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“Kids As Crash Test Dummies”: Brownback Outsources Child Support Services To Donor

When he was elected in 2010, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback began to slash core government services and privatize the rest. His austerity politics resulted in the state being downgraded by S&P in August 2014, and his privatization initiatives have also drawn criticism, causing one leading Republican to state, “I had hoped that it wouldn’t be as extreme as it’s been … what we didn’t know was that Sam would use this state as crash test dummies for his own fiscal experiments.”

Kids receiving child support payments from absent parents would be among Brownback’s first “crash test dummies.”

While Kansas partially outsourced the enforcement of child support to private corporations and law firms in 1997, the private players were only awarded around 20 percent of the contracts; the rest went to public state agencies. In March 2013, however, the Kansas Department of Children and Families (DCF) announced that all child support services would be outsourced, and a request for proposal was issued. Not limited to enforcement, the contracts would include services connected to court petitioning, locating parents, and establishing paternity, which had never been in private hands before.

“Collection is a function that can be carried out more efficiently and more cost-effectively by private companies,” DCF secretary Phyllis Gilmore said at a press conference. Similar blanket statements, seldom backed by empirical evidence, are often echoed by privatization proponents, regardless of which public services they want to outsource. In this particular case, there is little evidence to support Gilmore’s sound bite. A 2013 report on the privatization of child support services commissioned by the Mississippi Legislature, for example, concluded that “the significant additional cost of privatization would outweigh the potential additional benefits.”

Child support is indispensible for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Kansans, mostly single women and children. Nationally child support “represents 40 percent of family income for poor families who receive it, and reduces the poverty rate for children in these families by nearly 25 percent,” say experts.

The outsourcing of social services involving vulnerable populations is backed by influencial groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has developed a raft of model bills to privatize state services and has had model bills to privatize child support services and foster care services since the late 1990s.

According to research group In the Public Interest, a comprehensive resource center on privatization and responsible contracting, “many children and adults rely on government-provided health and human services. The ability of these programs to deliver services efficiently and appropriately can be a matter of life and death. Numerous state and local governmental entities are finding that turning over these programs to private contractors not only fails to achieve projected cost savings but also decreases access to these important services, hurting many vulnerable families. In many cases, the service quality declines dramatically and many sick or at-risk people are left with substandard care.”

In June 2013, DCF announced that four firms had been awarded contracts. The winner among the winners was YoungWilliams – a nationwide company based in Mississippi – that received two-thirds of the caseloads or 85,000 child support cases, worth some $50 million. While YoungWilliams boasted that it landed the contract because of its “innovative service delivery structure,” there might be more to it than that.

Rob Wells, CEO of YoungWilliams, met Brownback at a fundraiser for the gubernatorial hopeful in 2010. He and his wife went on to donate $2,000 each to Brownback’s campaign – the largest contribution allowed under state financing laws. But this pales in comparison to the $67,500 retainer he paid for GOP lobbyist Austin Barbour’s services. Through his lobbyist network, Barbour arranged for a private meeting with Brownback’s chief-of-staff David Kensinger (currently under FBI investigation for illegal lobbying) and some of the governor’s closest aides. The parties met to discuss child service privatization in the conference room of what used to be the State Treasurer’s Vault of the Kansas Statehouse, far from the public spotlight.

A few weeks later, the Brownback administration appointed Trisha Thomas from YoungWilliams as director of child support enforcement after firing her predecessor. It didn’t take long for the new director to conclude that “privatization was the quickest way to improve Kansas’ child support enforcement performance numbers.”

Asked whether there was any research in support of Thomas’ project of wholesale privatization, a DCF spokesperson said, “No … It was an informal kind of pitch, I guess; research done, based on her … experience in other markets.”

It is too early yet to say what YoungWilliams will do with Kansas child support enforcement, but if history is any guide, outsourcing vital public services for vulnerable populations to companies that must turn a profit frequently leads to higher costs and worse services. Between 1995 and 2000, privatization behemoth Maximus was in charge of child support enforcement in two Tennessee counties. A report concluded that the company “spent more but collected less money for overdue child support payments in [these] counties, on average, than DHS did in the rest of the state.” Sen. Hob Bryan (D-MS) characterized a similar situation simply as “a disaster” for Mississippi families and their kids.

