Published: Friday 12 October 2012
“Given the recent flurry of attention, we thought it would be helpful to examine how much federal funding actually affects public broadcasting.”

Are Big Bird’s 15 minutes up yet? Last week, Mitt Romney pulled public broadcasting into the presidential campaign when he said he would “stop the subsidy” to PBS, despite his love for the furry yellow Muppet.

The remark launched endless Internet memes, fueled late night television jokes and spawned a satirical Obama campaign ad (which the Sesame Workshop, a private, non-partisan charitable organization, has requested the campaign pull). Given the recent flurry of attention, we thought it would be helpful to examine how much federal funding actually affects public broadcasting.

How large is the federal subsidy to public broadcasting?

It’s not exactly breaking the bank. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the entity created by Congress in 1967 to disperse funds to nonprofit broadcast outlets like PBS and NPR, is set to receive $445 million over the next two years. Per a statutory formula, public television gets about 75 percent of this appropriation while public radio receives 25 percent.

This amounts to roughly .012 percent of the $3.8 trillion federal budget – or about $1.35 per person per year. (Some global perspective:

Published: Monday 3 September 2012
In July, the Senate refused to allow a vote on the president’s American Jobs Act, which would have given incentives for companies to “insource” jobs rather than ship them overseas and by most reports would have stimulated GDP growth.

 

Responding to the heavy media coverage of Clint Eastwood’s bizarre rantings at the RNC — a moment that largely eclipsed Mitt Romney’s address — adviser Eric Fehrnstrom and Newt Gingrich both said that Friday’s jobs report could similarly undermine Obama.

“I think the biggest news next week will not be the three nights of the DNC but it will be on Friday…We’re all hoping for good news but the odds are high that the unemployment rate will remain above 8 percent,” Fehrnstorn said on CNN’s State of the Union.

Meanwhile, on Meet the Press, Gingrich was more blunt:

I think the biggest event won’t be his speech Thursday. It’ll be the Friday morning jobs report. If that Friday morning jobs report is bad, it’ll drown his speech. You want to talk about Eastwood? Friday morning jobs report is a lot bigger event next week than Eastwood was this week.

Watch it:

Republicans have repeatedly blocked Obama’s jobs legislation. In July, the Senate refused to allow a vote on the president’s American Jobs Act, which would have given incentives for companies to “insource” jobs rather than ship them overseas and by most reports would have stimulated GDP growth. As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reaffirmed in 2010, “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.”

Published: Thursday 3 May 2012
Published: Tuesday 24 April 2012
Published: Thursday 12 April 2012
“Ah, Rick and Newt, thanks for the entertainment.”

Even though some are out and some are in, the politicians that are/were in the GOP presidential race still are spreading their goofiness around for all the country to see.

Let's start with my state's gallivanting goober of a governor, Rick Perry. He's back in the news, with yet another "oops" moment!

This one is even stupider than Perry's failure to remember his own lines in a presidential debate. It has to do with his fierce opposition to spending taxpayers' money and his firm stand for rootie-toot-toot rugged individualism. But — oops — Rick keeps failing to remember these principles when it comes to spending taxpayers' money on his own individual desires.

For example, in his grandiose desire to be president, this tightfisted champion of taxpayers dipped liberally into the public till to have Texans subsidize his failed run. Perry essentially abandoned the state and his gubernatorial duties for about six months — but the no-show governor kept billing us for his $150,000-a-year paycheck. It turns out that he was also double-dipping, by taking another $90,000 a year in

Published: Monday 19 March 2012
Published: Friday 9 March 2012
“Unless Ron Paul somehow wins the nomination, it looks as if a vote for the Republican presidential candidate this fall will be a vote for war with Iran.”

 

Unless Ron Paul somehow wins the nomination, it looks as if a vote for the Republican presidential candidate this fall will be a vote for war with Iran.

No other conclusion can be drawn from parsing the candidates’ public remarks. Paul, of course, is basically an isolationist who believes it is none of our business if Iran wants to build nuclear weapons. He questions even the use of sanctions, such as those now in force. But Paul has about as much chance of winning the GOP nomination as I do.Mitt RomneyRick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have all sought to portrayPresident Obama READ FULL POST 17 COMMENTS

Published: Monday 5 March 2012
“Gingrich is banking on Georgia, Tennessee and other Southern states to provide his campaign with the third comeback of this election season.”

SNELLVILLE, Ga. — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich dismissed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney Sunday as a "not very convincing frontrunner" and challenged former Sen. Rick Santorum's conservative credentials ahead of Tuesday's 10-state Super Tuesday Republican presidential primary.

As Romney waged a quick campaign tour through Gingrich's Georgia backyard and Tennessee, Gingrich appeared on four Sunday news shows to proclaim that he's still a viable candidate and try to dispel the notion that the quest for the GOP nomination has boiled down to a race between Romney and Santorum.

"This is going to go on for a good while," Gingrich said on ABC's "This Week." "Gov. Romney, who's outspent all the rest of us by multitudes, is a front-runner, without question, but I think he's not a very convincing front-runner, and he's a long way from having closed out this race."

As for Santorum, Gingrich predicted that the former Pennsylvania senator's campaign will suffer once it moves beyond Ohio, another Super Tuesday state. Santorum and Romney are in a statistical dead heat in Ohio, according to a new NBC News/Marist poll.

"Santorum has been historically a labor union senator from Pennsylvania," Gingrich told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "... And when you get him out of the industrial states, I think it gets tougher for Rick to put together a majority, so we'll see how it goes after next Tuesday."

Santorum, appearing on "Fox News Sunday, said that he and Gingrich are vying for the same pool of conservative voters but stopped short of calling on Gingrich to drop out.

"We have the anti-Romney vote, if you will. Both Gingrich and I are slugging away," Santorum said. "As you know, it's always harder when you get two conservative candidates to go head-to-head. And if you look at all the races, it's ...

Published: Friday 2 March 2012
Newt Gingrich tended to business in his old stomping ground of Georgia.

While Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum flew to Washington state ahead of its Republican presidential caucuses Saturday, Newt Gingrich tended to business in his old stomping ground of Georgia.

Gingrich represented Atlanta suburbs in the House of Representatives for 20 years, ending in 1999. His business these days is trying to keep his presidential campaign alive in what's been shaping up lately as a two-man race for the Republican nomination that doesn't include him.

"I have to win Georgia, I think, to be credible in the race," Gingrich candidly told the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce on Thursday morning. "But if I win Georgia, the following week we go to Alabama and Mississippi, and I think I'll win both of those and we have a good opportunity to win Kansas," which votes March 10.

Gingrich is pinning his hopes for a third comeback in this primary cycle on a Southern strategy. His only victory so far came in South Carolina. His camp thinks that winning Georgia on Tuesday could slingshot him to Southern victories the following Tuesday in Mississippi and Alabama, and they in turn could serve as a springboard into later contests in delegate-rich Texas and elsewhere.

Gingrich leads in Georgia by 9 percentage points, according to an average of recent state polls compiled by the website ...

Published: Saturday 25 February 2012
“The president’s proposal will require companies to pay a minimum corporate tax on all offshore profits, thus reducing the incentive for offshore production and parking profits in a tax haven.”

President Obama announced plans on Wednesday to reform the corporate tax code to make it simpler and fairer. The plan would reduce the top corporate tax rate substantially from 35 percent to 28 percent (25 percent for manufacturing) without increasing the deficit, a tall order indeed. Eliminating special interest tax breaks for business is an obvious quid pro quo for a lower tax rate and has the added benefits that it reduces the complexity and increases the fairness of the tax system. But this will not be sufficient.

To achieve a tax cut that is revenue neutral, the president has proposed eliminating three provisions in the tax code that create significant inequities and economic distortion. He proposes limiting the tax deductibility of interest, eliminating the special tax treatment of earnings of hedge fund and private equity managers, and reducing incentives for companies to offshore profits in tax havens.

Currently businesses can deduct interest payments on all of their debt no matter how highly leveraged they are. This leads companies to assume high debt-to-equity ratios not justified by business requirements. This makes companies vulnerable to financial distress in an economic downturn. A recent study of 2,156 highly leveraged companies found that a stunningly high 25 percent of them went bankrupt between 2007 and 2011. The tax deductibility of interest also encourages businesses to use complex financial instruments whose only purpose is to reduce the company's taxes. Finally, the disparate treatment of interest on debt and earnings retained by the corporation discriminates against ...

Published: Friday 24 February 2012
“The billionaires backing the GOP’s super PAC’s may have placed their bets more wisely than anyone else knows.”

Make it stop. Please, just make it stop. That's the short version of my reaction to GOP primary debate #20. Maybe it was too soon. Maybe I need more time to recover from my two days at CPAC. (After the debate, I felt the same odd sensation that I swear I felt after finally fleeing CPAC — that tingling sensation one usually feels when an arm or leg that's "fallen asleep" wakes up. Except it was it was my brain coming back to life, after going numb.)

As a progressive, it really shouldn't bother me. After all, in many ways the biggest winner of the Republican debates is President Obama, while the biggest losers are (a) the candidates and (b) the Republican party. Plus, the debates have supplied an entertaining string of awkward momentsThis one had its moments, too. But it's getting painful to watch and listen to these guys. It's like ...

Published: Thursday 23 February 2012
“In a Where’s Waldo moment, it turned out that the dreaded nukes were not in Iraq, and the leading Republican presidential candidates are convinced that Iran now has such weapons and they need to be taken out.”

Here we go again. With the economy showing faint signs of life and their positions on the social issues alienating most moderates, the leading Republican candidates, with the exception of Ron Paul, have returned to the elixir of warmongering to once again sway the gullible masses. The race to the bottom has been set by Newt Gingrich, the most desperate of the lot, who on Tuesday charged that “The President wants to unilaterally weaken the United States,” because his administration has dared question the wisdom of Israel attacking Iran and proposes a slight reduction in the bloated defense budget. 

Let the good times roll with a beefed-up military budget justified by plans to invade yet another Muslim country. As Paul warned during the South Carolina primary debate as his presidential rivals threatened war with Iran: “I’m afraid what’s going on right now is similar to the war propaganda that went on against Iraq.” Indeed, the shouting match over which of the other GOP candidates most wants a war with Iran is in sync with the last Republican president’s 2003 invasion.

It was an invasion that removed Saddam Hussein, once the U.S. ally in confronting Iran, from power and replaced him with a Shite leadership long beholden to the ayatollahs of Iran. Of course, as Bush lied, this was not about nation-building aimed at imposing a democracy in our image, but rather, as is the claim now, about preventing radical Muslims from getting their hands on a nuclear weapon. ...

Published: Wednesday 22 February 2012
“Huge donations may raise ethical issues.”

Thanks to a small number of wealthy individuals, the outside spending groups known as “super PACs” that are working to put the four leading GOP candidates in the White House collectively raised more than the candidates themselves in January.

Candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul raised a combined $21.1 million for the month, according to Federal Election Commission records, while the four primary super PACs backing them raised $22.1 million.

Donors to candidates number in the thousands, but they may only give $2,500 per candidate, per election. Super PAC donors, thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and a lower-cour ruling, can give unlimited amounts. The funds can come from billionaires, corporations and labor unions. So far this election, the funds have been spent overwhelmingly on advertising disparaging competing candidates.

Super PACs are prohibited from coordinating their activities with the candidates.

The average donation to a super PAC filing in January was $63,000, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of FEC data.

Two of the super PACs — “Winning Our Future,” supporting Newt Gingrich and “Endorse Liberty,” supporting Ron Paul — are dominated by a single donor.

