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An “Ideological” Faith: Ron Paul’s Appealing To Mormons

He’s the only Mormon in the  presidential race, but that doesn’t mean  Mitt Romney is the only  candidate Mormons support. Another favorite  White House hopeful? Ron  Paul, whose demand that Washington strictly  adhere to the Constitution has some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints  singing his praise.

“You cannot grow up in the church and  not hear of and be taught that the Constitution is an inspired  document,” says Connor Boyack, a Mormon who heads the Utah Tenth Amendment Center. “And when it comes to who best supports and defends  the Constitution, Ron Paul is that guy.”

In Paul’s hunt for  convention delegates, the Mormon vote will be key in early caucus  states such as Nevada, where 25 percent of GOP caucus-goers in 2008 were  LDS members. Exit polls from 2008 show nine of 10 Mormon voters cast  ballots for Romney, but the Texas congressman is seeing a surge in  support there and elsewhere.

While the Salt Lake City-based  church does not officially endorse any candidate for president, members  like Boyack have been preaching the gospel of Ron Paul. Boyack explains  that Romney might be a brother in faith, but Paul’s commitment to  upholding the tenets of the Constitution make him a more ideological  choice for Mormons. A controversial and sometimes persecuted group,  Mormons have historically looked to the Constitution as a safeguard to  preserve their religious freedom. The Constitution is even mentioned in  the church’s Doctrine and Covenants, described as revelations to the  church’s founder, Joseph Smith. Brigham Young University religion  professor Richard Bennett says the devotion to the Constitution came  after an 1833 attack on a Mormon church in Missouri. Bennett says God  told Smith to use the Constitution to fight the persecution of his  church.

Paul’s team has been quick to highlight the Mormon  support, setting up a special “Latter Day Saints for Ron Paul” Facebook  page (“liked” by over 1,300 fans). It’s one of a number  dedicated to pro-Paul coalitions, including evangelicals, Protestants,  and Catholics, as well as truckers, gamers, and accountants. The  candidate is also featured in a five-minute Web ad, recycled from the  2008 campaign, titled, “Ron Paul preserves, protects, defends LDS  Constitution view.”

Paul spokesman Gary Howard says,  “Members of the LDS church make up one of those important coalitions,  all of which are great assets in this campaign. Dr. Paul’s message  resonates with everyone who believes in the principles he espouses:  limited government, personal and economic liberty.”


By; Lauren Fox, U. S. News and World Report, January 30, 2012

January 31, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hallucinations” And “Requisite Experience”: Why Does Mitt Romney Want To Be President?

When the empire strikes back, it hits hard. The Republican establishment is deploying every weapon and every soldier — even Bob Dole — in an increasingly desperate attempt to pulverize the Newt Gingrich rebellion. Eventually, the shock-and-awe campaign may work.

But then what? In the establishment’s best-case scenario, the party is left with Mitt Romney, a candidate whose core message, as far as I can tell, seems to be: “Yes, I made a ton of money. You got a problem with that?”

It is remarkable that the well-orchestrated blitzkrieg to save Florida for Romney was designed solely to raise doubts about Gingrich’s character and electability — rather than convince voters that Romney, on the merits, should be president. It makes you wonder whether the GOP luminaries supporting this guy really believe in him.

A statement issued last week by elder statesman Dole began by arguing that “if Gingrich is the nominee it will have an adverse impact on Republican candidates running for county, state and federal offices.” Dole went on to criticize Gingrich as highhanded and erratic, before ending his brief missive with another dose of realpolitik.

“In my opinion if we want to avoid an Obama landslide in November, Republicans should nominate Governor Romney as our standard-bearer,” Dole wrote. “He has the requisite experience in the public and private sectors. He would be a president we could have confidence in.”

“Requisite experience” isn’t much of a hallelujah, yet it’s typical of the pro-Romney chorus that has been singing so loudly since Gingrich won the South Carolina primary. Meanwhile, the voices of some key potential choristers haven’t been heard at all: Two of the most prominent Republicans in Florida, former governor Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio, have declined to endorse anyone for the nomination.

But what has Romney given his supporters to work with? Yes, he served as governor of Massachusetts and implemented health insurance reforms that became the model for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Yes, he earned a quarter of a billion dollars as a private-equity mogul. These résuméitems are supposed to be a compelling reason to send him to the White House?

Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul have all laid out bold visions — more properly, hallucinations — of where they would take the country. But where is Romney’s shining city on a hill? What’s his “compassionate conservatism,” his “hope and change”? What is it that Mitt Romney, deep in his heart or down in his gut, really believes in?

“Free enterprise” seems to be what he’s most passionate about, but that’s not really an answer to the question of core beliefs. Who doesn’t believe in free enterprise? Obama would advocate a bit more regulation of markets than Romney would; Santorum and Paul, less. Gingrich, of course, wants free-market spaceships to fly us to the moon.

Obama wants to rearrange our priorities to make the nation more prosperous, competitive and humane. Gingrich basically has the same goal, except he would do it in a completely different way — and there would be a much bigger role for space travel. Santorum’s policy positions add up to a return to “compassionate conservatism” and, perhaps, a war with Iran. Paul wants to decimate the federal government and force the few remaining workers to surrender their computers and use quill pens.

And Romney? Well, he has a 160-page economic plan. What he doesn’t seem to have is a compelling narrative about the kind of America he envisions and the road he will take to get us there.

This is not to say that he is necessarily incapable of developing such a narrative — or, for that matter, that he is incapable of beating Obama. The president and his advisers have at times done a mediocre job of telling the administration’s story. They need to better explain how individual decisions, such as delaying the controversial Keystone pipeline, fit into a coherent Big Picture of where the country needs to go.

Romney has become a very good debater, and his attack lines about Obama are honed and barbed. The only reason he still has a fight on his hands for the nomination, really, is that he let his opponents reduce his argument for the presidency to a defense of how he earned and manages his great wealth.

No matter how much he claims otherwise, the fact is that few people are envious of Romney’s business success. We just want to know if that’s all he has to offer.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 30, 2012

January 31, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Influence-Peddlers”: How Bain’s Lobbying Saved Mitt Romney Millions

Private equity titans like Bain Capital used K Street to preserve the GOP front-runner’s favorite—and most lucrative—tax loophole.

With the sting of defeat in the South Carolina primary still fresh at last week’s Republican presidential debate in Tampa, Mitt Romney slammed Newt Gingrich for his record as a consultant—or “historian,” in Newt-speak—for government mortgage-backer Freddie Mac.

But perhaps Romney should think twice before setting his sights on the former speaker’s lobbying-related past. That’s because the ex-governor has benefited handsomely from the influence-peddling of Bain Capital, the private equity firm he cofounded in 1983. Though he’s been gone from Bain for over a decade, Romney continues to rake in millions from accounts with the firm—and in 2007, he took Bain’s side in a key lobbying battle with Washington—one that saved him millions of dollars.

2007, as it turns out, was something of a watershed for private equity lobbying: In that year, lobbying expenditures for the industry practically tripled. The spike was the result of an industry-wide effort to preserve a number of tax giveaways for the finance industry and its CEOs—including the carried interest rule, a tax loophole that allows Romney and other private equity mavens to reduce their taxes by millions of dollars. Carried interest refers to the commission that private equity and hedge fund executives receive for managing investors’ money. Although commissions may seem like ordinary income to the rest of us, the carried interest loophole allows some money managers to claim this income as long-term capital gains, which are taxed at a rate much lower (15 percent) than the top tax rate for normal income (35 percent).

After Democrats won control of both the House and the Senate in the 2006 midterm elections, they advanced several pieces of legislation that threatened to end this lucrative quirk of the tax code and other tax policies that favor the rich. Mitt Romney, who made just over $20 million in investment income in 2010, wasn’t having any of it. During an August 2007 appearance on Kudlow & Company, Romney was asked what he thought of the effort to close the loophole. He wasn’t happy. “I want people to be able to save their money and invest in America’s economy tax-free,” Romney said. “I want to lower taxes. I want to lower marginal rates across the board. I want to lower taxes for corporations,” he told Kudlow.