But it is not clear if fact matters to administration officials pursuing the privatization agenda. Shar Habibi from In the Public Interest notes: “The evidence suggests that expanding the outsourcing of a public service that many Kansas children dearly rely on, was influenced by campaign donations and expensive corporate lobbyists, instead of an objective analysis of what was in the public’s best interest.”


By: Mary Bottari, The Center for Media and Democracy/ALEC Exposed; Coauthored by Jonas Persson; The Huffington Post Blog, October 19, 2014

October 20, 2014 Posted by | Kansas, Sam Brownback | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Money Grab”: It Gets Worse For David Perdue

Speaking of politically damaging material the New York Times is looking into, Jonathan Weisman today notes the bankruptcy deposition that revealed Georgia GOP Senate candidate David Perdue’s bland revelations of a long career in outsourcing contains some other interesting stuff:

A bankruptcy court document that surfaced last week has roiled the Georgia race for retiring Senator Saxby Chambliss’s seat and put the Republican David Perdue on the defensive over his record as a business executive and his role sending jobs to low-wage countries.

Though most of the attention — and the attacks from his opponent, Michelle Nunn — have focused on comments he made about outsourcing, a close reading of the 186-page deposition, first disclosed last week by Politico, paints Mr. Perdue as a hard-charging hired gun who was so aggressive in claiming his compensation perks from his failing textile company that other executives accused him of a “money grab,” a characterization he hotly denied.

In page after page, Mr. Perdue, who had come from a lucrative post at Reebok, expresses more concern with his own financial security than with the tanking business and the 7,600 jobs that were going down with it….

As his company was heading toward bankruptcy, Mr. Perdue pressed the board for a $700,000 payout to cover taxes he owed on a signing bonus and $100,000 for a relocation he never actually took. He received both, as well as a $500,000 stipend to stay on during final, failed takeover negotiations that could have rescued Pillowtex. He announced his resignation that spring, effective after a two-week paid vacation.

Sounds like we’re about one juicy quote away from the text of another Michelle Nunn or Super-PAC ad. And given Perdue’s penchant for gaffes, he might well just serve it up in the present tense.

The lessen here is that if you’re going to run one of those CEO/outsider campaigns, you should probably have a business career that doesn’t sound as damaging to regular folks–or as self-serving–as a political career.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 10, 2014

October 11, 2014 Posted by | David Perdue, Georgia, Senate | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Mitt vs Stubborn Facts”: A Difficult Relationship For The Romney Campaign

John Adams once said, “facts are stubborn things.” These days, another Massachusetts politician has found that saying to ring especially true.

While it’s still unclear how Mitt Romney can be the CEO, chairman, president and sole shareholder of Bain Capital, a company that he claims no responsibility for, it’s become increasingly evident that candidate Romney simply doesn’t want to talk about the facts of his business record.

In an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Romney suggested that to question his experiences is to “attack success.” If this is the case, and if we’re also not supposed to talk above a whisper about Mitt’s record as governor, including his signature accomplishment in health care reform, then which parts of his biography remain on the table?

Romney clearly prefers his largely undisclosed experiences in the private sector over his publicly poor record in Boston. At every turn, Romney and his campaign have attempted to steer the discussion toward business matters for just this reason.

But when the Washington Post took him up on it last month and published an article headlined “Romney’s Bain Capital invested in companies that moved jobs overseas,” the Romney campaign was caught flatfooted. The Post found that Bain Capital, the firm Romney spent much of his professional life building up, had invested in companies that had not only shipped jobs overseas — a practice of some concern to working- and middle-class Americans — but had pioneered the practice.

Romney’s campaign pushed back hard, claiming that the Post had its facts wrong. The campaign met with the Post’s editors and demanded a retraction, claiming that Romney had left Bain in 1999, supposedly before the outsourcing investment began. The Washington Post listened to the Romney side of the story but stood its ground.