Of the $11 million Winning Our Future raised in January, $10 million — about 90 percent of the total for the month — came from ...

Published: Wednesday 22 February 2012
“Bottom line: Whoever emerges as the GOP standard-bearer will be deeply indebted to a handful of people, each of whom will expect a good return on their investment.”

Have you heard of William Dore, Foster Friess, Sheldon Adelson, Harold Simmons, Peter Thiel, or Bruce Kovner? If not, let me introduce them to you. They’re running for the Republican nomination for president.

I know, I know. You think Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Mitt Romney are running. They are – but only because the people listed in the first paragraph have given them huge sums of money to do so. In a sense, Santorum, Gingrich, Paul, and Romney are the fronts. Dore et al. are the real investors.

According to January’s Federal Election Commission report, William Dore and Foster Friess supplied more than three-fourths of the $2.1 million raked in by Rick Santorum’s super PAC in January. Dore, president of the Dore Energy Corporation in Lake Charles, Louisiana, gave $1 million; Freis, a fund manager based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, gave $669,000 ...

Published: Tuesday 21 February 2012
“Sheldon Adelson and family contribute $11 million”

Casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson and his family have pumped $11 million into the pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC “Winning Our Future,” about 84 percent of the $13.1 million the group has raised so far.

And that doesn’t include the additional $10 million sources say the multibillionaire is expected to kick in to help his political ally and friend Gingrich become competitive again. Gingrich has fallen behind the two frontrunners, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and ex-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, in national polls.

The PAC’s new filing with the Federal Election Commission shows two separate $5 million donations were made last month by Adelson and wife Miriam, an Israeli-born physician with dual citizenship. Another $1 million was donated in December to the super PAC by three relatives of the Adelsons, bringing the total family contribution to $11 million.

Without the Adelsons’ largesse, the PAC has raised $2.1 million.

The PAC’s latest filing shows the next largest donation in January came from Texas mega-GOP donor Harold Simmons, who gave $500,000, bringing his total contributions to the super PAC to $1 million.

Together, the Adelson family donations have been the largest publicly reported thus far this election cycle. They have been used to pay for a mix of negative television advertisements against Romney and positive ads to promote Gingrich.

Those donations, respectively, helped to fund hard-hitting and expensive advertising drives before the South Carolina primary — which Gingrich won — and the Florida primary, which he lost, and where he was badly outspent by the ...

Published: Saturday 18 February 2012
Total giving from billionaire and family would reach $21 million.

One fundraiser, who has spoken with Adelson in the last week, said that the wealthy supporter of Jewish causes indicated to him that he is still committed to keeping Gingrich in the race.

It is unclear whether the pro-Gingrich PAC’s ads will attack frontrunners former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum or burnish Gingrich’s conservative image and record — or both.

Rick Tyler, a senior advisor to the super PAC, declined to comment about any further donations coming from Adelson. Tyler said that he was “optimistic” that the super PAC would be able to run an advertising campaign prior to super Tuesday, but “to be effective, we would need a significant infusion of cash.”

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Published: Tuesday 14 February 2012
“But to have both unlimited and undisclosed donations, Hoersting noted, activists can form a so-called 501(c)4, named for the section of the Internal Revenue Service code on social-welfare nonprofits.”

The big Republican names were all at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., last week: Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Sarah Palin.

The three-day conference, known as CPAC and hosted by the American Conservative Union, drew about 11,000 participants and 1,300 journalists, who crammed into the Marriott's ballroom for the big speeches.

While most attention focused on Republican presidential hopefuls and other party luminaries, we opted to take a spin around panels and events devoted to fundraising. They were a window into how money might be raised this election cycle, through new-fangled super PACs and their even more opaque nonprofit sidekicks, as well as through more old-fashioned tactics.

One conference panel -- "What's Up With Campaign Finance?" -- featured some of the lawyers who helped win the recent court decisions, such as Citizens United, that cleared the way for the new, more free-wheeling campaign-finance landscape.

At one point, moderator and lawyer Dan Backer predicted the eventual overhaul of the Federal Election Campaign Act of the 1970s, which he crowed "has been brutalized and made Swiss cheese by the courts, thanks to the folks on this panel."

At another point, panelist Benjamin Barr, a constitutional lawyer, joked about the hoopla over Citizens United and the worry that it would lead to a campaign-finance "apocalypse."

"If there's an apocalypse upon us, I suppose we have the four ...

Published: Thursday 9 February 2012
“The sweep by the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania exposed long-held voter qualms about Romney, and conservatives are likely to take a fresh look at Santorum.”

Mitt Romney's carefully plotted path to the Republican presidential nomination is now a long, unpredictable journey that could last months.

The next major tests are primaries in Arizona and Michigan on Feb. 28, where Romney has been heavily favored. A week later, 10 states vote on March 6, Super Tuesday, when the former Massachusetts governor was hoping to all but clinch the nomination.

Not anymore.

With victories Tuesday in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, Rick Santorum became a threat. The sweep by the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania exposed long-held voter qualms about Romney, and conservatives are likely to take a fresh look at Santorum.

"I don't think this changes the title of front-runner (for Romney), but it underscores the fundamental problem he has with the party base," said Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. "They just don't trust him, and they don't connect to him personally. He has serious, serious problems."

Arizona and Michigan have strong conservative bases. Santorum's faith-and-family message could appeal to them.

"After yesterday, I think everything's in play," said Jim Haynes, the president of the Phoenix-based Behavior Research Center, a nonpartisan market research and polling firm.

Even in Michigan, where Romney's father was governor in the 1960s, the race could tighten. "There's an opportunity for Santorum to give Romney a black eye," said Douglas Koopman, a professor of government at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Super Tuesday's most closely watched race is likely to be Ohio, the kind of diverse swing state that a general-election candidate historically has to win. Romney faces the same conservative suspicion there that he does elsewhere.

As a result, "It's a volatile state," said Paul Beck, a professor of political science at Ohio State ...

Published: Friday 3 February 2012
For direct impact on voters, a Pew Research Center survey last month found 20 percent of likely Republican voters said a Trump endorsement would make them less likely to support a candidate, while 13 percent said it would make them more likely to support the candidate.

Donald Trump on Thursday endorsed Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination, a move with little likely impact on voting but rich with billionaire-meets-millionaire symbolism.

"Mitt is tough, he's smart, he's sharp. He's not going to allow bad things to continue to happen to this country," Trump said at an event staged in his own Las Vegas hotel, with Romney and his wife, Ann, standing beside him.

"There are some things you just can't imagine happening in your life," said Romney. "This is one of them."

The sideshow — which included the hint of a double-cross to Newt Gingrich and Trump-size hype — dominated the campaign two days before the Nevada caucuses, where polls show Romney headed toward a Saturday win.

Yet Trump's backing may do more harm than good.

For direct impact on voters, a Pew Research Center survey last month found 20 percent of likely Republican voters said a Trump endorsement would make them less likely to support a candidate, while 13 percent said it would make them more likely to support the candidate.

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Published: Thursday 2 February 2012
“If anything, America’s safety nets have been too small and shot through with holes.”

One of the few things Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich agree on is that President Obama is turning America into “European-style welfare culture.”

In his standard stump speech Romney charges Obama with creating a nation of dependents. “Over the past three years Barack Obama has been replacing our merit-based society with an entitlement society.”

Gingrich calls Obama “the best food-stamp president in American history.”

What’s their evidence? Both rely on federal budget data showing direct payments to individuals shot up by almost $600 billion, a 32 percent increase, since the start of 2009.

They also point to Census data showing that 49 percent of Americans now live in homes where at least one person is collecting a federal benefit – Social Security, food stamps, unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation, or subsidized housing. That’s up from 44 percent in 2008.

Finally, they trumpet Social Security Administration figures showing that the number of people on Social Security disability jumped 10 percent in Obama’s first two years in office.

They argue our economic problems stem from this sharp rise in “dependency.” Get rid of these benefits and people will work harder.

But they have cause and effect backwards. The reason for the rise in food stamps, unemployment insurance, and other safety-net programs is Americans got clobbered in 2008 with the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. They and their families have needed whatever helping hands they could get.

If anything, America’s safety nets have been too small and shot through with holes. That’s why the number and percentage of Americans in poverty has increased dramatically over the past three years. According to a study by Northeastern University,  a third of families with young children are now in poverty.

This is the ...

Published: Thursday 2 February 2012
“Attendance by billionaire casino mogul could be indication of big conservative support to come.”

Billionaire casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson seems to be signaling his intention to plow millions more into conservative groups to influence this year’s elections, in addition to $10 million he and his wife gave a super PAC backing Newt Gingrich. For the first time, Adelson, who is worth an estimated $21.5 billion, and his Israeli born physician wife Miriam attended a mega donor conference sponsored by the billionaire brothers, Charles and David Koch.

The recent gathering, a twice-a-year event that began about eight years ago, was held in late January at a resort in Palm Springs. It typically draws deep pocketed givers, a few members of Congress and conservative leaders eagerly seeking big checks for their pet projects. Fundraisers say that this year’s winter event included an appearance by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor who has been a guest at other Koch events. Neither Cantor’s office nor Adelson’s press shop, responded to requests for comment.

Fundraisers familiar with Koch spending plans for this year say that the brothers and their large network of allied donors could pump as much as $200 million into electoral drives run by outside groups to help Republicans win the Senate and the White House and keep control of the House.

The Adelsons are weighing financial help to some groups that had a presence at the Koch conference but it’s unclear which ones are at the top of his prospect list, say fundraisers. Probably the most influential group that’s been at recent conferences has been Americans for Prosperity, a grassroots lobbying and political advocacy powerhouse that was started by the Koch Brothers in 2004.

Adelson has ...

Published: Thursday 2 February 2012
“After the Citizens United edict, Adelson can go all in to push his willing servant into the White House.”

Wow, January's gone already — time really flies when you're having Republican presidential primaries! And what better time than Groundhog Day to poke into that warren of feral Republican ideologues and see what the heck is going on.

Already, four of the GOP contenders have had to drop out — Michele Bachmann because she was just too wacky, Jon Huntsman because he was too sane, Herman Cain because he was too exposed and Rick Perry because he was too dimwitted.

But the greatest surprise is the sudden surge of the Adelson campaign. Little-known until now, Adelson was the big winner in South Carolina, came from nowhere to a second-place finish in the Florida primary, and looks to have the political kick needed to go the distance.

Never heard of Adelson? It consists of the married duo of Sheldon and Miriam, neither of whom are actually on any ballot. Rather, they are running on the Money Ticket.

Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas is a global casino baron who holds a $21 billion personal fortune. He has long been a major funder of far-right-wing causes, and this year he is placing an extra-big bet on his old political consort, Newt Gingrich. When Newt's presidential bid nearly flatlined after his electoral collapses in Iowa and New Hampshire, Sheldon rushed in with emergency CPR — Cash-Powered Resuscitation. This one rich guy wrote a $5 million check to "Winning Our Future," Gingrich's Super PAC. Sheldon's money was injected directly into toxic attack ads against Mitt Romney in South Carolina's primary, jolting Newt's campaign back to life.

Gingrich still lacked the financial vitality to match Romney's media buy in Florida's pricy primary, however. No worries, though — Miriam Adelson stepped in to infuse Winning Our Future with another $5 million jolt of CPR. The Gingrich campaign, you see, is a vessel for the Adelson campaign, and word is that this one READ FULL POST 8 COMMENTS

Published: Tuesday 31 January 2012
“The former governor of Alaska has for days been doing everything in her power to aid the campaign of Romney’s chief challenger, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.”

