Thursday Reads: Romney Campaign Tactics and Debate ReactionsPosted: October 18, 2012 Filed under: 2012 presidential campaign, abortion rights, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, morning reads, Reproductive Health, Reproductive Rights, U.S. Economy, U.S. Military, U.S. Politics, War on Women, Women's Healthcare, Women's Rights | Tags: abortion, Adam Weinstein, body language, Citizen's United, contraception, employee intimidation, fundraising, Gallup poll, James Lipton, John Sununu, Kerry Healy, Laura Bassett, Mark Leder, MIke Elk, SCOTUS, second presidential debate 2012, swing state women, Virginia Military Institute 103 Comments
Before I get started, don’t forget that Ann Romney is scheduled to be on The View today at 11AM Eastern.
Now to the news. I think I have some interesting links for you today. I’m going to focus mostly on some aggressive Romney campaign tactics and on reactions to the second presidential debate.
I’m sure you’ve probably heard about the stories that have been coming out about corporate CEOs trying to intimidate their employees into voting for Mitt Romney, see here, here, here, and here.
Late yesterday afternoon, Mike Elk of In These Times revealed that Romney himself has suggested that business owners instruct their employees–and their families–how they should vote. I hope you’ll read the whole article, but I’m going to post the audio of a conference call that Romney held, sponsored by the National Federation of Independent Business. The whole call is quite interesting, but the relevant part is at the end, around the 26:00 point.
Here the transcription, from Mike Elk’s article (emphasis added):
I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections. And whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama, or whatever your political view, I hope, I hope you pass those along to your employees.
Nothing illegal about you talking to your employees about what you believe is best for the business, because I think that will figure into their election decision, their voting decision and of course doing that with your family and your kids as well.
I particularly think that our young kids–and when I say young, I mean college-age and high-school age–they need to understand that America runs on a strong and vibrant business [sic] … and that we need more business growing and thriving in this country. They need to understand that what the president is doing by borrowing a trillion dollars more each year than what we spend is running up a credit card that they’re going to have to pay off and that their future is very much in jeopardy by virtue of the policies that the president is putting in place. So I need you to get out there and campaign.
Elk writes that this actually is legal now, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. He also asks whether Romney is behind the recent rash of reports of CEOs putting pressure on their employees to vote for the Republican ticket.
The call raises the question of whether the Romney campaign is complicit in the corporate attempts to influence employees’ votes that have been recently making headlines….
Beyond Romney’s statements on the call, it’s unclear whether his election operation is actively coordinating workplace campaigning by businesses. Romney press secretary Andrea Saul did not respond to In These Times’ request for comment.
However, the conference call raises troubling questions about what appears to be a growing wave of workplace political pressure unleashed by Citizens United.
At Mother Jones, Adam Weinstein has another story about aggressive Romney campaign tactics. Weinstein obtained some e-mails between the Romney campaign and the Virginia Military Institute, where Romney recently gave a foreign policy speech. The military is required to be nonpartisan and stay out of politics, but Romney pressured the school to allow him to use his speech as what would have in essence been a campaign event.
When Mitt Romney addressed a crowd of cadets at Virginia Military Institute on October 8, he was supposed to give a major foreign policy speech that steered clear of partisan politics. That’s because VMI personnel observe the US military’s tradition of political neutrality when in uniform. But internal emails obtained by Mother Jones show that Romney’s campaign pushed to burnish his commander-in-chief credentials by maximizing military optics around the event. Members of Romney’s staff sought to use the VMI logo in their campaign materials, requested that uniformed cadets be let out of class early to attend Romney’s speech, and asked VMI “to select a few cadet veterans and give them a place of honor” standing behind Romney during his address.
As the campaign pushed for these requests, VMI officials pushed back, concerned that they were for partisan purposes. Each request was denied by the state-run institution, whose students serve in the US military’s Reserve Officers Training Corps, so that VMI would not be seen as endorsing Romney’s candidacy. The Romney campaign also pressured VMI to play host to “15 to 20” retired admirals and generals at the school who traveled there to endorse Romney; VMI eventually relented to that request.
