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“Plutocrat To Plutocrat”: Did The Koch Brothers Buy Paul Ryan’s Nomination With $100 Million Promise?

Veteran Republican political consultant, unrepentant dirty trickster, and recently reborn libertarian Roger Stone yesterday published a startling accusation against Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney on his personal website, The Stone Zone. According to Stone, the billionaire Koch brothers purchased the Republican vice presidential nomination for Ryan from Romney in late July by promising to fork over an additional $100 million toward “independent expenditure” campaigning for the GOP ticket.

Any such transaction would represent a serious violation of federal election laws and perhaps other statutes, aside from the ethical and character implications for all concerned. Although Stone is not the most reputable figure, to put it mildly, he has been a Republican insider, with access to the party’s top figures, over four decades. His credentials date back to Nixon’s Committee to Reelect The President and continue through the Reagan White House, the hard-fought Bush campaigns, and the Florida fiasco in 2000, when he masterminded the “Brooks Brothers riot” that shut down the Bush-Gore recount in Miami-Dade. Peruse his site and you’ll see his greatest hits and the attention he has drawn from major publications.

I’ve known Roger personally for years and always considered him intelligent and amusing; also extremely dangerous and even erratic. Sometimes I’ve been surprised by how much he knows about the inner-most workings of his party – even when he is clearly persona non grata among the current power elite.

Here is how Stone led his latest post, headlined “The Paul Ryan Selection, “which also delivers an amusing swipe at a certain Fox News analyst:

I’ve waited a few days to lay out my analysis of the selection of Paul Ryan for the VP slot on the Romney ticket. Unlike politicos like Dick Morris who badmouths the selection privately and shills for it publicly, I’ll tell you what I really think. My sources tell me David Koch played a key role in Ryan’s selection and that Koch’s wife Julia had been quietly lobbying for Ryan. The selection was cemented at the July 22nd fundraiser Koch held for Romney at the former’s sumptuous Hamptons estate. Koch pledged $100 million more to C-4 and Super PAC efforts for Romney [in exchange] for Ryan’s selection.

When he mentions “C-4,” of course, Stone is referring to the tax-exempt non-profit groups recognized by the IRS under section 501-C-4 of federal tax law – such as Americans For Prosperity, a group largely backed by the Koch brothers that has so far spent nearly $20 million on this year’s campaign. The C-4 groups, including another known as Crossroads GPS run by Karl Rove, need not disclose their rich donors, while Super PACs do. This year, the right-wing C-4s are outspending all the SuperPACS combined, as Pro Publica reported recently.

As a declared supporter of Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, Stone is grinding a sizeable ax, as always. He goes on to denigrate the idea that Ryan is a libertarian, despite his declared idolatry of the late Ayn Rand. Not much more can be said about Stone’s stark allegations, unless more evidence emerges to confirm them. But there is nevertheless a ring of candor in Stone’s story, tying the plutocratic Kochs to the plutocratic ticket of Romney-Ryan.

What he has written amounts to a gleeful felony indictment of everyone involved. Will any of them demand a retraction or even issue a denial?


By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, August 18, 2012

August 19, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Subsidized By Taxpayers”: Pennsylvania Makes It Even Harder To Vote

Pennsylvania has gotten a lot of attention recently for its new restrictive voter ID law which was just affirmed by a state judge this week. However, that’s not the only barrier to voting that the Keystone State has imposed recently.

On Wednesday, Pennsylvania suddenly reversed course on implementing a system that allows voters to register and sign up for absentee ballots on the Internet. In an email, a state official said implementing the new system before the November election would be too difficult. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, this news came as a shock to the top elections official in Philadelphia, that state’s largest municipality.

In contrast, New York unveiled its new online system for voter registration this week, just before the voter registration deadline for the state’s September primaries. This was not thought to present any additional complications.

Online voter registration, which is now available in 13 states, does make it mildly easier for people to register to vote. But that’s not the only benefit. It also saves a lot of money.