Now we know why. The Boston Globe reported two weeks ago that Romney had signed official documents claiming to be the president and CEO of Bain Capital as late as 2002, when the company was actively building up firms that outsourced American jobs. He didn’t just say this casually at some dinner party; he swore it was the truth on Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

What did the Romney campaign do this time? It hit the “repeat” button and demanded a retraction from the Globe. Who are you going to believe, the campaign asked its hometown paper, me or your lying eyes? Once again, the investigative journalists stood by their reporting.

Since the Globe story, the hits have kept coming. The AP reported this week that Romney stayed in “regular contact” with Bain during his so-called absence, “personally signing or approving a series of corporate and legal documents through the spring of 2001.” Several sources are now saying that Romney made repeated trips to Boston to meet with Bain executives during this period, even though he recently told CBS’s Jan Crawford that he doesn’t “recall even coming back once to go to a Bain or a management meeting” during the period in question.

So despite what the Romney campaign claims, media interest in this story has nothing to do with attacking personal success in the private sector. It has nothing to do with avoiding the real issues of the campaign.

It has everything to do with attempting to get to the bottom of a situation in which what a candidate is saying seems to have come unglued from the stubborn facts.

Americans know that a level playing field empowers a successful economy. You want to talk about soaking the rich? Mitt Romney’s father, George Romney, paid an effective tax rate of nearly 37% in 1967. The elder Romney didn’t complain and released his tax returns to prove his compliance with the law of the land he wanted to lead. In 2010, Mitt Romney’s tax rate bobbed and weaved its way below 15% — and we know that only because the public had to pry his return (he has released only a full one) out of his clenched hands.

Even more fascinating than the fact that Romney’s father released 12 years’ worth when he ran for president in 1968 is the reason why. “One year could be a fluke,” the elder Romney said, “perhaps done for show.”

This country has a noble habit of withholding elected office from people who have trouble with the facts. Romney could end these discussions overnight by releasing his tax returns, as he has been called on to do by Republicans like Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley.

Until he makes peace with the facts, Romney will be stuck at the intersection of what is both a character issue and a policy issue. If Romney won’t stand by his record at Bain, just like he won’t stand by his record as governor of Massachusetts, how exactly is the American public supposed to evaluate the candidate? And if he won’t disclose his own relationship with tax loopholes and offshore tax havens, leaving voters more questions than answers, how can the American people trust him to reform our tax code in a way that closes loopholes, eliminates free-riding and ensures that everyone is playing by the same rules?

Facts and the Romney campaign have a difficult relationship these days. But they do share one thing in common: They’re both stubborn.


By: Donna Brazile, CNN Contributor, CNN Opinion, July 27, 2012

July 30, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Mitt Romney’s Tax Problem”: Oh What A Tangled Web He Weaves

Mitt Romney wanted to have his cake and eat it, too. He wanted to make himself fabulously rich, be the captain of the financial universe, and become senator, governor and, now, president.

He wanted to do it all, without making public his financial dealings, his tax returns, his web of foreign tax shelters. That was his business, not the public’s. He should have chosen one path or the other—in his case, they don’t mix.

Mitt Romney was too cute by half. He was guaranteed payouts at Bain no matter how many bankruptcies, lost jobs, destroyed pensions. He thought parking money in off-shore Bermuda corporations, Swiss and Cayman accounts, and using fancy accounting gimmicks to create tax avoidance schemes could be either kept secret or explained away.

Now Republicans are calling for him to come clean, to release his tax returns, to untangle the web of financial dealings. But he can’t because he was up to his eyeballs in Bain when he said he wasn’t, as he continues to reap huge amounts of money from his years there.

So why all this back and forth on whether he “retired” from Bain in 1999? Simple. Ted Kennedy caught him in the Senate race in 1994 by exposing Bain and what it did to workers and companies.

When Romney saw a big opening with the takeover of the Olympics in February of 1999, he grabbed it and by 2001 he knew he had a shot at being governor of Massachusetts and maybe a great deal more.

But he also knew that Bain was a liability in another race in Massachusetts and decided that his “leave of absence” better become a “retirement.” After all, he was disengaged from the day-to-day operation of the company, even though reaping a six figure salary as an officer and many millions more because of his association as “president, CEO and sole stockholder.”