Please do read the whole article at the link.
Remember Mark Leder? He’s the private equity billionaire who hosted the private fund-raiser at which Mitt Romney made his infamous “47 percent” remarks. Leder is giving another fund-raiser for Romney in Florida on Saturday night, according to Ryan Grim and Laura Goldman at HuffPo.
Leder has been telling potential donors that given the uproar following his last fundraiser, he feels an obligation to make the situation right by raising more money for Romney, according to people who have discussed the matter with Leder. One donor, asked if Leder had been noting that he’d been “taking heat” for the last fundraiser, said, “That was the basic pitch, except the word ‘heat’ was replaced by another four-letter word that begins with s.”
Saturday night’s event, unlike his now-famous May fundraiser, will not be held at Leder’s home. It will be in Palm Beach, Fla., and will include other hosts in addition to Leder.
Leder is a leveraged-buyout specialist, much like Romney. He owns Sun Capital Partners, which is based in Boca Raton, Fla. — the site of the upcoming presidential debate, which will be held on Monday. Leder is the co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and has been characterized in the press as a “party animal.”
I imagine all of the guests and staff will have to surrender their cell phones before the event. Will there be body searches too?
Contraception came up in the debate on Tuesday night, and Mitt Romney seems to be feeling a bit defensive about it. Abortion rights weren’t addressed, but Romney must be feeling defensive because he released a new ad yesterday.
Apparently Mitt thinks this ad proves he’s “moderate” on abortion. He wants to ban all abortions except in cases where women have been raped, are victims of incest, or whose lives are in danger if they carry the child to term. That seems pretty extreme to me, since abortion is legal, at least for now.
But Romney has also said he supports states passing personhood amendments, he has clearly stated that he will appoint judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade, and he has repeatedly promised to cut all funding for Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood released a statement in response to the ad (h/t Jezebel)
“This is an ad designed to deceive women. The Romney team knows that Mitt Romney’s real agenda for women’s health is deeply unpopular – ending safe and legal abortion, ending Planned Parenthood’s preventive care that millions of people rely on, and repealing the Affordable Care Act and the coverage of birth control with no co-pay. Romney can run from his own agenda, but he can’t hide – women will hold him accountable at the polls on election day.”
I don’t understand how these exceptions that Romney and Ryan keep talking about could work anyway. Would a pregnant girl or women have to prove that she was raped or sexually victimized by a relative? How would that work? Would there have to be a confession by the perpetrator? There certainly wouldn’t be time for the crime to be prosecuted in a court of law in time for an abortion to take place. What about the claim of danger to the mother’s life? Will doctors have to prove the claim to government inspectors? I just don’t think any of this would be realistic. I think we have to assume that these “exceptions” are just more bait and switch from the flim flam ticket.
Romney and his campaign advisers might want to take a look at the results of a new Gallup poll of women in swing states. The poll asks “What do you consider the most important issue for women in this election?” Here are the results:
For men, the top four issues on the list were jobs, the economy, the Federal deficit/balanced budget, and health care. For women, abortion was number one, and the deficit didn’t even make the list! Generally speaking, women had quite different interests than men.
On contraception, Romney surrogate and former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healy told Andrea Mitchell yesterday that contraception is just a “peripheral issue” for women.
Mitchell pressed Healy on the financial considerations for women whose employers refuse to cover contraception on religious grounds. “That is a pocketbook issue,” Mitchell said. “It’s dollars and cents.”
“The problem here is that we are talking about these peripheral issues,” Healy said. ”We need to really be talking about employment, jobs. That’s what women care about.”