The data from handwritten voter registration and absentee ballot forms has to be manually entered into computers. This takes time and costs money (not to mention creates a lot of potential for error). A form filled out on a computer can be directly input into a state’s voter database. There are estimates that New York’s law would lead to taxpayers saving at least $250,000 a year as a result.

The decision by Pennsylvania to hold off implementing its online system until after November is bad enough because it may make it more difficult for some to register and to vote. But the fact that this additional obstacle to voting will be subsidized by taxpayers makes it even worse.


By: Ben Jacobs, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 18, 2012

August 19, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Voting Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Tell Tale Signs”: Recognizing When Paul Ryan Is Lying Or Trying To Avoid Something

In poker a “tell” is the physical giveaway or tic that lets you know someone is lying about his or her hand. In politics it’s the mode of evasion a politician chooses to sidestep a truth he or she doesn’t want to admit or to avoid saying something against self-interest. In his debut interview with Fox News’ Brit Hume Tuesday, Rep. Paul Ryan’s “tells” were audacious and revealing. They suggest an opening Democrats would be wise to pursue.

Ryan (R-Wis.) tried to cloak himself in his supposedly charming “wonky-ness” to sidestep two simple questions from Hume: When does Mitt Romney’s budget reach balance, and when does Ryan’s own budget plan do the same? Ryan pirouetted because Hume’s queries threatened to expose his famed “fiscal conservatism” as a fraud.

It’s worth parsing Ryan’s tactics in this exchange because it shows the brand of disingenuousness we’re dealing with. So let’s go to the videotape. Have a look at the relevant two-minute portion of the clip (excerpted on this CNN video) and then we’ll dissect it.

Okay, you’re back. Hume started with a simple question: “The budget plan that you’re now supporting would get to balance when?”

Now, for context, recall that in the last era of epic budget smackdowns, 1995 and 1996, Newt Gingrich would have had an equally simple answer: in seven years. President Bill Clinton’s failure to embrace the goal of a balanced budget at all was a major political liability that Clinton finally (and shrewdly) erased when he came out with his own 10-year plan in mid-1995. (It’s worth underscoring that a 10-year path to balance was viewed then as the outer limit of credibility — pledging to end the red ink any further than a decade out didn’t pass the laugh test.)

Since Ryan knows that Romney’s bare sketch of a plan never reaches balance, he stumbles momentarily before trying to move the conversation to his comfortable talking points about Romney’s goal of reducing spending to historic norms as a share of gross domestic product.

But Hume grows quietly impatient. He practically cuts Ryan off.

“I get that,” Hume says. “But what about balance?”

You can see Ryan flinch. He doesn’t know, he says. Why not? “I don’t want to get wonky on you,” he says, recovering, “because we haven’t run the numbers on that specific plan.” But that’s not “getting wonky” at all. As common sense (and the Gingrich/Clinton approach) suggests, there’s nothing arcane about this subject. You decide on a sensible path to balance as a goal and come up with policies that achieve it. All this means is that Romney hasn’t done what a fiscally conservative leader would do. Trying to evade this as a matter of not “getting wonky” is Ryan’s tell. He’s betting Hume is too dumb, uninterested or short on time to press the point.

Ryan then adds that “the plan that we’ve offered in the House balances the budget.” But he immediately stops short of saying when — you see his eyes dart to the right at that moment, his next tell — because that would mean admitting it reaches balance in the 2030s. And Ryan wants to get through this interview without saying that, because he knows it doesn’t sound good. After all, what kind of “fiscal conservative” has a 25-year plan to balance the budget? Instead, in a practiced maneuver signaled by his telltale sideways glance, he moves to a contrast with President Obama, who he says has never offered a budget that ever reaches balance.

This is true — but is a plan to balance the budget when Ryan is nearly 70 really different enough to make Ryan the “deficit hawk”? Please.

Meanwhile, Hume’s quiet baritone presses on.

“Your own budget . . . when does that contemplate reaching balance?” Hume asks.