Oh my, it looks like Sarah Palin might not be speaking at this year’s Republican National Convention.

Either that, or she will be the keynoter.

The party’s most recent vice-presidential nominee is now officially at war with Mitt Romney and Republican establishment figures—epic losers like Bob Dole and John McCain, epic spinners like Peggy Noonan and Ann Coulter—who have rallied to save the campaign of the fumbling frontrunner.

The former governor of Alaska has for days been doing everything in her power to aid the campaign of Romney’s chief challenger, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. But Palin’s petty sniping has proven insufficient to derail Romney. So, now, she has dropped the rhetorical equivalent of a nuclear bomb on the GOP’s political and pundit powerbrokers, dismissing them as “Stalinists” and acolytes of the one figure more reviled by conservative base draggers than former Soviet strongmen: anti-poverty campaigner Saul Alinsky.

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Published: Monday 30 January 2012
Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania trailed far behind, with little hope of victory in a state where the winner will take all 50 delegates, and the rest will get nothing.

Mitt Romney opened a commanding lead in Florida Sunday, driving his rivals to start shifting their sights to other states as more suitable battlegrounds to keep challenging him for the Republican presidential nomination.

Three new polls showed the former Massachusetts governor seizing a double-digit lead over his nearest competitor, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, in Florida, where voting will end on Tuesday.

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania trailed far behind, with little hope of victory in a state where the winner will take all 50 delegates, and the rest will get nothing.

Gingrich planned to barnstorm the state by air Monday in a primary-eve push to close the gap. But he also looked past the likely loss on Tuesday, insisting the anti-Romney vote eventually will coalesce around him. "We will go all the way to the convention," he said Sunday.

Santorum, who suspended campaigning to be at the hospital bedside of an ailing 3-year-old daughter, sent surrogates to Florida. Rather than return to the state, he announced new plans to campaign instead in four other states Monday and Tuesday.

And Paul, who already abandoned ...

Published: Sunday 29 January 2012
Romney does well in every part of the state. He has strong majorities in the crucial Hispanic community, where he has a 52 to 28 percent lead over Gingrich.

As Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich dueled across Florida four days before the state's pivotal Republican primary, a new Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald poll showed Romney with a commanding double-digit lead.

"A lot of people may not be charged up about Romney, but they're coming to realize Gingrich is too big a risk to take in the general election," said Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, which conducted the poll.

Romney leads Gingrich, 42 to 31 percent. The survey was taken Tuesday through Thursday and completed before Thursday night's GOP debate in Jacksonville.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, spent Saturday elaborating on their chief message at that often raucous debate: That the other guy is unfit to be president.

Romney released a scathing new ad reminding voters how the House overwhelmingly reprimanded Gingrich for ethical lapses while he was speaker of the House of Representatives.

The ad features Tom Brokaw, then the anchorman of "NBC Nightly News," delivering the news 15 years ago about the extraordinary House rebuke.

Published: Sunday 29 January 2012
“He’s an unscrupulous man, a one-car demolition derby, but if he goads Obama to unaccustomed bravery and other Democrats to rethink outdated liberal dogma (affirmative action, etc.), then he will have done his nation a great service.”

Where is the Democratic Gingrich?

I do not mean that Newt Gingrich — the one who is a virtual Michelin Man of grandiosity, pneumatically overstuffed with self-references and appeals to the political gutter. I do not mean the man whose public life has been as chaotic as his private one (and vice versa) and who is capable of the most sinister simplicities, such as the time he suggested that Susan Smith would not have murdered her two children had Republicans been in power. This Gingrich is a Rorschach test: If you don’t think he’s nuts, you are.

 

The Gingrich I seek is not the man above but the one of big ideas. The term gets thrown around a lot, and Gingrich himself is apt to think his every idea is BIG. His mind is always in the tumble cycle. And even when he is spouting boilerplate, he can distance himself from his worn verbiage to say something fresh or provocative or ugly — it’s all the same to him. Out of nowhere, he has exhumed Saul Alinsky, whose fame is limited to university sociology departments, and yet whose name is so perfectly evocative of old-style radicalism, vaguely ...

Published: Saturday 28 January 2012
Candidate’s Center for Health Transformation represented a broad array of powerful interests.

Public interest groups on Friday called on Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich to make public a full list of health care companies that paid his Washington think tank for advice as far back as 2003.

“Gingrich has been unapologetic about his work so I can’t imagine why it would be a problem to release a full list of his clients,” said Tom Fitton, president of the conservative group Judicial Watch. “Politically, disclosure can’t and probably won’t hurt — but secrecy can.” 

The for-profit Center for Health Transformation since 2003 has signed up some 300 health care businesses, from giant insurance companies and drug manufacturers to technology startups. With Gingrich at the helm, the center took an active role in circulating policy papers, testifying at congressional hearings and taking other steps to build support for dozens of pieces of legislation and federal policy initiatives that would financially benefit its clients.

 The Center for Public Integrity detailed the health center’s activities in a report published Thursday. Gingrich severed ties with the center last year.

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Published: Thursday 26 January 2012
“Here’s a committed devotee of tooth-and-claw capitalism — replete with 8-year-olds working as janitors — campaigning with a pro-worker film of which Ken Loach would be proud, paid for by a rabidly anti-union billionaire who thinks Israel should bomb Iran and drive the Palestinians into the sea.”

Poor Romney. He's back in the Newt nightmare. Here comes the portly Georgian, brushing aside the guards outside Romney's hotel suite, kicking open the bedroom door, seizing Romney by the throat ... Aaaargh! And then Romney is awake, realizing that this is a cold-sweat nightmare that will last ... maybe until they close in Florida on Jan. 31; maybe until Super Tuesday on March 6, when nine states hold their primaries.

We left Romney amidst the flush of victory in New Hampshire, with polls in South Carolina showing him a solid 10 points ahead of Gingrich, who made a poor showing in New Hampshire on top of a fourth place finish in Iowa below the Catholic zealot Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. Santorum's a faded force now. (The fact that he and his wife boast of having taken their dead baby home from the hospital and placed it between their two living children, telling them that "Gabriel's an angel now" may have sat ill with some voters.)

Gingrich burned for revenge for his rough treatment in New Hampshire by Romney's campaign commercials. But how, on a tight timeline, to acquaint South Carolina Republicans with Romney's infamies?

He needed money, lots of it, double-quick.

In the old days there were certain pettifogging constraints on how much a billionaire could lavish on his favored candidate. But then came the "Citizens United" decision by the U.S. Supreme Court (split 5-4), issued in January 2010, ruling that the First Amendment, protecting free speech, prohibits the government from placing limits on independent spending for political purposes by corporations and unions. As Ralph Nader correctly pointed out at the time, "With this decision, corporations can now directly pour vast amounts of corporate money, through independent expenditures, into the electoral swamp already flooded with corporate campaign PAC contribution dollars."

Enter 78-year-old Sheldon Adelson, the world's ...

Published: Thursday 26 January 2012
“Predictably, both candidates’ main focus was a hard-line stance toward Cuba and a hope for regime change.”

The two leading candidates in the Republican primary, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, came to Miami on Wednesday to win the support of tens of thousands of Cuban Republican voters by blasting the Castro brothers and outlining their plans for improving U.S-Latin American relations.

Predictably, both candidates' main focus was a hard-line stance toward Cuba and a hope for regime change.

First up was Gingrich, who spoke before about 250 people at Florida International University's Wertheim Performing Arts Center. A much more aggressive policy toward Cuba is needed to bring about a "Cuban spring" and usher in democracy, he said during a morning speech.

Romney chose a much more symbolic setting for his afternoon address on Latin American: The Freedom Tower where thousands of Cuban exiles were processed when they first entered the United States.

Romney and Gingrich agreed that they disagree with President Barack Obama on Cuba policy.

"This president does not understand that by helping Castro; he is not helping the people of Cuba; he is hurting them," Romney said to cheers inside the ornate downtown Miami building . "I want to be the American ...

Published: Monday 23 January 2012
“Gingrich skillfully set up his opponent to step on the landmine of class by transforming Romney from his self-cast role as a successful businessman into a heartless financier more interested in profits than in job creation.”

Conservatives may denounce class warfare, yet by shrewdly combining the politics of class with the politics of culture, Newt Gingrich won his first election in 14 years, humbled Mitt Romney and upended the Republican Party.

He also exposed profound frailties in Romney as a candidate, throwing him badly off-balance on questions related to his personal wealth, business career and income taxes. Unless Romney finds a comfortable and genuine way of talking about his money, he will present President Obama’s team a weakness that they’ll exploit mercilessly. The country is thinking more skeptically about wealth and privilege in the wake of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Romney has not adjusted.

Gingrich skillfully set up his opponent to step on the landmine of class by transforming Romney from his self-cast role as a successful businessman into a heartless financier more interested in profits than in job creation.

The conventional view is that Gingrich’s critique of Bain Capital, Romney’s old company, didn’t work because Republicans dislike assaults on “free enterprise,” a phrase Romney ...

Published: Sunday 22 January 2012
Groups backing Romney, Gingrich spend about $3 million each in S.C.

Mitt Romney continues to enjoy a huge advantage in support from “super PACs” overall, but is running about even with a pro-Newt Gingrich group in South Carolina, records show.

The pro-Romney group, “Restore Our Future,” has spent $3.0 million in the state, only slightly more than the pro-Gingrich group, “Winning Our Future” at $2.9 million, according to the latest data available from the Federal Election Commission.

Super PACs were created following court decisions in 2010 that allowed groups to accept unlimited corporate and labor union contributions and spend the funds to elect or defeat a candidate. Criticism of the groups has ramped up in recent weeks.

Total spending by presidential super PACs in the primary states has reached $30 million, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis.

As voters go to the polls in South Carolina on Saturday, two groups supporting the former Massachusetts governor have spent $12.3 million. The bulk of the spending was on advertising attacking Gingrich's record. Groups supporting former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are a distant second at $4.8 million.

Third is a group ...

Published: Sunday 22 January 2012
“Are news organizations letting a vengeful Marianne Gingrich exploit Newt’s moment, or are they performing a public service?”

“By definition, if you run for president, anything is on the table. Ask Grover Cleveland. Ask Andrew Jackson. Anything is on the table. I accept that, but I don’t have to participate in the conversation.”

That was Newt Gingrich, in May, when I asked him about whether intrusion into candidates’ personal lives had gone too far. At the time, Gingrich’s biggest headache was his Tiffany shopping habit, but Gingrich obviously had issues of sexual misconduct on his mind as well: Cleveland was assailed for his out-of-wedlock child, Jackson over a possibly bigamous marriage.

And I thought Gingrich had it about right: When you run for president, you open yourself to the kind of searching scrutiny that a finger-pointing, voice-raised Gingrich condemned at Thursday night’s debate.

“I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office, and I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that,” Gingrich 

Published: Sunday 22 January 2012
“The total number of TV ads for House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates in 2010 was 2,870,000.”

We have seen the future of electoral politics flashing across the screens of local TV stations from Iowa to New Hampshire to South Carolina. Despite all the excitement about Facebook and Twitter, the critical election battles of 2012 and for some time to come will be fought in the commercial breaks on local network affiliates. This year, according to a fresh report to investors from Needham and Company’s industry analysts, television stations will reap as much as $5 billion—up from $2.8 billion in 2008—from a money-and-media election complex that plays a definitional role in our political discourse. As Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod says, the cacophony of broadcast commercials remains “the nuclear weapon” of American politics.