Bain was doing its part to make Romney’s vision a reality. The firm spent $300,000 between August of 2007 and April of 2008 lobbying the House and Senate on bills that threatened the carried interest loophole. Along with other private equity titans like Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Apollo Management, Bain and its ilk paid lobbying shops, public relations firms, and trade groups like Ogilvy and the Private Equity Growth Capital Council an estimated $15 million between January 2009 and April 2010 to convince lawmakers to keep the loophole alive. The force of those combined lobbying efforts kept the carried interest loophole wedged open, denying the federal government some $10 billion in revenues in the process. “Everyone who has looked at this boondoggle [of carried interest] thinks it’s an egregious giveaway,” Jacob Hacker, the co-author (with Paul Pierson) of Winner-Take-All Politics, says. “It still lives because of the lobbying of the industry, and in particular the PEGCC.”

From 1998 to 2006, private equity and investment firms spent $3 million a year lobbying Congress, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Bain got into the game in 2007, registering with prominent Washington lobbying firms Public Strategies, Inc. and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. To date, Bain has paid some $3 million to these firms to make sure corporate taxes stay low and CEOs remain fat and happy.

As the New York Times reported several weeks ago, Bain was a member of the Private Equity Growth Capital Council up until last year, when it abruptly ended its $1-million-a-year membership with the powerful trade group. Its reasons for doing so remain unclear. (PEGCC did not respond to a request for comment.)

Investment fund managers and former CEOs like Mitt Romney suggest that taxing their carried interest as income would crimp investments, and, ultimately, kill jobs. But as Howard Gleckman, a tax policy expert at the Urban Institute, has found, there is little evidence to support that claim. “Losing a couple percentage points off your returns isn’t going to change things very much,” Gleckman says. “Taxing carried interest as if it were wages…wouldn’t really affect these deals very much.”

Now that a small sample of Romney’s tax returns is out in the open, voters may be asking more questions about how policies like the carried interest rule work. Josh Kosman, author of The Buyout of America: How Private Equity Is Destroying Jobs and Killing the American Economy, says that’s terrifying for the private equity world. “The private equity industry exists because of tax gimmicks,” Kosman argues. “They want to convince people they create value because if anyone started looking at it, the tax rates don’t make any sense, and they cost the government a lot of money.”

As Hacker explains, today’s favorable tax treatment towards capital gains dates back to the late 1970s, when the lobbying might of business groups like the US Chamber of Commerce successfully sliced the tax on capital gains in half. The Tax Reform Act of 1986 brought the rate back into line with the rate on ordinary income, but business lobbies spent the next decade knocking it back down. “For an industry that’s held up as a paragon of individual entrepreneurship, private equity is strikingly dependent on favorable tax policies,” Hacker said.

Of course, private equity isn’t the exclusive terrain of one party or the other. As Hacker and Pierson outlined in their book, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has been one of the carried interest loophole’s most ardent defenders. And as Kosman points out, four of the past eight Treasury secretaries have direct ties to the private equity industry.

All of this, of course, could pose a huge a problem for Romney—so much so that his campaign recently suggested that he might be open to reconsidering the carried interest loophole if he were to be elected president. Although Bain did not start lobbying until some eight years after Romney left, his just-released tax records indicate that he still collects significant investment income from the firm. Bain’s gain, then, has clearly been Romney’s as well—and the candidate has publicly endorsed the same policies the company has backed.

So when Bain’s lobbyists have tried to sway the political system in Washington, Romney has gained. Maybe he ought to be careful when denigrating the influence peddlers in the nation’s capital.


By: Siddhartha Mahanta, Editorial Fellow, Mother Jones, January 30, 2012

January 31, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Has Mitt Romney’s Hit Job On Newt Gingrich Gone Too Far?

After South Carolina, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s campaign decided it was time to change their strategy toward former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. It was time to take him out, similar to what they did in Iowa. Take no prisoners, forget Obama for the moment, and direct their fire at Gingrich. Smart strategy? Of course. The only strategy, really, since back-to-back victories in South Carolina and Florida would have been devastating to Romney, certainly in the short term.

But has the Romney camp gone too far?

Now, I am not going to defend Newt Gingrich in the slightest—I am talking tactics here.

Let me first make the argument for the strategy they have adopted. Gingrich is like the Jason character from the Friday the 13th horror movies. He keeps coming back!

He grabs the attention of Tea Party voters and hard-core  conservatives and he has shown he can mobilize them. He is colorful and a  press magnet. Left unchecked, he has shown that he can move poll  numbers in his favor with his debate appearances. Also, he has raised  serious money after his victories and rising poll blips, and he has the  Adelsons—casino moguls from Nevada—who have put  over $10 million  into his campaign and can give more out of their petty cash fund. He  even eclipsed Romney in national polls.