There’s no exit. Not until the 2030s, Ryan finally admits, looking uncomfortable — but then he quickly adds, making a face, that’s only under the Congressional Budget Office’s scoring rules, implying that they’re silly constraints every Fox News viewer would agree are ridiculous (instead of sensible rules meant to credit politicians only for policy proposals that are real). Ryan adds that “we believe” if we get the economy growing, “it would balance in 10 years.” But that’s supply-side faith-based budgeting again — exactly what we ran an empirical test on in the 1980s. (And the truth is, if Ryan’s big tax cuts were properly accounted for, his plan’s real date of balance would push well beyond 2040).

Why am I harping on this? Because it’s impossible to overstate how central the unjustified label of “fiscal conservative” is to the Ryan brand and the GOP’s strategy. As Clinton understood in the 1990s, “fiscal responsibility” is a values issue important to the voters who decide modern presidential elections.

The point: Democrats can’t afford to let Ryan/Romney’s phony image as superior fiscal stewards survive. And Hume’s interview shows how swiftly this charade can be exposed if Democrats and the press zero in on simple questions like Hume’s. If the press is primed to cover this more intelligently, such queries will also expose the big Republican lie — the idea that you can balance the budget as the baby boomers age without taxes rising.

Let me be clear. The most important issue facing the country isn’t when we’re going to balance the budget. It’s how to get growth and jobs reignited in the near term and how to renew the country’s promise and competitiveness after that (an agenda in which long-term budget sanity is just the ante). But if Democrats spend all their energy on Medicare — and don’t knock out the GOP ticket’s undeserved reputation for fiscal responsibility — they’ll find themselves in unexpected peril as the race heads to the fall.


BY: Matt Miller, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 16, 201

August 19, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Mitt’s 13% Tax”: Romney’s Embodiment Of The Principle Of Equal Sacrifice

Mitt Romney says “every year I’ve paid at least 13 percent [of my income in taxes] and if you add in addition the amount that goes to charity, why the number gets well above 20 percent.”

This is supposed to be in defense of not releasing his tax returns.

Assume, for the sake of the argument, he’s telling the truth. Since when are charitable contributions added to income taxes when judging whether someone has paid his fair share?

More to the point, Romney admits to an income of over $20 million a year for the last several decades. Which makes his 13 percent — or even 20 percent — violate the principle of equal sacrifice that lies at the core of our notion of tax fairness.

Even Adam Smith, the 18th century guru of free-market conservatives, saw the wisdom of a graduated tax embodying the principle of equal sacrifice. “The rich should contribute to the public expense,” he wrote, “not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more in proportion.”

Equal sacrifice means that in paying taxes people ought to feel about the same degree of pain regardless of whether they’re wealthy or poor. Logically, this means someone earning $20 million a year should pay a much larger proportion of his income in taxes than someone earning $200,000, who in turn should pay a larger proportion than someone earning $50,000.

But Romney’s alleged 13 percent tax rate is lower than that of most middle class Americans who earn a tiny fraction of what he earns.

At a time when poverty is increasing, when public parks and public libraries are being closed and when public schools are shrinking their offerings and their hours, when the nation’s debt is immense, and when the 400 richest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million of us put together — Romney’s 13 percent is shameful.


By: Robert Reich, Robert Reich Blog, August 17, 2012

August 19, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Deliberate Political Calculation”: Mitt Romney Is Betraying The Tea Party

Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, journalist most likely to echo their talking points Jennifer Rubin, talk radio’s Rush Limbaugh, conservative movement favorite Charles Krauthammer, and usually sensible right-leaning policy wonks Yuval Levin and Avik Roy are all doing something extraordinary, given their avowed beliefs: They’re attacking a Democratic president for a spending cut, or else defending Republican challengers who want to reinstate hundreds of millions in spending.

The spending isn’t part of the defense budget.

They’re attacking President Obama for cuts to an entitlement program passed as party of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. And they’re insisting that the funds be restored to the program.

Why would right-leaning folks do that?

Cuts to Medicare are unpopular with voters — and Republicans care more about winning elections than cutting entitlements, something last demonstrated when they passed Medicare Part D during the Bush era, a budget-busting vote that supposed fiscal conservative Paul Ryan joined.