We’ve known for some time that the pattern, extent and impact of political advertising would be transformed and supercharged by the Supreme Court’s January 2010 Citizens United ruling. But the changes, even at this early stage of the 2012 campaign, have proven to be more dramatic and unsettling than all but the most fretful analysts had imagined.

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Published: Friday 20 January 2012
“What’s remarkable is that Romney seems to be closing in on a victory at the very moment when he is painting himself as the anti-populist and a tone-deaf economic elitist.”

Members of the Tea Party insisted they were turning the GOP into a populist, anti-establishment bastion. Social conservatives have long argued that values and morals matter more than money. Yet in the end, the corporate and economically conservative wing of the Republican Party always seems to win.

Thus was Mitt Romney so confident of victory in Saturday’s South Carolina primary that he left the state briefly on Tuesday for a fundraiser in New York. And why not? The power of big money has been amplified in this campaign by the super PACs let loose by the Supreme Court’sCitizens United decision and lax regulation.

Published: Wednesday 18 January 2012
Calls for the GOP presidential candidate to release his tax returns are likely to increase.

Mitt Romney, who made millions buying and selling companies for a private equity firm, pays an effective tax rate that is lower than a family earning less than $70,000.

“It's probably closer to the 15 percent rate than anything,” Romney told reporters in South Carolina Tuesday, when asked about his taxes.

The Bain Capital founder and current GOP presidential front-runner has been under pressure to release his tax returns. Romney is estimated to be worth as much as $264 million. If he had earned all that cash from salaried work, he would likely be in the top federal tax bracket of 35 percent.

But because private equity partners and hedge fund managers make most of their money from carried interest — a cut of profits off investments that are taxed at the lower 15 percent capital gains rate — the Romney household likely pays a lower overall tax rate than many middle class American families.

But not all of Romney's earnings are taxed at the capital gains rate. The $374,328 in speaker's fees that the former ...

Published: Tuesday 17 January 2012
“It was no surprise that Huntsman dropped out before South Carolina voted.”

As soon as news broke Sunday night that Jon Huntsman would be dropping out of the Republican presidential race on Monday, the mainstream media narrative took hold: Huntsman was a candidate for 2009, when Republicans were willing to reconsider their approach, rather than 2012. As Reid Wilson wrote in National Journal, “After winning control of the House in 2010, a Republican electorate bullish on its own chances for 2012 was not interested in a message of moderation and pragmatism. Instead, that sort of refocus typically finds better resonance in a party that has just suffered major defeats and needs to recalibrate its image, rather than a party that sees itself on the rise.” Ben Smith wrote in Buzzfeed, “Jon Huntsman had his moment. It was, unfortunately for his presidential bid, the late winter of 2009.”

The only problems with this narrative are that Huntsman isn’t really a moderate and Republicans were never willing to move to the center. From its inception, Huntsman’s campaign seemed to be built more around the notion that he would hold an appeal that was above ideology. He speaks Mandarin, rides motorcycles and was in a high school rock band! Some campaign consultants 

Published: Monday 16 January 2012
“Romney’s views on immigration are radical even in a field of candidates who appear to be competing to take the most radical views on this subject.”

On a day set aside to honor civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., Mitt Romney plans to tout his extreme immigration positions during a campaign stop in South Carolina today — with Kris Kobach, the author of Arizona’s and Alabama’s immigration laws, at his side. He will attack his competitors Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry for their softer immigration stances, which could resonate with South Carolina voters who support that state’s harmful immigration law.

“Mitt Romney stands apart from the others. He’s the only one who’s taken a strong across-the-board position on immigration,” Kobach said, and he told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto that Romney was much farther to the right on illegal immigration than his fellow presidential candidates.

 

Considering Kobach’s own opinions and associations, however, his endorsement may not be one Romney wants to tout.

Before he became Kansas’ secretary of state, Kobach worked for Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal branch of Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled as a “nativist hate group.” One of FAIR’s main goals is to overturn the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which “

Published: Sunday 15 January 2012
The first order of business for the group is to rally donors to Santorum’s cause.

With this state's Republican presidential primary a week away, former Sen. Rick Santorum on Saturday received the endorsement of 150 influential Christian conservative leaders who are hoping to prevent former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney from becoming the GOP nominee.

The group, suspicious that Romney's commitment to social conservative causes such as ending legalized abortion is weak, met at a ranch outside of Houston, Texas, in hopes of rallying around one candidate rather than split their votes among three — Santorum, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

The endorsement came as the Republican presidential field converged on scenic Charleston, S.C., for a televised town hall meeting for undecided voters hosted by Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in a telephone news conference after the meeting that the conservatives had begun their deliberations with "not a lot of hope that we could reach consensus around one candidate."

But in the end "there emerged a strong consensus around Rick Santorum," Perkins said, after three rounds of balloting.

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Published: Saturday 14 January 2012
Criminal prosecution is theoretically possible, but highly unlikely — and even civil sanctions are rare, according to a review of Federal Election Commission actions.

Presidential front-runner Mitt Romney knows that he can’t talk to the people who run the notorious “super PAC” that may have won the Iowa caucuses for him.

“It's illegal, as you probably know. I'm not allowed to communicate with a super PAC in any way, shape or form,” he said in December on MSNBC’s Morning Joe show. “My goodness, if we coordinate in any way whatsoever, we go to the Big House.”

Well, probably not. Criminal prosecution is theoretically possible, but highly unlikely — and even civil sanctions are rare, according to a review of Federal Election Commission actions.

Since 1999, the FEC has conducted a total of three investigations into alleged coordination between a candidate committee and an individual or organization making “independent expenditures.” Two of those probes resulted in fines totaling $26,000, according to a Center for Public Integrity investigation.

The Citizens United Supreme Court decision and a lower-court ruling in 2010 allowed corporations, individuals and labor unions to make unlimited contributions to independent organizations that use the money to support or defeat a candidate. The ruling led to the creation of “super PACs.”

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Published: Thursday 12 January 2012
“According to the Wall Street Journal, of 77 companies Bain invested in during Romney’s tenure there, 22 percent either filed for bankruptcy or closed their doors by end of eighth year after Bain’s investment.”

It’s one thing to criticize Mitt Romney for being a businessman with the wrong values. It’s quite another to accuse him and his former company, Bain Capital, of doing bad things. If what Bain Capital did under Romney was bad for society, the burden shifts to Romney’s critics to propose laws that would prevent Bain and other companies from doing such bad things in the future.

Don’t hold your breath.

Newt Gingrich says Bain under Romney carried out “clever legal ways to loot a company.” Gingrich calls it the “Wall Street model” where “you can basically take out all the money, leaving behind the workers,” and charges that “if someone comes in, takes all the money out of your company and then leaves you bankrupt while they go off with millions, that’s not traditional capitalism.”

Where has Newt been for the last thirty years? Leveraged buyouts became part of traditional capitalism in the 1980s when enterprising financiers began borrowing piles of money, often at high interest rates, to buy up the stock of ongoing companies they believe undervalued. They’d back the loans with the company assets, then typically sell off divisions and slim payrolls, and resell the company to the public at a higher share price – pocketing the gains.

It’s a good deal for the financiers (the $25 billion buyout of RJR-Nabisco in 1988 netted the partners of Kohlberg, Kravis, and Roberts around $70 million each – and most of Mitt Romney’s estimated $200 million fortune comes from the same maneuvers), but not always for the company or its workers.

Some workers lose their jobs when the company downsizes. Others, when the company, now laden with debt, can’t meet its payments to creditors and has to go into bankruptcy. According to the Wall Street Journal, of 77 companies Bain invested in during Romney’s tenure there, 22 ...

Published: Saturday 7 January 2012
Debunking the Myth of Progressive Taxation

Since last August five of the top seven GOP presidential candidates—Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry, and Michele Bachmann—as well as Marco Rubio, current republican front-runner for vice president, have repeatedly claimed that “poor people simply don’t pay enough taxes.” For months now leading GOP candidates have pugnaciously chastised the nearly 70 million Americans who “earn an income but don't pay a single cent in federal income taxes.” 

Their speciously agonistic claims were further fortified last October when Erick Erickson (founder of RedState.org) launched a Tumblr page entitled “We Are The 53%” as a counterpoint to the popular “We Are The 99%” website that has become the prevailing metonym for the Occupy Wall Street movement. Erikson’s website is rife with stories from the 53% of Americans who pay more in federal income taxes than they receive back in deductions or credits. He writes: “I work 3 jobs./I have a house I can’t sell./My family insurance costs are outrageous./But I don’t blame Wall Street./Suck it up you whiners./I am the 53% subsidizing you so you can hang out on Wall Street and complain.”

His claim, and the claims of many GOP presidential hopefuls, however, rest on two mutually entangled, erroneous assumptions: 1) Occupy Wall street protestors comprise the 46% of the country that does not “pay” federal income taxes and 2) 53% of Americans are subsidizing all those citizens whose incomes are either too low, who don’t qualify for enough credits, or whose deductions and exemptions effectively eliminate their tax liability. The orthodox GOP strategy of demonizing the ...

Published: Saturday 7 January 2012
In a video clip on CBS News’ website, Santorum appears to say: “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money and provide for themselves and their families.”

Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are fending off accusations that they made racially tinged remarks about African-Americans and public assistance.

Gingrich accused the news media Friday of taking a comment he made earlier in the week at a New Hampshire town hall meeting out of context. He said there that if he were invited to address the NAACP annual convention, he was prepared to tell the civil rights organization why "the African-American community should demand paychecks, and not be satisfied with food stamps."

 

"Now there's no neighborhood I know of in America where if you went around and asked people, 'Would you rather your children had food stamps or paychecks?' you wouldn't end up with a majority saying they'd rather have a paycheck," Gingrich said, according to a transcript written from a video of the event. "And so, I'm prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I'll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks, and not be satisfied with food stamps."

Some African-American leaders and civil rights group considered Gingrich's words racially insensitive. They've noted that Gingrich often refers to President Barack Obama as the "food ...

Published: Friday 6 January 2012
“Santorum recognized early on that not just first-caucus state of Iowa but the first-primary state of New Hampshire were ripe for his manufacturing message.”

Rick Santorum surged from (way) behind to secure a top-position finish in the Iowa caucuses for a lot of reasons: his ability to unite evangelical voters who through most of the campaign had divided their support among multiple candidates; a long-term strategy that saw him visit every Iowa county and personally interact with tens of thousands of likely caucus-goers; his status as a largely unexamined and unbattered “last man standing” alternative to Mitt Romney.

But there was something else that Santorum had going for him.

To a far greater extent than Romney, the venture capitalist who made his money dismantling American factories and offshoring jobs, and to a significantly greater extent than the wonkish Newt Gingrich and the ideologically rigid Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, Santorum appealed to blue-collar workers and to Iowans who would like to be blue-collar workers. And he’ll do more of that in New Hampshire.

Eschewing predictable “let-the-market-decide” rhetoric about free markets and free trade, 

Published: Thursday 5 January 2012
How the Iowa results impact New Hampshire and the rest of the campaign started shaking out on several fronts, including sharp attacks on Romney and developments that could help consolidate conservative voters against him, or keep them divided as they were in Iowa.

The Republican presidential campaign shifted to New Hampshire on Wednesday with one key question hanging over it: Can Mitt Romney deliver the landslide win his polls and organization suggest is within reach, or will he fall to sharp new attacks and the state's history of turning on the winner of Iowa's caucuses?