Laura Bassett has more on the interview at HuffPo. Bassett notes that during the debate Tuesday Romney tried to gloss over his past statements on the issue of employers making contraception coverage available to employees by during the debate on Tuesday by claiming that
“I just know that I don’t think bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not, and I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they have contraceptive care or not,” Romney said during Tuesday night’s debate. “Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives and the president’s statement on my policy is completely and totally wrong.”
Romney’s answer subtly changes the subject from insurance coverage of contraception to the more general issue of access to contraception, and it strategically leaves enough wiggle room for his campaign to say that his position has not changed.
Healy followed suit with Andrea Mitchell.
Romney did “not in any way” change his position, Healey said. “Governor Romney is both a strong supporter of religious freedom and also believes in access to contraception for American women.”
Pressed on the details of the Blunt amendment, which would have allowed employers to refuse to cover birth control on moral grounds and which Romney previously said he would support, Healey changed the subject. “The question of whether or not we should force someone to give up their religious freedom to provide insurance coverage in some hypothetical situation is not really the point to most women out there,” she said. “There are 5.5 million unemployed women in the country.”
What’s lost in both Romney’s and Healey’s answers on the contraception issue is the point that President Barack Obama made Tuesday night, which is that for many women, having birth control fully paid for by their insurance plans is an economic issue.
Yesterday afternoon the MSNBC show “The Cycle” had a body language expert, Chris Ulrich on to talk about the interactions between Obama and Romney during the debate. It was fascinating. I can’t embed the video, but I hope you’ll watch it at the link. You won’t regret it.
In a similar vein, if you didn’t see Chris Matthews’ interview with James Lipton of Inside the Actor’s Studio last night, be sure to watch that too. Lipton analyzed the behavior of the two debate participants, and said that he thought he had finally figured out who Mitt Romney is. He’s the boss who tells dumb jokes and expects you to laugh at them–or else. Lipton said that the choice for voters is between a president (Obama) and a boss. Do we want a boss running the country? Lipton said that some people might like that, but he seemed to find it frightening.
I’ll end with the most recent confrontation between ugly, nasty troll John Sununu and Soledad O’Brien, which took place yesterday morning on CNN.
Now what are you reading and blogging about today?
The Solyndra Story Just Keeps Getting WorsePosted: September 18, 2011 Filed under: 2012 presidential campaign, Team Obama, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: 2008 presidential campaign, 2012 presidential campaign, bundlers, Department of Energy, fundraising, George Kaiser, Solyndra, Steve Spinner, The Chicago Way 3 Comments
It turns out that two major Obama 2008 fundraisers benefited from the decision by the Department of Energy to go ahead with a risky $535 million loan to Solyndra, the solar energy company that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this month.
Steve Spinner, who helped monitor the Energy Department’s issuance of $25 billion in government loan guarantees to renewable energy projects, was one of Obama’s top fundraisers in 2008 and is raising money for the president’s 2012 reelection campaign.
Spinner did not have any role in the selection of applicants for the loan program and, in fact, was recused from the decision to grant a $535-million loan guarantee to Solyndra Inc. because his wife’s law firm represented the company, administration officials said Friday.
But Spinner’s role as a top official in the Energy Department program, which had not been previously revealed, is likely to spur new inquiries into whether political influence played a role in the handling of the “green” energy fund. Solyndra faces a congressional probe, a criminal investigation and separate internal inquiries at the Energy and Treasury departments.
Steve Spinner raised $500,000 for the Obama campaign in 2008, and he is currently organizing a fundraising drive for 2012 called “Technology for Obama.” Spinner is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. According to the LA Times, Spinner praised the Solyndra loan in a piece at the Center for American Progress on July 13. He did not disclose his involvement with the loan program in that article.
We’ve already heard about the second major Obama donor involved with Solyndra, George Kaiser.
The largest investments in Solyndra were funds operated on behalf of the family foundation of billionaire George Kaiser, another major fundraiser for Obama in 2008. Kaiser has denied personally investing in the solar energy company or talking to White House officials about the loan.