The last thing Mitt Romney wanted to do as he was planning his political future was have that Bain albatross around his neck again—no, the Olympics was his ticket.

But, now he has this very big problem—he can’t release his income taxes back 12 years as his father, George Romney, did when he ran for president. He can’t provide 23 years of tax returns as he did to the McCain campaign when he was angling for vice president and being vetted.

Tax returns will show his continued financial windfall from Bain and it will show all his off-shore shenanigans. And it will show that this is someone who was not paying his fair share of taxes according to almost anyone’s definition. That is my guess.

When Kevin Madden, his spokesman, read a statement that Romney did not put his money in foreign bank accounts and trusts to avoid taxes he was not asked the very simple question: Why did he do it, if not to avoid taxes? What was the reason for all these off-shore accounts? What was he trying to hide?

And now, Romney is in real trouble. If he is transparent about his financial dealings and taxes, he knows it would be devastating to his campaign. If he tries to stonewall, he has three and a half months of a long campaign, not three and a half weeks. That is a long time to keep trying to change the subject.

So the question for Romney is: Can he have his cake and eat it, too? Can he simply deny further requests for information and hope he can keep it secret?

While he is telling the middle class to “eat cake,” maybe he has to be careful he won’t be eating crow.


By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, July 16, 2012

July 17, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Weak, Weak, Weak”: Romney Doubling Down On Nonsense, Looking Silly And Trapped

Honest question: does anyone think Romney helped himself with this round of television interviews? This is more fact-finding than rhetorical. And the people whose opinions I’d be most curious to hear are those of Republican operatives — people who want the answer to be ‘yes’ but are politically sophisticated enough to know if it’s not.

The headline in the Times is “Romney Seeks Obama Apology for Bain Attacks”.

In the JournalRomney Defends Bain Capital Tenure”.

This is ‘bitch slap’ politics played with a gusto and coldness seldom seen from Democrats, at least since the Bill Clinton days. Asking for an apology is losing. Saying you want something you clearly have no power to get is losing.

There’s a meta-politics Obama is playing by slashing at Romney with suggestions he might be a felon. He’s wounding Romney, who is clearly rattled and angry about the charges, but just as clearly can’t defend himself or strike back. As I’ve noted many times, a thick layer of presidential politics (in a way that’s distinct from US politics at really every other level) resides at the brainstem level of cogitation — with gambits to assert power and demonstrate dominance. Obama looked in control of this situation; Romney didn’t.

TPM Reader JL could barely contain himself …

Bitch slap politics at it’s finest.Step 1. Obama tells Romney to man up and take responsibility.

Coming soon …

Step 2. Romney whines that it’s beneath the office.

Step 3. BO Surrogates tell Mitt, you’re running for President for God’s sake. Don’t be such a girly man!!

I love it!! Are we sure Obama’s a Dem?

There’s another part of this equation: I’m not sure how many people watching this spectacle even remember that it’s nominally about whether Romney is responsible for outsourcing Bain did post-February 1999 or its investment in a company that serviced abortion clinics. I barely remember it myself. What’s driving this now is that the Obama camp has backed Romney into a position in which he looks ridiculous — something much more lethal for presidential candidates than most people appreciate.

Romney had absolutely nothing to do with Bain after 1999, no responsibility for anything it did, barely even knew what it did. Only he was the owner, the Chairman of the Board and the CEO. At least according to all the official documents, many of which he signed. Only he wasn’t any of those things, says Romney.

Partisans can be walked through the arguments of how this might be true, just as you could explain what John Kerry meant by saying he was for a bill before he voted against it. But it still makes no sense. And doubling down on nonsense makes you look silly and trapped. That’s especially dangerous for someone already saddled with a reputation for shifting his stories and positions to suit the moment.

This is and will remain a low single digit race. But the President’s team is making Romney look shifty and silly and weak. (I half expect them to start goosing surrogates to call him Slick Willard.) And they’re well on their way to defining him in a way that will be difficult to undo.


By: Josh Marshall, Editor and Publisher, Talking Points Memo, July 13, 2012

July 16, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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