The former governor of neighboring Massachusetts rolled into Manchester on Wednesday, looking for a big win next Tuesday in his New England backyard to make him the first non-incumbent Republican ever to win both Iowa and New Hampshire, which could propel him toward the presidential nomination.

"My goodness what a squeaker," he joked about his ever-so-narrow win in Iowa over former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, an eight-vote margin out of about 60,000 cast for the two men.

"Do you think we can have more than an eight-vote margin here in New Hampshire?" he added. "I'm gonna try."

Polls suggest he's in good shape here, holding a huge lead over his nearest competitors. A new Suffolk University poll of New Hampshire released Wednesday showed him with 43 percent, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas with 14 percent, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 9 percent, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman with 7 percent and Santorum with 6 percent. It was conducted Monday and Tuesday, before the Iowa results were known.

 

But in one sign that opinion could shift, Romney received only a tepid response at his rally in Manchester.

 

How the Iowa results impact New Hampshire and the rest of the campaign started shaking out on several fronts, including sharp attacks on Romney and developments that could help consolidate conservative voters against him, or keep them divided as they were in Iowa.

Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota dropped out of the race after a dismal sixth-place Iowa finish. She did not endorse another candidate.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry dropped back ...

Published: Wednesday 4 January 2012
Gingrich was allowed to repeatedly appear on Fox News to push his pro-drilling petition and discuss issues related to energy companies.

In November 1998, following midterm losses and a Republican revolt, Newt Gingrich announced he would step down as House speaker and resign from Congress. Thirteen years after his downfall, Gingrich is now a contender for the Republican nomination for president.

During his years away from office and campaigning, Gingrich stayed in the public spotlight as a frequent contributor and occasional host on Fox News. Between October 1999, when he was hired, and March 2, 2011, when his contract was suspended, Gingrich appeared on Fox News over 600 times.

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Published: Tuesday 3 January 2012
“The 2012 Iowa Caucuses by the numbers.”

We bring you the 2012 Iowa Caucuses by the numbers:

20/19/18: The percentages for the top three GOP contenders (Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum) in an Iowa survey released Sunday by Public Policy Polling.

49: The percentage of likely caucus-goers who said last week in a Des Moines Register poll that their mind was still not made up.

1: The percent of the American electorate that lives in Iowa, site of the nation's earliest presidential contest.

5: The percentage of Iowa voters who participated in the 2008 GOP caucuses.

24: The percentage of New Hampshire voters who participated in that state's 2008 GOP primary (New Hampshire is the next contest after Iowa).

0.06: The percentage of American voters who will be caucusing on Tuesday in Iowa if turnout is the same as it was in 2008.

0.015: The percentage of American voters who will be voting Tuesday for the winner of the Iowa Caucuses, if recent opinion polls are accurate.

Published: Tuesday 3 January 2012
“Voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, all of whose contests will be held this month, won’t know who is paying for much of the advertising they see until after their votes are cast.”

New outside spending groups, dubbed super PACs, that can accept unlimited donations from corporations and wealthy individuals, spent $12.9 million in Iowa and other early GOP battleground states through New Year’s Day, according to an analysis of federal data.

The top beneficiary was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. A total of $4.6 million was spent to help the nominal front-runner, the vast majority for ads torpedoing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Second was Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who benefited from $3.7 million in outside spending.

According to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of Federal Election Commission data,12 outside super PACs spent money, mostly on advertising, with the intention of electing or defeating a GOP presidential candidate. Ten have not yet reported their donors. The two that have did so last summer.

The upshot is that voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, all of whose contests will be held this month, won’t know who is paying for much of the advertising they see until after their votes are cast.

The next reports on donors aren’t due until January 31, the day of the Florida primary.

Federal court decisions in 2010 made it possible for individuals, corporations and labor unions to give unlimited contributions to political organizations (super PACs) and certain types of nonprofits, which can then spend the money to elect or defeat candidates. The groups are prohibited from coordinating their activities with candidates.

The top super PAC spender was "Restore Our Future" — the ambiguously named group set up to help Romney. The group spent $4.1 million, all of it in opposition to Gingrich, who enjoyed a brief lead in Iowa polls last month before the shellacking.

Restore Our Future has moved on from Iowa and spent $622,000 in Florida, a likely harbinger of more to come in that high stakes contest. Almost $100,000 has been spent by ...

Published: Monday 2 January 2012
“If present trends continue, the 2012 election will reverse more than a century of efforts to curb the influence of big money on politics.”

Political committees unfettered by donation limits are dominating the last weeks of the presidential nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, funding aggressive attack campaigns that are swamping the efforts of the candidates themselves.

 

In Ohio, $3 million in ads funded by secret donors have already been aired against the state's incumbent Democratic senator, Sherrod Brown - a year before the election.

 

In California, three of the committees financed by unlimited donations have formed in recent weeks to back Congressman Howard L. Berman, who has been forced by redistricting into a primary battle against fellow Democratic incumbent Brad Sherman.


The early activity at all levels heralds a transformation across the country in the first presidential cycle since a 2010 Supreme Court decision lifted the limits on individual and corporate donations to independent political organizations, known as super PACs.

Super PACs are now outspending the GOP presidential candidates on ads in what could be a $6 billion or $7-billion election year for federal races, rendering obsolete the old system under which donations were strictly limited to candidates and party committees.

"This is a radical change," said Trevor Potter, the Republican election lawyer who advised Arizona Sen. John McCain in his 2008 presidential bid.

If present trends continue, the 2012 election will reverse more than a century of efforts to curb the influence of big money on politics.

 

During his second term, President Theodore Roosevelt spoke with alarm about the ability of corporate and financial elite - "malefactors of great wealth" - to steer government decisions. In 1907, he signed legislation banning corporate contributions to federal candidates.

 

In future decades - including during Richard Nixon's presidency - Congress expanded campaign regulation, requiring ...

Published: Monday 2 January 2012
Just since Thanksgiving, polls have shown momentum for Gingrich, former House Speaker; Paul, a Texas congressman; Romney, former Massachusetts governor, and Santorum, former Pennsylvania senator.

Shifts happen in the 48 hours before Iowa caucuses, and on Sunday it was clear that the outcome of the nation's first presidential voting Tuesday depends on a huge army of undecided, wavering Iowa caucusgoers.

Forty-one percent said they could still be persuaded to support another candidate, while 51 percent say their minds are made up, according to a Des Moines Register Iowa poll taken Tuesday through Friday.

McClatchy interviews with voters statewide found that they tend to like something about all six major GOP candidates but there's also usually something that makes them uneasy.

It could be Mitt Romney's changes in positions, Ron Paul's foreign policy, Rick Perry's gaffes, Newt Gingrich's history of controversy or a sense that Rick Santorum can't beat President Barack Obama.

Many voters were deciding by spending the holiday ...

Published: Sunday 1 January 2012
Romney began his day in New Hampshire, which holds the nation’s first presidential primary Jan. 10.

Mitt Romney has a slim lead in the latest Des Moines Register Iowa poll, released Saturday evening, but Ron Paul is close and Rick Santorum is surging.

The results came as Republican presidential candidates spent the last day of 2011 Saturday making their closing arguments to curious, often uncertain voters as the race remained fluid.

In the Iowa poll, taken Tuesday through Friday, Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, led with 24 percent of likely caucus-goers. Next was Paul, a Texas congressman, at 22 percent followed by Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, at 15 percent.

Trailing were former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, 12 percent; Texas Gov. Rick Perry, 11 percent, and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, 7 percent.

But results Thursday and Friday only told a different story. While Romney still had 24 percent, Santorum was up to 21 percent, while Paul sank to 18 percent.

The poll capped a frenetic day of campaigning.

Gingrich blasted the Obama ...

Published: Saturday 31 December 2011
The poll found 21 percent of likely caucus attendees list Romney as their second choice; 20 percent list Perry; 15 percent say Santorum; 13 percent list Gingrich; 11 percent name Bachmann; and 9 percent cite Paul.

With Iowa Republicans starting to make up their minds — and shuffling the deck of candidates — the 2012 presidential contest turned emotional Friday, just days before the state's caucuses kick off the voting for a GOP nominee.

Mitt Romney dropped his steel-eyed focus on potential general-election opponent Barack Obama to turn his fire on Texas Rep. Ron Paul, calling his chief rival here a fringe candidate.

Mitt Romney dropped his steel-eyed focus on potential general-election opponent Barack Obama to turn his fire on Texas Rep. Ron Paul, calling his chief rival here a fringe candidate.

Newt Gingrich, watching his support plunge under a withering assault of negative TV ads, choked up at one campaign stop while talking about his late mother, wiping away tears.

And Rick Santorum reveled in a last-minute surge of support after months of methodically working the back roads of Iowa, meeting voters one by one.

Their moods were buoyed — or dashed — as a new poll ...

Published: Saturday 31 December 2011
“Never mind that Ryan’s plan has no chance of being adopted—even by a President Mitt Romney, who distinguished himself in 2011 by pointedly rejecting Texas Governor Rick Perry’s Social Security–bashing.”

Paul Ryan’s ideas reached their sell-by date in 2011, as tens of millions of Americans recognized that his proposals would permanently damage and ultimate destroy Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

But as the year came to a close and his rancid schemes were starting to putrefy, Ryan suddenly found a new buyer: Mitt Romney.

The Republican presidential contender is so desperate to sell himself as the “conservative leader” he never was that Romney’s “closing argument” appeal to Iowa caucus goers features quotes from columnist Ann Coulter.

Those Romney radio ads, which are more ubiquitous in Iowa than Geico gecko insurance commercials, tout the former governor of Massachusetts as a “conservative ...

Published: Wednesday 28 December 2011
Romney poked fun at Gingrich for failing to qualify for the primary ballot in Virginia and for likening the setback to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

With Christmas out of the way, the battle for the Republican presidential nomination resumed with gusto Tuesday, a still-wide-open race meaning a frantic dash in the final week before Iowa kicks off the voting Jan. 3.

Candidates poured back into Iowa, with Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich all launching statewide bus tours, joining Rick Santorum, who'd returned Monday. Ron Paul is scheduled to arrive Wednesday. The candidates, all Christians, had suspended campaigning over the Christmas weekend.

Ads also retuned to Iowa TV channels, restarting an air war that's cost an estimated $10 million, much of it spent on attacking onetime front-runner Gingrich as a flip-flopper who once backed liberal causes and a Washington insider who cashed in after leaving public office.

As they raced toward the voting, former Massachusetts Gov. Romney signaled confidence that he'll eventually win the nomination even if he doesn't win Iowa. Gingrich awoke to another challenge, with a report that he'd praised Romney's Massachusetts health care law, which is deeply unpopular with conservatives.

Before arriving in Iowa on Tuesday evening, Romney swung through his stronghold of New Hampshire, which holds its primary a week after ...

Published: Monday 26 December 2011
“This may sound a bit harsh, but, really, these two candidates deserve each other.”

To use the adverbs of which he is so fond, it is magnificently, fundamentally, literally ironic that Newt Gingrich, the master of slasher political rhetoric, is busy mewling over those meanie attack ads being run against him.

And to employ Mitt Romney’s favorite piece of management-consultant speak, with regards to those terrible, horrible nasty outside groups, it’s a bit rich for the former Massachusetts governor to bemoan their existence and assert that there’s absolutely, positively nothing he could do to get them to stop.

How dumb do they think we are?

Gingrich has long been a leading advocate and practitioner of the full-throated political attack. His current ads may be all warm and Christmas cozy, with syrupy music in the background, but his lifelong modus operandi has been to demonize opponents, not simply differ with them.

