it’s good that the ACLU case has focused on several plaintiffs who cannot get an ID no matter how hard they try, for lack of documentation.
A pre-election Section 2 case would likely be an even greater challenge. But Wendy Weiser, the director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, says it’s certainly worth pursuing, particularly if the Justice Department can gather a lot of evidence from the state. “If Section 2 could never be used preemptively,” she says, “it would not be a sufficient protection of voting rights.”
So scratch it. This drama may give Judge Judy a run for her money.
By: Abby Rapoport, The American Prospect, July 25, 2012
A 3-pointer at a gym full of U.S. troops in a war zone, or a crowd of 250,000 at a speech in Europe — neither is likely, and certainly not necessary. But Mitt Romney needs a helicopter moment for sure.
Four years ago, Barack Obama — a former state senator with mere months in the U.S. Senate who had no foreign-policy experience whatsoever — went overseas to bolster his credentials as potential commander in chief. He traveled to Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Jordan, Germany, France and England. In the midst of two active wars, Obama met with the prime minister of Iraq and the president of Afghanistan and was famously photographed with Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, in a helicopter over Baghdad.
Dan Schnur, a former aide for GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — then strongly preferred by voters over Obama on foreign-policy and defense matters — wrote in The New York Times that because the Iraqi prime minister announced support for the same timeline for U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq that Obama outlined, a Bush administration official was heading to multi-nation talks with Iran and a consensus was emerging in favor of a stronger military presence in Afghanistan, “the three most important pillars of Mr. Obama’s international platform had been endorsed from a variety of unexpected sources.” Schnur added, “That’s a pretty good way to start a trip.”
The optics overpowered the picture of McCain back home — puttering around on a golf cart with former President George H.W. Bush — but the substance of Obama’s foreign-policy agenda made headlines as well.
Romney has arrived in England for the Olympic Games before he heads to Israel and Poland on his foreign trip, where he, too, hopes to build confidence and comfort among voters back home in his leadership ability abroad. Like Obama, he lacks experience, but unlike Obama he has yet to lay out a clear vision or even broad plans for how he would handle our most pressing foreign-policy challenges. In his speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Nevada on Tuesday, Romney blasted the president’s foreign-policy record, suggested Obama has betrayed the nation by allowing leaks of classified information for political gain and lambasted cuts to military spending Obama has supported and that all GOP leaders and most of their rank and file in Congress voted for as well. Romney extolled the greatness of America, and said he was “not ashamed of American power,” but wasn’t specific.
After criticizing Obama two years ago for “announcing the day he’s pulling out” of Afghanistan, Romney suddenly announced in his speech Tuesday that he too would advocate withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014. His exact words: “As president, my goal in Afghanistan will be to complete a successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014.” Had he been on his way to the site of our nation’s longest-ever war, Romney would have spent the entire trip explaining his flip-flop.
While in Israel with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom Romney enjoys a decades-old friendship, Romney might offer a new policy prescription for stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons that differs from the Obama administration. He might have ideas about how to depose Syria’s Bashar Assad.
Perhaps in Poland, as he criticizes the Russians, whom he has called “our No. 1 geopolitical foe,” Romney will announce just how he would counter Russian aggression in Eastern Europe and how he might convince the Russians — as well as the Chinese — to help the United States, Israel and our allies confront Iran and Syria.
Perhaps not. But the Israeli border of war-torn Syria would be the perfect spot for a helicopter ride with Netanyahu.
By: A. B. Stoddard, Editor, The Hill, July 25, 2012
The sad controversies of Penn State have shown us that there is one thing politicians in Washington do right. Well, do right most of the time. Official Washington is smart enough to know what the folks at Penn State sure didn’t — you don’t build statues or monuments to people who are still alive. At Penn State, they thought it was a great idea to erect a statue of football coach Joe Paterno when he not only was still alive but still coaching. Nobody could have imagined when they dedicated the Paterno statue in 2001 that it would have to be removed in ignominy and shame, by workers hiding behind a hastily-built fence, only 11 years later.
But they should have known they were taking chances when they decided to honor somebody whose legacy was still being writ. They should have listened to Robert Shrum, who said Sunday on Meet the Press: “We shouldn’t put up statues of living people. You’re going to make yourself a hostage to fortune. And that’s what happened here.”
If they had paid attention to how Washington builds its monuments, they would have seen an abundance of caution, a willingness to let the passions of the day subside and history render its considered verdict. Just look at the edifices that dot the Mall. George Washington died in 1799, universally acclaimed as the greatest American. But it was 49 years before work began on the Washington Monument, and it was not completed until 85 years after the first president’s death.
Thomas Jefferson, one of the greatest of the Founders, died in 1826. It was 117 years before his Memorial was dedicated. Abraham Lincoln saved the union. But he was in his grave for 57 years before he got a Monument in his name. Franklin D. Roosevelt was beloved as the president who guided the country through a Great Depression and a world war. He did get his likeness on the dime, replacing Winged Victory, while passions were strong. But that was recognition of his work on what became the March of Dimes and the battle against polio. He didn’t get a memorial for 52 years, until 1997. And those eager to honor Martin Luther King Jr. had to wait 43 years after his assassination before his statue was unveiled in West Potomac Park.
The patience is often tested, particularly when passions are strongest. A center for the performing arts had already been approved by President Dwight Eisenhower three years before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Given the slain leader’s support for the arts, it was a no-brainer to affix his name to the new center in 1971. But waiting for history has served the country well. For the most part, the United States has avoided what is commonplace in dictatorships such as Iraq and the Soviet Union, where citizens could get dizzy watching statues of Saddam, Lenin and Stalin go up and come down.
Despite the pressure of those with personal nostalgia and political agendas such as those rushing to name buildings after Ronald Reagan and build statues of him while he was alive, the American model is to wait until contemporaries are dead before taking chisel to granite. Just think of the one major exception in the capital. Is there anyone who doesn’t regret the hasty decision to name the FBI headquarters for its longtime director J. Edgar Hoover? The decision was made in 1972 only 48 hours after Hoover’s death, and long before historians began sorting through some of the less salutory aspects of the director’s tenure.
By: George E. Condon, Jr., National Journal, July 24, 2012