But I hadn’t heard before that when it looked like Solyndra might go bankrupt in February of 2011, the Obama administration restructured the loan so that in case Solyndra did go bankrupt, a Kaiser investment company and another private investor associated with the Walton family would be reimbursed before taxpayers.
Under terms of the February loan restructuring, two private investors — Argonaut Ventures I LLC and Madrone Partners LP — stand to be repaid before the U.S. government if the solar company is liquidated. The two firms gave the company a total of $69 million in emergency loans. The loans are the only portion of their investments that have repayment priority above the U.S. government.
Argonaut is an investment vehicle of the George Kaiser Family Foundation of Tulsa, Okla. The foundation is headed by billionaire George Kaiser, a major Obama campaign contributor and a frequent visitor to the White House. Kaiser raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for Obama’s 2008 campaign, federal election records show. Kaiser has made at least 16 visits to the president’s aides since 2009, according to White House visitor logs.
Madrone Partners is affiliated with the Walton family, descendants of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. Rob Walton, the eldest son of Sam Walton, contributed $2,500 last year to the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Newly released emails show the White House was worried about the likely effect of a default by Solyndra on Obama’s re-election campaign.
“The optics of a Solyndra default will be bad,” an OMB official wrote in a Jan. 31 email to a colleague. “The timing will likely coincide with the 2012 campaign season heating up.”
The budget official, whose name is blacked out in the email, wondered whether Solyndra should be allowed to restructure its loan.
“Questions will be asked as to why the administration made a bad investment, not just once (which could hopefully be explained as part of the challenge of supporting innovative technologies), but twice (which could easily be portrayed as bad judgment, or worse),” the email says.
According to conservative Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, the “Solyndra scandal reeks of the Chicago Way.”
Federal investigators want to know what role political fundraising played in the guarantee of the questionable loan. Washington bureaucrats warned the deal was lousy. And White House spokesmen flail desperately, like weakened victims in a cheesy vampire movie.
So forget optics. What about smell? It smells bad, and it’s going to smell worse.
Or, did you really believe it when the White House mouthpieces — who are also Chicago City Hall mouthpieces — promised they were bringing a new kind of politics to Washington?
It’s the Chicago Way, but instead of a paving or trucking contract, it’s a “green” solar panel contract. The company received a $535 million loan.
I guess he means pay for play and the taxpayers get stuck with the bill. Based on what I know so far, I can’t say I disagree with Kass.
Why We Should Worry about Michele BachmannPosted: June 20, 2011 Filed under: 2012 presidential campaign, Barack Obama, Media, Republican politics, U.S. Politics | Tags: 2012 presidential election, agricultural subsidies, Bobby Charles Thompson, corruption, ethics, Frank Vennes, fundraising, House member accounts, Karl Bremer, Michele Bachmann, money blurts, Obamacare, Republican nomination, Tea Party 25 Comments
According to Roll Call, Michele Bachmann and three other right-wing Congresspeople used money from the their Congressional office accounts to pay for equipment and a sound system for a tea party rally on November 5, 2009 that was organized to protest President Obama’s health care bill.
According to House expense reports, Bachmann and three conservative GOP colleagues — Reps. Tom Price (Ga.), Steve King (Iowa) and Todd Akin (Mo.) — each paid $3,407.50 that day, a total of $13,630, to a sound and stage company called National Events, apparently for the sound system used at the rally.
The money came from the Members’ taxpayer-funded office accounts, despite House rules prohibiting the use of these funds for political activities. Bachmann’s office insists the expense was a proper use of official funds.
Bachmann billed the event as a “press conference,” which can be funded from official accounts. But no questions were taken from the press and, unlike most press conferences, it opened with a prayer, the national anthem and a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
A press conference? According to the article, Bachmann also hyped the rally on Fox News and Minnesota Public Radio and posted an announcement of the event on her House website, which is also against House ethics rules. She apparently also used these funds for travel expense to media appearances and to pay political consultants and a speechwriter for her “response” to the State of the Union address.