In “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,” a guide produced by Gingrich’s GOPAC political action committee, fellow Republicans are advised, “Sometimes we are hesitant to use contrast. . . . Remember that creating a difference helps you.” Among the Gingrich-suggested words: “radical,” ...

Published: Saturday 24 December 2011
“Newt Gingrich seems to be surrendering the lead he briefly held, the target of millions of dollars in negative advertising.”

Is Rick Santorum the next non-Romney to emerge from the pack? Could he conceivably win Iowa?

That these are plausible questions tells you all you need to know about the unsettled nature of the Republican presidential contest — particularly here, the state whose caucuses on Jan. 3 have become a bookie’s nightmare. At the moment, anyone among the six major candidates has a reasonable chance of coming in first or second, and the contest is becoming less settled as the brief Christmas interlude in campaigning approaches.

For example: If libertarian Ron Paul has a chance of triumphing anywhere, it’s in Iowa, where all his competitors acknowledge the energy of his organization. Establishment pick Mitt Romney’s opposition is so badly split that he could conceivably come in first and begin locking up the nomination — or he could emerge deeply scarred by finishing in the bottom tier. The line between success and failure is that thin.

Newt Gingrich seems to be surrendering the lead he briefly held, the target of millions of dollars in negative advertising. He still hopes to use jujitsu to turn all those negative ads in his favor, and at a factory here ...

Published: Wednesday 21 December 2011
“The extremist wing of the GOP has been saying crazy things about climate for a while, but the anti-science wing is now in charge.”

Sure, the extremist wing of the GOP has been saying crazy things about climate for a while (see Rep. Shimkus: “Man will not destroy this Earth. This Earth will not be destroyed by a flood”).

But the anti-science wing is now in charge (see John Boehner says on ABC: “The idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical”).  And it has been able to make climate craziness a litmus test for the Presidency.

READ FULL POST 10 COMMENTS

Published: Tuesday 20 December 2011
Adelson could be a huge help, but a federal criminal probe of his Las Vegas Sands casino empire may prove to be a liability for the Gingrich campaign.

When Newt Gingrich and other White House aspirants gave political pitches at a forum hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition in early December, the leading financial benefactor for the group and Gingrich in recent years was absent: multibillionaire Sheldon Adelson, who was in Asia tending to his sprawling and controversial casino empire.

The absence of Adelson, whose net worth is greater than $20 billion, was notable considering his close financial links to the conservative pro-Israel advocacy group and Gingrich. What’s more, Adelson had recently given signals to some old friends with the coalition and others that he would pump millions of dollars into efforts via a “super PAC” to promote Gingrich’s White House prospects, say GOP fundraisers.

That kind of outside muscle seems urgently needed to sustain Gingrich’s campaign, which has begun to lose momentum, according to the latest polls.

Losing ground in Iowa, nationally

Gingrich has lost his lead in Iowa to Ron Paul according to one poll and is in a dead heat with Mitt Romney in the latest CNN national poll — thanks in part to a barrage of negative advertising by his opponents and their allies.

Adelson could be a huge help, but a federal criminal probe of his Las Vegas Sands casino empire may prove to be a liability for the Gingrich campaign.

Adelson’s expected investment in a pro-Gingrich super PAC — which can accept unlimited donations from individuals and corporations and spend as much as it wants to support ...

Published: Saturday 17 December 2011
Recently, the Obama administration requested a waiver on human rights restrictions in the forthcoming foreign appropriations bill in order to resume arming the Karimov dictatorship in Uzbekistan, which has massacred hundreds of pro-democracy protesters and has literally boiled its opponents alive.

An ad on my Facebook page from barackobama.com reads, "Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich say they would start foreign aid to Israel at zero. Reject their extreme plan now!"

This struck me as odd for two reasons:

First, it is disingenuous and misleading. The actual position taken by these Republican presidential candidates is that all foreign aid should initially start at zero as means of reducing the deficit, to be immediately followed by the resumption of aid on a case-by-case basis. As they themselves have acknowledged, they would immediately resume aid to Israel and perhaps even increase it. Ironically, U.S. "aid for Israel" goes almost exclusively to U.S. arms manufacturers, with which the Republican candidates have a close relationship.

Secondly, millions of Americans—particularly younger voters who are the primary users of Facebook—support zeroing out aid to Israel on human rights grounds. The Obama campaign, therefore, is effectively labeling those of us who oppose the use of our tax dollars to arm the right-wing Netanyahu government, which has repeatedly used U.S. weapons against civilians, as "extreme." Presumably, they feel the same way about those of us who support a cutoff of aid to other governments that violate international humanitarian law as well.

 In 2009, Amnesty International, citing war crimes committed by both Israeli forces and the armed wing of Hamas earlier that year, called on nations to suspend arms shipments to both. The Obama administration categorically rejected the proposal. The administration has also rejected calls by human rights groups to condition military aid and arms transfers to other countries that use U.S. weapons against civilians, including Colombia, Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, India, ...

Published: Saturday 17 December 2011
The week’s most vivid example of Gingrich’s intellectual promiscuity sent principled conservatives into apoplexy.

Can we please bury the notion that Newt Gingrich is some kind of deep thinker? His intellect may be as broad as the sea, but it’s about as deep as a birdbath.

I’m not saying the Republican presidential front-runner is unacquainted with ideas. Quite the contrary: Ideas rain through his brain like confetti, escaping at random as definitive pronouncements about this or that. But they are other people’s ideas, and Gingrich doesn’t bother to curate them into anything resembling a consistent philosophy. Given enough time, I’m convinced, he will take every position on every issue.

 

The week’s most vivid example of Gingrich’s intellectual promiscuity sent principled conservatives into apoplexy. Mitt Romney, his chief opponent for the GOP nomination, had called on Gingrich to return the $1.6 million in consulting fees he received from housing giant Freddie Mac. Gingrich replied that he would “be glad to listen” if Romney would first “give back all the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees” ...

Published: Saturday 17 December 2011
In 1997, Gingrich became the only speaker in history to be reprimanded by the House of Representatives.

For a man who likes to tout his expertise as a historian, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has a decidedly revisionist approach when it comes to his own history.

In 1997, Gingrich became the only speaker in history to be reprimanded by the House of Representatives. He agreed to pay $300,000 to settle the matter, which involved using charitable groups to promote his political views and submitting misleading documents to the House ethics committee.

 

The ethics charges sound like ancient history. They involve dreary matters of tax law. But the episode is worth revisiting because it offers insights into Gingrich’s bombastic, push-the-boundaries style. More troubling, in recent days, Gingrich has been blatantly dishonest in his self-interested rewriting of this history, dismissing the ethics sanction as the action of “a very partisan political committee.”

As Gingrich relates the story, “The Democrats filed 84 charges against me; 83 were dismissed. The only one which survived was the fact that my lawyers had written a letter inaccurately and I signed it.”

Referring to California Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who served on the panel, Gingrich

Published: Friday 16 December 2011
“Children often began their careers as chimney sweeps at 4 or 5, thus fulfilling Gingrich’s hopes that they would have a work ethic instilled in them at the earliest feasible moment.”

Newt Gingrich, who recently admitted that his own childhood was comfortable, seems to have a problem with youth — poor youth, that is. Back in 1994, the Gingrich master plan to shrink the welfare rolls was to ship the children of the poor off to orphanages. He told a Harvard audience not so long ago that child labor laws are "truly stupid," and schools should fire janitors and replace them with poor children.

Later, he modified this to "What if they became assistant janitors and their jobs were to mop the floor and clean the bathroom?"

Gingrich insists that his tots-to-janitors plan answers his latest national crisis: Poor kids have no habit of work "unless it's illegal." Thus, the former speaker of the house updates Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, who said, "Give me the child until he is seven. Afterward anyone can have him." Let the infant hand receive the lifelong impress of the janitor's mop.

The rationales of those attacking child labor laws haven't changed much down the decades. A glance at "The Town Labourer, 1760-1832: the New Civilization" by J.L. and Barbara Hammond about the histories of the town and country laborers in Britain, provides vivid samples from the early phases of the industrial era.

READ FULL POST 6 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 15 December 2011
How An Extramarital Affair Became A Political Asset.

The Beltway media tells itself that Newt Gingrich can't possibly appeal to the GOP base, a group dominated by Christian conservatives, because of his history of cheating on his former wives.

The Washington Post's left of center policy blogger Ezra Klein says he likes Newt Gingrich, who he calls a "dreamy policy wonk" he'd love to get a beer with. But Klein concedes that Gingrich can't possibly win his party's nomination given the man's extramarital affairs. Although Klein's thinking is the consensus among the pundit class, the latest New York Times/CBS poll, which finds Gingrich leading the pack in Iowa, shows that white evangelicals overwhelmingly support the former Speaker of the House.

What gives?

The answer lies in a four-pronged strategy informed by a savvy understanding of the modern Christian right. First, Gingrich turned his marriage infidelities into a chance to embrace a religious transformation. Second, he made himself a spokesman for Christian-focused historical revisionism, a trend popular with evangelicals in particular. Third, he successfully harnessed the recent wave of anti-Muslim bigotry. And finally, he placed himself deep within the religious right movement by simply buying off key leaders.

Despite the easy narrative of political hypocrisy, the knee-jerk charge hurled in political debates, many evangelicals find stories of redemption far more compelling than those of picture perfect personal lives. The tale of personal crisis and redemption before God has propelled other Republican stalwarts. Think George Bush or Tom DeLay, hard partying alcoholics who became born again and were warmly embraced by Christian conservatives.

Gingrich publicly

Published: Thursday 15 December 2011
He’s merely the latest in a long line of conservative ‘thinkers’ who play a vital role for Corporate America: They generate an ongoing barrage of radical ideas that, slowly but surely, help to undermine our country’s shared social vision.

Fire all the janitors and make poor kids clean their schools? Zap Korea with an airborne superlaser that's never worked during testing? Ignore global warming and plan to re-engineer the entire planet with untested technology instead?

People like Maureen Dowd have been having fun with Newt Gingrich's wackier ideas lately. But despite their snarky comments - and the fact that some of Gingrich's ideas truly are bizarre - they're missing something important and making a fundamental mistake.

They're seriously underestimating both Gingrich and the "Insane Idea Industry" he represents.

The Shock of the Newt

Gingrich may sound like the mad-inventor villain from a 1930's movie serial. But his eccentric concepts and pseudo-intellectual logorrhea aren't just the product of his own eccentricities. They're the natural flowering of a fifty-year trend in corporate conservatism which serves the agenda of the ultra-powerful in some very important ways.

Call him Dr. Strange. But Newt's not some Random Idea Generator who spews out whatever crazy notion his Id generates out of half-digested Popular Science blog posts. He's merely the latest in a long line of conservative 'thinkers' who play a vital role for Corporate America: They generate an ongoing barrage of radical ideas that, slowly but surely, help to undermine our country's shared social vision.

What's next: Ending Medicare by putting seniors in a post-hypnotic trance state so they think they're not dying from inadequate medical care? A flock of flying squirrels to deliver the mail? Invisible robot St. Bernards instead of ambulances?

No idea is too zany to be considered - as long as it serves The Agenda.

The Crazier the Better

Think of Gingrich as the secret love child of Milton Friedman and Howard Stern. Or of nuclear-war advocate Herman Kahn and ...

Published: Wednesday 14 December 2011
“Unfortunately, the ‘debate’ this afternoon was not a debate in any sense and thus not a good model for the genre.”

It was billed as a Lincoln-Douglas debate between Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman. It turned out to be a knockoff of the NewsHour, a calm and quiet discussion of foreign policy.