Attention, Tea Partiers: What we’re seeing right now is another instance of political calculation trumping spending discipline. Republicans tell themselves that they need to win now to better advance their agenda later, a process that just repeats itself with each election cycle, the deficit reduction never actually coming. The tactics that Romney and Ryan are employing make the chances of GOP led entitlement reform grow dimmer by the day. Yes, President Obama was going to attack Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan for wanting to cut Medicare. And this preemptive attack by Team Romney may prove effective. But ponder its consequences for a moment.

Medicare cuts are central to Ryan’s plan to get America back on sound fiscal footing, and health-care reform that addresses Medicare costs is widely regarded as necessary to any serious deficit-reduction plan, given the rapid pace at which the program’s costs are increasing. Says Avik Roy, after observing Team Romney’s latest attacks, “The dream scenario is possible: that the 2012 election gives Medicare reformers a mandate to put the program on permanently stable footing. One might even call it the audacity of hope.”

That is almost exactly wrong. What voters are hearing from Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan is that Barack Obama cut their Medicare, and the Republicans will reinstate it. That message does not produce a mandate to reform Medicare. It produces a mandate to preserve the status quo, and to oppose future cuts. Thanks to Romney and Ryan, it’s likely down-ticket Republicans will be using the same talking points.

Thus Medicare cuts will be an even less likely GOP accomplishment.

A lot of right-leaning pundits are getting deep in the weeds about the attacks and counterattacks flying back and forth. Team Romney is right about X! Team Obama is wrong about Y!

They’re ignoring the incoherent elephant in the room. As Josh Barro puts it:

What Romney and Ryan are up to is simple: They want to have it both ways on Medicare. They are for Medicare cuts, because Medicare is expensive and the federal budget needs to be controlled. And they are against Medicare cuts, because Medicare cuts are unpopular.

The political impulses behind this strategy are clear. Why any policy experts would try to offer a substantive defense of it is not.

Scott Galupo at The American Conservative makes a related point: that there’s no coherent reason to think that the relatively small cuts implemented by President Obama are an affront to seniors and their care, while the relatively deeper cuts that would be implemented ten years hence under the Romney-Ryan plan would be unobjectionable. “Never asked, let alone answered … if Romney’s Medicare reforms are so painless, why not demand that current beneficiaries accept them?” he writes. “Why is it necessary to spare them from structural reforms that are so self-evidently ‘sensible’?”

Take a look at Ryan’s response:

“We’re going to have this debate, and we’re going to win this debate,” Ryan said. “It’s the president who took $716 billion … from the Medicare program to spend on Obamacare. That’s cuts to current seniors that will lead to less services for current seniors. We don’t do that. We actually say end the raid and restore that, so that those seniors get the benefits today that they organize their lives around.”

Whether or not you buy his fairness argument, the political truth is that it gets harder to pass Medicare cuts every year, because the necessity of cuts is partly a function of the fact that America is aging, and the demographic of Medicare recipients is just going to keep on increasing. Even the presumption that you can pass a law now calling for cuts beginning 10 years in the future, and that successive Congresses will sustain the arrangement, is dubious. It’s just typical politician “pain for others later, not for us now” responsibility evasion. All the more reason why, from a deficit hawk’s perspective, it’s insanity to reinstate an entitlement cut Obama already made.

They should celebrate it.

That’s the one part of Obamacare that Republicans should want to keep if they have the courage of their convictions. But the point is actually that they never have and don’t now have the courage of their deficit convictions, and are very unlikely to ever pass anything like the Ryan plan the Tea Party fell in love with. Reihan Salam sensibly suggests that it would be better to get Medicare savings sooner than a decade from now. It’s telling that the conservative movement and the GOP are presently campaigning against that proposition. Why anyone trust them to cut the deficit at this point is beyond me, given the fact that they find a way to fail every time.

But promising to repeal cuts that were already passed is taking it a step farther.


By: Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, August 16, 2012



August 19, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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