In short, you ignore Newt at your peril. A failure to engage would have been a disastrous strategy.

Nevertheless, Romney and his Super-PACs have spent $15 million and  counting to tear into Gingrich like a pit bull on steroids. They have  decided that they will not let up until he is crushed in Florida. This  all-or-nothing strategy has a few problems. First, Romney’s negative  poll numbers have skyrocketed to very damaging levels. He may take Newt  out in Florida, but it is costing him big time. Only Sen. John Kerry had  net negative numbers at this point in the race and it certainly  affected his candidacy. Second, Gingrich is furious and is pulling out  all the stops to take on Romney. He has nothing to lose. This is his  last campaign and he is all in. It seems Newt wants  Mitt’s hide almost  as much as Obama’s.

Finally, though no debates are scheduled until late February, these  are moneymakers for the networks, and my guess is someone will attempt  to pull several together next month. Gingrich will go back to his plan  of fighting Romney with the press and appearances. He has been enraged  by Romney’s surrogates tailing him and engaging reporters, and he is  very likely to adopt the same tactic(as he promised to do against  Obama).

Newt sees this as a long slog and he wants to grab as many delegates  as he can in these non winner-take-all states, challenge Romney  everywhere he is able, and hope that he can secure the nomination in the  end. Through all this, former Sen. Rick Santorum hangs in and hopes  that he can somehow come up the side, as these two engage in  hand-to-hand combat.

The question really is not whether Romney should have taken on  Gingrich. He had to, of course. But, given Gingrich’s personality and  where he is as a candidate, should he have pulled some of the ads and  mixed more positive spots in this last week in Florida?  Would it have  made any difference?  Has he bought himself a drubbing of Gingrich and  will this either force Newt out or embolden him to fight on? That’s hard  to know. But my guess is that the over-the-top negative strategy may  well come back to haunt Romney. It certainly provides plenty of material  for the Obama campaign to use leading up to November.


By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, January 30, 2012

January 31, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Moon Dreams”: Newt Gingrich Redecorates The Oval Office

Not only has the former speaker of the House banked on winning a second term; he has his first day in office planned.

Newt Gingrich has been roundly mocked by both the media and his opponents for his preposterous proposal to build a moon base by 2020. As outlandish as that claim may be, it’s nothing compared to the promises Gingrich offered yesterday during a campaign stop at The Villages, a planned retirement community in central Florida.

A huge crowd of seniors—numbering possibly in the thousands—packed into a parking lot outside a Barnes & Noble on a warm and sunny afternoon. A hot-dog stand held a steady line throughout the event, and its neighbor stand offered a full bar of beer and liquors. Golf carts—the apparent vehicle of choice in the area—whizzed by, fighting with SUVs for parking spots.

It was a bizarre scene, but nowhere near as ridiculous as the tail end of Gingrich’s speech. Overall, it was mostly his standard stump, with a few extra zingers directed at Mitt Romney. Then, near the end, he offered a laundry list of promised accomplishments. This wasn’t the typical first 100 days agenda; the proposals were all things Gingrich promised to achieve by his very first day in the White House:

  • “I will ask the new Congress to stay in session on January 3, and I will ask them first to repeal Obamacare. I can ask them to repeal Obamacare, because I haven’t passed something that resembles it.”
  • “I will also ask them in the same session to repeal the Dodd-Frank bill, which is killing banks.”
  • “I will ask them to repeal the Sarbanes-Oxley bill.”
  • “On the inauguration day, about two hours after the inaugural address, I will sign a series of executive orders. All of them will have been published by October 1, everyone in America will know what is coming.”
  • “The very first executive order will eliminate all of the White House czars.”
  • “My goal would be, by the end of that first day—about the time that President Obama arrives back in Chicago—that we will have dismantled about 40 percent of his government on the opening day.”

“I think this is doable,” Gingrich said. The former speaker expects each of the bills to have already passed and be ready for him to sign on the first day of his hypothetical presidency. “On January 20, I will sign all three as a sign of our seriousness about changing Washington,” he said.

By: Patrick Caldwell, The American Prospect, January 30, 2012

January 31, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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