Still, their encounter at St. Anselm College here did send several messages: That both men know quite a lot about foreign affairs; that they could sound far more reasonable than several of their challengers (one thinks of Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and former candidate Herman Cain); and that they are happy to join forces against Mitt Romney, even if they never said a word about him during their formal discussion.

At his news conference afterward, however, Huntsman couldn’t resist mentioning the man who wasn’t there. “I’d like to challenge Gov. Romney to a sit down like this,” he said.

It should be said that Newt Gingrich deserves some credit for letting the debate — or whatever it was — go forward. Huntsman, way down in the polls, had everything to gain from the debate. Gingrich, who is now the front-runner in the polls, had at least something to lose.

Published: Tuesday 13 December 2011
Ironically, Gingrich convinced Republicans to support the [2003 Medicare Modernization Act] by appealing to their sense of fiscal responsibility.

Politico’s Jonathan Allen recalls Newt Gingrich’s role in urging conservative Republicans to approve the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act, an unfunded expansion of Medicare that provided a drug benefit to American seniors through Medicare Part D. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) initially estimated that the MMA would add to the deficit by $395 billion between 2004 and 2013 and the actuaries at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) now project that the program will cost the government $16.1 trillion “through the infinite horizon.”

But ironically, Gingrich convinced Republicans to support the measure by appealing to their sense of fiscal responsibility:

If you are a fiscal conservative who cares about balancing the federal budget, there may be no more important vote in your career than one in support of this bill. Since health expenditures comprise almost 14 percent of the U.S. GDP, a shifting away from the failed bureaucratic third-party payer model and back to a market-mediated binary payer model, where the customer controls his own first health dollars, is the single most significant reform that can be made in saving the country from skyrocketing health costs and steadily increasing calls for taxpayers to finance more and more of the healthcare system through higher taxes.

Gingrich also argued the the measure — which subsidized Medicare Advantage and introduced Health Savings Accounts — would begin to shift more seniors into private programs, noting that “it is a major step toward giving the baby boomers a multi-choice Medicare system for the 21st ...

Published: Tuesday 13 December 2011
Remarkably, Romney and Gingrich seem to agree that two important reforms are stopping the revolving door between Washington and the nation’s financial giants, and preventing financiers from flipping companies.

Two important reforms are stopping the revolving door between Washington and the nation’s financial giants, and preventing financiers from flipping companies(making short-term profits by borrowing big sums to buy them, then squeezing payrolls and firing employees, and reselling the stripped-down companies at a profit — unless the debt-laden firms fall into bankruptcy first).

Remarkably, the frontrunners for the Republican nomination for president seem to agree. At least, that’s the clear implication from what they’ve said today.

During a morning appearance on Fox News, Mitt Romney said Newt Gingrich should return the $1.6 million in payments he received from mortgage financial giant Freddy Mac.

Gingrich has tried to defend himself by saying Freddy paid him as a “historian,” but anyone with half a brain knows Freddy wasn’t interested in history. It coughed up the money because they wanted Newt to influence his former House colleagues, so they wouldn’t take steps to reduce Freddy’s financial risk or reach.

In effect, Romney is taking a swipe not only at Gingrich but at the well-oiled revolving door linking financial giants to former congressional leaders, Treasury officials, and their staffs. That revolving door is one of the reasons the Street and its auxiliaries (like Fannie and Freddie) took the risks that caused the financial crisis, and have still never paid the price.

What’s Gingrich’s response? He said this morning ”if Governor Romney would like to give back all the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain than I would be glad to then listen to him.”

Newt is criticizing not only Romney but also the pump and dump practices of Wall Street that have caused hundreds of thousands of Americans to lose their jobs, put countless companies in ...

Published: Monday 12 December 2011
“In fact, if anyone stumbled, it was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and his rich-guy offer of a $10,000 bet to another candidate.”

 

Newt Gingrich is still standing.

Three weeks before Iowa Republicans cast the first votes for a 2012 presidential nominee, the man who leads in Iowa and other early voting states such as South Carolina and Florida has emerged seemingly unscathed from a barrage of criticism from rivals in a fiery debate in Iowa.

He still has to survive one more debate — Thursday in Sioux City, Iowa — before the voting starts Jan. 3. At the same time, a wave of TV ads in Iowa echoes the themes of the Saturday night debate in Des Moines — slamming the former Speaker of the House of Representatives as an unprincipled flip-flopper and inflammatory leader who speaks before he thinks.

Those messages could sink in with voters in the final weeks. But if rivals were hoping to goad Gingrich into looking angry or rash, they failed. In fact, if anyone stumbled, it was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and his rich-guy offer of a $10,000 bet to another candidate.

"Nobody knocked him off his perch," said Dennis Goldford, a political scientist at Drake University, which hosted the debate Saturday. "If anything, Gingrich came out more formidable than anyone thought."

Smiling and confident, Gingrich appeared to enjoy the center stage in the two-hour debate in Des Moines, a ...

Published: Friday 9 December 2011
“Last week in South Carolina, Gingrich scoffed at the idea that he needed to work as a lobbyist; after all, he noted, he is paid $60,000 a speech.”

Who would have thought that Republican voters would prove so accepting of sin? At least when it’s committed by a white guy, like the serial philanderer Newt Gingrich, who betrayed not one but two wives while they were enduring serious medical difficulties.

In the latest New York Times/CBS poll of Iowa Republicans, alleged philanderer Herman Cain’s once impressive support shifts to the new front-runner, Gingrich, whose richer history of marital deceit is not a problem even for the self-described evangelical Christian voters who favor him over Mitt Romney by a ratio of 3-1.

It is the first time that I have felt sympathy for a candidate experiencing the prejudice directed at a practicing Mormon. Clearly the ultimate of “squeaky clean” doesn’t cut it for a presidential contender of that faith among Republican Christian “values voters,” even when he is compared with a sexual roué of Gingrich’s considerable magnitude.

Or perhaps it is Newt’s peerless capacity to mask moral hypocrisy with the appearance of religious propriety, first as a Protestant and now as a Roman Catholic, that endears him to other Republicans who wear their religion on their sleeves. Many of those were willing to tear the country apart over the sexual wanderings of a Democrat in the White House, but now they are quite willing to send someone of ...

Published: Thursday 8 December 2011
About 25 protesters entered Newt Gingrich’s fundraiser with the purpose of asking him to meet with the “99 percent outside” rather than the “one percent inside contributing thousands to his campaign.”

Last night, GOP presidential primary candidate Newt Gingrich held a fundraiser at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington, D.C. But the former House speaker was greeted not just with big money donors but by activists from “Take Back the Capitol,” a coalition of community and labor groups that have been conducting protest actions in the nation’s capital this week.

About 25 protesters entered the event with the purpose of asking Gingrich to meet with the “99 percent outside” rather than the “one percent inside contributing thousands to his campaign.” Demonstrators chanted “We Are The 99 Percent!” before being ejected by security. 

Mother Jones’ Andrew Kroll reports that before the disruption took place, demonstrators marched outside the event chanting, “the poor get poorer, the rich get rich, that’s the platform of Gingrich.”

Published: Wednesday 7 December 2011
“Gingrich’s condescending implication that poverty equals bad morals is not only wrong, but frightening shallow, elitist, out-of-touch, clueless, stupid ... and, well, Scroogy.”

Mea culpa, I misspoke, my bad — I stand corrected.

 

In past commentaries, I have called Newt Gingrich a lobbyist. Apparently, he hates that tag, even though he has indeed gotten very wealthy by taking big bucks from such special interest outfits as IBM, AstraZeneca, Microsoft and Siemens in exchange for helping them get favors from federal and state governments. But Gingrich, his lawyers and staff adamantly insist that it's rude and crude to call him a lobbyist. No-no, they bark, The Newt is — ta-da! — "a visionary."

 

Major corporations, they explain, pay up to $200,000 a year to the corrupt former-House speaker's policy center, seeking nothing more from Newt than the sheer privilege of bathing in the soothing enlightenment of his transformative vision. Also, as the man himself constantly reminds everyone, he has a Ph By-God D. So he's "Dr. Newt," the certified visionary.

 

Yet the sales pitch to lure potential corporate clients to his center makes crystal cleat that the visionary services he offers entail precisely doing what (excuse the term) lobbyists do. For example, the center brags that Newt has "contacts at the highest levels" of government, and that being a paying customer "increases your channels of input to decision makers." One corporate chieftain who hired the well-connected Washington insider for $7,500 a month (plus giving him stock options) says that Gingrich "made it very clear to us that he does not lobby, but that he could direct us to the right places in Washington."

 

So, Mr. DoNotCallMeALobbyist is, in fact, selling his government contacts and peddling his political influence. But he does not lobby. Instead, we're told that he directs, makes calls, arranges meetings, opens doors — and, of course, has visions.

 

I'm glad we got that cleared up. From now on, ...

Published: Tuesday 6 December 2011
Gingrich has wrestled for years with climate change, in books, debates, speeches and other forums.

Newt Gingrich went too far when he claimed that “I’ve never favored cap-and-trade.”

It’s true he’s never favored the approach taken by Democrats, but he said in 2007 that he would “strongly support” cap-and-trade if combined with “a tax-incentive program for investing in the solutions”.

Furthermore, Gingrich said in House testimony in 2009 that he still might support a cap-and-trade system covering “the 2,000 most polluting places,” if packaged with incentives for nuclear power and “green coal,” among other things.

Gingrich has wrestled for years with climate change, in books, debates, speeches and other forums. The former House speaker has said there’s enough scientific evidence to warrant government action, and has never stood with those conservatives who dismiss evidence of human causation as a “hoax.”

But at times he’s hedged his stand on the evidence. He’s said that the evidence is “sufficient” to warrant acting “urgently” and that there is a “wealth of scientific data” that warming is taking place. But at other times he’s said that global warming is “probably” happening and that there’s no “conclusive” proof of it, or that humans cause it. He’s even suggested that the Earth may be about to move “into a long cooling period.”

And he’s also gone from voicing strong — though conditional — support for a cap-and-trade approach to his current position focused entirely on encouraging development of new technologies, with no mention of capping emissions.

The former speaker’s most recent attempt to explain his evolving position came in a Dec. 3 appearance at ...

Published: Sunday 27 November 2011
“Maybe voters just wonder about a guy who’s willing to tailor everything to please his audience. Even his name.”

Moderator Wolf Blitzer opened Tuesday’s Republican debate by introducing himself and adding, for some reason, “Yes, that’s my real name.” A few moments later, the party’s most plausible nominee for president said the following: “I’m Mitt Romney, and yes, Wolf, that’s also my first name.”

But it’s not. Mitt is the candidate’s middle name. His first name is Willard.

And people wonder why this guy has an authenticity problem?

The debate, held at Washington’s historic DAR Constitution Hall, was focused on foreign policy. The subject matter seemed to offer Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the House, the opportunity to highlight his experience and perhaps begin consolidating his sudden front-runner status. But if he expected to dance rings around the others in the minefields of international politics, he was mistaken.

READ FULL POST 6 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 24 November 2011
“From the outset, young children in the US are handicapped by a system that neglects their most basic needs.”

When you call yourself a "historian," you create the implication that you can speak authoritatively about, well, history. But last Friday, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich defied that common sense.

Speaking at one of America's top institutions of learning, Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Gingrich, who had earlier in the week bragged about being paid millions to be a "historian" for mortgage behemoth Freddie Mac, boldly declared that laws preventing child labor are "truly stupid."