The Hill says that, while the use of taxpayer funds for political purposes is questionable, it isn’t absolutely clear that she did anything wrong. But certainly this shows that Bachmann may have a tendency to cut corners when it comes to ethics.
On Saturday, the Guardian published a profile of Bachmann following her appearance at the New Hampshire Republican Debate.
They quote Stillwater, MN blogger Karl Bremer on a particularly troubling episode in Bachmann’s political history:
“She has got plenty of skeletons in her closet,” he said. One of those skeletons could be her relationship with Frank Vennes, a man who served time in jail for cocaine distribution and money-laundering after being convicted in 1987. After his release, and apparently after finding God while in prison, Vennes became a friend of Bachmann and a big campaign donor for her elections. However, Vennes has recently been indicted on charges stemming from a Ponzi scheme and could end up behind bars again.
That is a juicy story. As are Bachmann’s links to the mysterious “Bobby Charles Thompson”, who disappeared after the collapse of his apparently fraudulent fundraising organisation, which had been portrayed as a navy veterans’ group. Arrest warrants have now been issued for Thompson, whose real identity is not known. But what is known is that Thompson’s group donated campaign funds to Bachmann.
Then there is the issue of the Bachmann family farm in Wisconsin. The large rural property has been the recipient of considerable government largesse in the form of agricultural subsidies, despite the fact that Bachmann is a vociferous critic of government handouts. Yet Bremer’s blog has reported that the farm has reaped the Bachmanns about $154,000 of government cash since 2001. That is obviously not illegal but – given Bachmann’s virulent dislike of state welfare – it could make for some interesting headlines.
But will the media cover Bachmann’s “skeletons,” or are they going to give her a pass like the one they gave Obama in 2008? Frankly, I’m worried about it. It’s easy to dismiss Bachmann and treat her as a joke, and she deserves that. But she is driven and a very hard worker; the tea party crowd find her charismatic and inspiring; and she is one of the best fund-raisers around.
In three congressional terms, presidential contender Michele Bachmann has made a name for herself as a formidable fundraiser. As of her latest filing with the Federal Election Commission, Bachmann had $2.8 million cash on hand (compared with, say, veteran Ron Paul’s $1.6 million). And she took in $13.5 million in the 2010 election cycle, out-raising the leader of her own party, John Boehner, by almost $4 million and making Bachmann the most prolific fundraiser in the House. So how is she getting all that money?
Bachmann is increasingly getting money from individuals making smallish donations, a feat that helps solidify her status as a grass-roots, Tea Party–fueled outsider rather than another Establishment fixture. Of the $1.7 million she reported raising last quarter, only $1,500 came from non-individuals, and the average donation was just $619.34.
The Washington Post reports today that Bachmann is increasingly using a new fundraising technique for which is is uniquely qualified, called “money blurts.”
Here’s how it works: An up-and-coming politician blurts out something incendiary, provocative or otherwise controversial. The remark bounces around the blogs and talk shows and becomes a sensation.
And in the midst of it all, the politician’s fundraisers are manning the phones and raking in the donations.
Consider Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), the tea party favorite and newly minted presidential candidate, who has made a specialty of raising money in the wake of bold and well-placed remarks. Shortly after accusing President Obama of having “anti-American views” during one cable-news appearance, for example, Bachmann took in nearly $1 million.
I’ve spent the past few days reading extensively about Bachmann’s personal and political history. I’ve learned two important things from all this reading: 1) Bachmann is a dangerous extremist with serious psychological problems; and 2) She should never be underestimated.
I will continue to write about her, because I think that with the dearth of exciting Republican candidates, the growing strength of the crazy right, and the increasing tendency for the media to ignore facts and accept lies at face value, she could actually win the nomination. We can ridicule her all we want, but we dismiss her chances at our peril.
Here’s some video of Bachmann’s “press conference” on November 5, 2009.