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“Cozy Bedfellows”: Romney Spending Big At Top Benefactors’ Hotel Chain

Like all presidential candidates, Mitt Romney is perpetually on the road; trans-American speechmaking, fundraising and all-around stumping are requirements of any campaign for the White House. Tiring stuff.

When it’s time for a few hours’ sleep, Romney may not pull out his very own down pillow — as George W. Bush did when he was on the trail — but he does appear to have a preference in hotel chains: Marriott International, a company with deep personal, political and financial ties to the candidate.

Romney’s campaign has spent more than $475,000 in travel expenses at Marriott-owned hotels during the 2012 campaign — more than three-and-a-half times what he’s spent at second-place Hilton Hotels and 39 percent of the campaign’s total lodging expenditures, according to Center for Responsive Politics research.

The money, however, doesn’t flow one way: current Marriott International Chairman J.W. Marriott, Jr. and brother Richard Marriott — the chairman of a Marriott International offshoot, Host Hotels and Resorts — each have maxed out in contributions to Romney’s campaign. More significanly, they’ve donated $1,000,000 apiece to pro-Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future.

Romney was literally born into his connections with Marriott. His was given his first name, Willard, as a tribute to J. Willard Marriott — the hotel chain’s founder and a friend of Romney’s father. Romney’s business affiliations with the hotel giant were built in the 1990s and continue, to a lesser extent, to this day. He served 10 years on Marriott’s board of directors prior to his successful 2002 run to be governor of Massachusetts. Romney rejoined the board in 2009 before announcing his resignation in January 2011, three months before forming a presidential exploratory committee.

According to personal financial statements released this month, Romney has between $101,000 and $250,000 invested in Marriott International.

“[Romney] was on our board for twelve years, and so I’ve gotten to know him and watch him in action and been very impressed with him,” J.W. Marriott, Jr., told Bloomberg Television in a June 5 interview.

Romney is not alone in his links to the resort industry. President Obama also has a hotel connection: Penny Pritzker, who’s a billionaire Hyatt executive and a co-chair of President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, has donated the legal maximums of $5,000 to his reelection campaign and $30,800 to the Democratic National Committee. 

One member of Hyatt’s ruling family has strayed from the clan’s Democratic leanings, though: Thomas Pritzker — Penny Pritzker’s cousin and executive chairman of Hyatt Hotels– has contributed thousands to Republican candidates during this election cycle.

While the Marriott brothers’ $2 million in gifts to Restore Our Future is the biggest political funding effort linked to the company, the company’s PAC and employee contributions also trend Republican. Workers at the corporation have given $107,880 to Romney’s campaign in the 2012 race, according to CRP research; by comparison, Obama’s campaign has received just $15,170 from Marriott International employees. Marriott’s corporate PAC has sent 63 percent of its nearly $175,000 in 2012 donations to Republicans.


By: Dan Glaun, OpenSecrets Blog, June 7, 2012

June 10, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Unfriendlies In The Working Class”: Why Did So Many Workers Vote For Scott Walker?

The results of the Wisconsin recall election were very similar to the first run of this matchup in November 2010, when Scott Walker beat Tom Barrett. This means that the radical right agenda of the GOPers elected in 2010 has not turned off the voters.

How can a government of the 1% receive so much support from the 99%?

In the case of the Wisconsin election, there’s been a lot of finger pointing and speculation post-election: Walker used loose campaign finance rules to overwhelm Barrett financially; Obama didn’t come to Wisconsin; unions didn’t force the collective bargaining issue front and center. And so on.

Yet pre-election polling and Election Day exit polling showed that the vast majority of voters had taken their positions months before the serious campaigning. So, the money and the celebrities made little difference. And people were already as informed on the issues as they wanted to be.

The fact is the radical right is very good at propaganda. They have used race and cultural issues to hold their base and they have used anti-government rhetoric in an era of frustrated economic hopes and resentment to expand that base to majority status.

Walker, even more so than in 2010, ran against Milwaukee and Madison.

His negative ads against Milwaukee Mayor Barrett were actually negative ads against the mayor’s city, equating it with high unemployment, rising property taxes, crime, and poverty. This is the tried-and-true GOP race card because everybody knows Milwaukee has a substantial population of dark-skinned people.

And Madison, of course, is the state capital where privileged bureaucrats earn too much, enjoy too rich benefits, and do too little work.

Walker did not dream up this argument. Even before the 2010 election, on-the-ground research from a University of Wisconsin professor showed that ordinary Wisconsinites outside of Madison had a very negative view of this city of large government office buildings, a fairly high standard of living, and liberal politics. Walker simply exploited an existing bias.

Exit polling showed Walker won the votes of a majority of non-college graduates, along with way too many union households (around 38 percent) in both 2010 and 2012.

Meanwhile, college graduates—the ever-shrinking middle-income households—and the very poor did not vote for Walker.

In other words, way too much of the working class voted for Walker.

We progressive labor people might smugly shake our heads and ask, how can these people vote against their own interests? While some of them are serious cultural conservatives or racists, probably a majority legitimately see themselves as actually voting in their own self interest.

People struggling to get by on $12-15 an hour have to watch every penny. And the Republican message of small government and low taxes resonates every time a worker pays sales tax, property tax, or income tax.

And thanks in part to a gullible or lazy media which dutifully and uncritically repeats GOP propaganda about the eventual demise of Social Security and Medicare, struggling workers have a jaundiced view of their payroll taxes. The Republicans, with their expensive wars and tax giveaways for the wealthy, are certainly not the party of small government and fiscal responsibility, but they have sold their message well.

If progressives hope to regain governing power, they have to win back the “unfriendlies” in the working class, as Mike Amato correctly points out. They might not be able to garner the support of the devoted racists and cultural conservatives, but they can and must win the loyalty of the others.

We can get started right away with the issue of taxes. Not by promising tax cuts, but rather tax fairness. At every level of government in the United States our tax structure is one of the most regressive in the world.

Obama, to his credit, has made some effort to address this by calling for the Buffet rule, which would lift taxes on millionaires, and an end to the Bush tax cuts for the super rich. Meanwhile, Bill Clinton (who I can now publicly admit I could never bring myself to vote for) undermines this push by giving the Republican argument that rolling back these tax cuts would hurt the economy.

As usual, Democrats do not seem to have a coherent and consistent philosophy on matters of important public policy. Nor do they appear to have a plan beyond the next election.

The Republicans clearly do.

Unions and other progressives must push the Democrats or some other vehicle to pursue a coherent and consistent pro-working class agenda, or we will continue to be governed by Walker types and to wring our hands over this state of affairs.

By: Jim Cavanaugh, Labor Notes, June 8, 2012

June 10, 2012 Posted by | Wisconsin Recall | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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