In outlining a plan to fire janitorial staffs in public schools across the county and then hire poor children to clean the schools, Gingrich claimed that laws preventing poor kids from going to work "before you're 14, 16" are actually obstacles standing in the way of rescuing children who are "in a school that's failing with a teacher that's failing."

What "professor" Gingrich has overlooked is that there are historical reasons why America has child labor laws.

Most civilized countries have enacted child labor laws because history has proven that putting children into work situations at a very early age tends to exploit them, subject them to abuse, and endanger their education, rather than enhance it.

But you don't even need to delve deeply into a history lesson to find examples of how subjecting children to spending long hours of manual labor might not be the best way to improve their academic attainment. All you have to do is ...

Published: Wednesday 23 November 2011
Gingrich said there is a difference between criminals and terrorists, and that they should be treated differently — criminals with all due process of civilian law, but terrorists treated under the rules of war.

Republican presidential candidates grappled Tuesday over how to balance civil liberties and security, as they engaged in a lively and substantive debate over how best to protect Americans from threats around the world.

With the Iowa caucuses, the nation's first political test of 2012, only six weeks away, the eight GOP hopefuls clashed over how to address U.S. trouble spots from Pakistan to the Mexican border.

The debate, co-sponsored by CNN and two conservative policy-research centers, the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, was the first in 10 days and the first since former House Speaker Newt Gingrich vaulted to the top in several national polls.

The candidates generally refrained from criticizing one another sharply. Instead, they politely but aggressively clashed over how to restrain Iran, after the United States and its allies Monday increased financial pressure on Iran with new sanctions on that nation's central bank and energy sector.

"We need a strategy of defeating and replacing the current Iranian regime with minimum use of force," Gingrich said.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry insisted the U. S. needs tougher sanctions against the Iranian central bank. ...

Published: Sunday 20 November 2011
GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich called for firing all school janitors and replacing them with poor students.

In an anti-government diatribe that would be funny if he weren’t serious, GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich told a crowd at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government yesterday that child labor laws are “tragic” and “stupid” and have “done more to create income inequality in the United States than any other single policy.” In a proposal that he freely admitted was “extraordinarily radical,” he called for firing all school janitors and replacing them with poor students. Politico reports:

“This is something that no liberal wants to deal with,” Gingrich said. “Core policies of protecting unionization and bureaucratization  READ FULL POST 115 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 17 November 2011
“All politicians lie, but Gingrich specializes in this brand of self-puffing fantasy.”

Very few politicians have provided as much villainous entertainment over the years as Newt Gingrich, who now assures everyone that he has "matured" since his brief and tumultuous reign on Capitol Hill.

While the former speaker may at last have settled into a third marriage, there is no sign of improvement in his character. He is rising in current polls because Mitt Romney repels many Republicans and he is the last alternative. But Gingrich's most recent debate performance revealed the same brazen dissembler whose flaws proved ruinous to him and — were he to win the nomination — would be disastrous for his party. On Nov. 9, with millions watching, he uttered a bald lie that revived memories of his most embarrassing moments in Washington.

The moment of truth — or more accurately, falsehood — came when CNBC's John Harwood noted that back in 2006, Gingrich was paid $300,000 by Freddie Mac, the gigantic federally backed housing financier. "What did you do for that money?" asked Harwood, while attempting to suggest that Gingrich sought to "fend off" stricter regulation of Freddie Mac and its sister company, Fannie Mae, by officials in the Bush administration and the Federal Reserve worried about the firms' inflated $5 trillion in mortgage securities.

"I offered them advice on precisely what they didn't do," replied Gingrich, who went on to claim that "as a historian," he had warned the Freddie Mac officials who hired him that their lending practices were causing "a bubble" that was "insane" and "impossible." He was not a lobbyist, he proclaimed, but a prophet: "It turned out, unfortunately, that I was right. ... And I think it's a good case for breaking up ...

Published: Monday 14 November 2011
“Republican presidential candidates stretch the truth on international issues in South Carolina debate.”

We found several exaggerations and misstatements in the latest Republican presidential candidates’ debate.

  • Romney issued a hollow threat to take China’s currency manipulation to a world body that doesn’t actually deal with overvalued money, and he claimed federal spending consumes more of the nation’s economic output than it really does.
  • Gingrich overstated U.S. aid to Egypt by a factor of two, and he claimed Obama repudiated former president Mubarak “overnight,” when in fact the president took seven days before he publicly urged Mubarak to begin an “orderly transition” of power.
  • And Bachmann claimed that “we have no jail” for terrorists captured on “the battlefield,” overlooking the 1,700 men being held without trial at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

The debate took place Nov. 12 at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., among eight candidates: Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, businessman Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. It was sponsored by CBS News, the National Journal and the South Carolina Republican Party. The first hour of the 90-minute event was carried live on CBS, which said it planned to broadcast the final 30 minutes the following day on its Sunday show “Face the Nation.” Questions were focused on foreign policy.

Romney’s Hollow Threat on WTO and China

Romney threatened to haul China before the World Trade Organization to address currency manipulation. But as Huntsman suggested, the WTO isn’t a good forum ...

Published: Sunday 13 November 2011
“Perhaps, given the weakness of the opposing candidates, Romney can still skate by.”

Mitt Romney, blessed with a series of self-destructing opponents, still needs to come up with a better way to address his history of flip-flops. His current argument boils down to asking voters, “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying ears?” This is not going to fly.

Romney made the jaw-dropping claim to a New Hampshire editorial board that his problem wasn’t flip-flopping — it was being insufficiently robotic. “I’ve been as consistent as human beings can be,” the former Massachusetts governor insisted. “I cannot state every single issue in exactly the same words every single time, and so there are some folks who, obviously, for various political and campaign purposes will try and find some change and draw great attention to something which looks like a change which in fact is entirely consistent.”

Pressed during the CNBC debate Wednesday night, Romney repeated his consistency argument — this time topped off with an ode to his long-lasting marriage and an attack on President Obama.

“I think people understand that I’m a man of steadiness and constancy,” he said. “I don’t think you are going to find somebody who has more of those attributes than I do. I have been married to the same woman . . .for 42 years. I have ...

Published: Saturday 12 November 2011
The latest debate among Republicans was a tame one, but still needed factual corrections.

The latest debate among Republican candidates for president was a tame affair that produced few factual claims needing correction. Candidates stuck mostly to promises and expressions of their conservative faith in free markets, and their disdain for government.

The debate was held Nov. 9 at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., and included eight candidates: Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, businessman Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

We won’t go into the audience booing when Cain was asked about the sexual-harassment issue that has dogged him for the past week, or Perry experiencing a brain freeze when trying to remember the third federal agency he intended to eliminate upon becoming president. (He later remembered that it was the Department of Energy, which is responsible for the nation’s nuclear arsenal, among other things.) Our job is to look for false or misleading factual claims. And this time we found only minor quibbles. Here’s the sort of thing we mean:

Cain: $430 Billion Compliance Costs

Cain said Americans ...

Published: Thursday 27 October 2011
“The Republican Party is catching flat-tax fever — and setting up an epic election-year fight with Democrats over whether wealthier Americans should pay higher taxes or get tax cuts.”

The Republican Party is catching flat-tax fever — and setting up an epic election-year fight with Democrats over whether wealthier Americans should pay higher taxes or get tax cuts.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney became the latest to punch the tax button Wednesday, telling a Virginia audience that he'll soon update his economic proposal to spell out ways to flatten the tax code.

His vow came just a day after rival Rick Perry grabbed headlines and talk-show chatter with a proposal for an optional flat 20 percent tax on income. Both followed Herman Cain's pitch for a flat 9 percent income tax as part of his 9-9-9 plan, which helped him jump to the top tier of candidates for their party's 2012 nomination. Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann endorse a flat tax, too.

The flat tax — so called because it offers one flat rate for taxpayers in all income groups while taking away many or all deductions — would simplify taxes. It also would almost certainly give big tax cuts to wealthy Americans. Republicans believe that cutting taxes, especially on the wealthy, helps to spur investment, economic growth and hiring.

At the same time, most of the Republican candidates are proposing other changes that also would mean big tax cuts for high-income Americans, such as eliminating taxes on dividend income or capital gains, and eliminating the estate tax, called the death tax by Republicans.

Their push comes at the same time that Democratic President Barack Obama is pushing to raise taxes on higher-income Americans. He's proposed raising taxes on those making more than $200,000 and has endorsed a push by Senate Democrats to raise taxes on incomes above $1 million.

The debate comes as new data show that the very wealthiest Americans have greatly increased their share of U.S. income in recent decades. The richest 1 percent claimed 17 percent of American income in 2007, more than double their 8 ...

Published: Saturday 22 October 2011
“There was little else said of substance at last night’s Presidential debate. Like most of these events nowadays, it seemed more like a beauty pageant.”

To say there's a lot that's wrong about Newt Gingrich's campaign is putting it mildly. (For one thing, its candidate is Newt Gingrich.) But he was right on the money last night when it came to the so-called "Super Committee."

There was little else said of substance at last night's Presidential debate. Like most of these events nowadays, it seemed more like a beauty pageant. Or like the red carpet at a Hollywood premiere, where self-indulgent celebrities try to act likable before an audience they both resent and loathe - all the more so because they need it.

Under these conditions we have two choices: We can either use this space to praise Newt for his burst of eloquence, or we can channel our inner Joan Rivers by making snarky comments about the candidates' fashion choices.

We'll go with praising Gingrich, even though Joan says his suit was several sizes too big. And those lapels! What were you thinking, Newt?

Super!

Here's what Gingrich said last night:

I mean, if you want to understand how totally broken Washington is, look at this entire model of the super ...

Published: Wednesday 19 October 2011
“Reports are now out that 84 percent of Americans would pay more under [Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax] plan," said former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. “You're talking about major increases in taxes on people.”

Republican presidential candidates brawled Tuesday over Herman Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan and Mitt Romney's record on illegal immigration and health care, as rivals hammered the two top-tier contenders in the liveliest GOP clash of the 2012 campaign.

The sometimes angry clash at the Venetian Hotel Resort Casino featured Texas Gov. Rick Perry accusing Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, of “the height of hypocrisy” on immigration. Romney scolded Perry for interrupting him and said Perry was “testy.” And candidates were sometimes difficult to understand as they talked over one another.

Cain, the Georgia businessman who surged to the top tier of national polls in recent weeks, was under fire for his plan to scrap the federal tax code and replace it with 9 percent taxes on individuals, businesses and sales.

“Middle-income people see higher taxes under your plan,” said Romney, one of several candidates to pile on Cain from the opening minutes of the two-hour debate.

“Reports are now out that 84 percent of Americans would pay more under his plan,” said former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. “You're talking about major increases in taxes on people.”

Perry, whose poll numbers have tumbled after being perceived as having poor debate performances and who needed a strong showing Tuesday, joined the fray.

“You don't need to have a big analysis to figure this thing out,” Perry said. The Cain tax would add a 9 percent sales tax in states such as Nevada, which already has a sales tax rather than an income tax, and in politically important New Hampshire, where voters are accustomed to paying no sales tax.

“I don't think so Herman,” Perry added. “It's not going to fly.”

Cain brushed aside the torrent of criticism.

“It does not raise taxes on those making the least,” he said. “That ...

Published: Tuesday 6 September 2011
Romney believes Obama health care reform “has got to be stopped.”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who as Massachusetts governor ushered in a state health care system that required residents to have insurance coverage, said his first task if elected would be to let states opt out of President Barack Obama's health care reform plan.

"That'll be one of my best assets if I get to debate President Obama," Romney said of his stance on health care during a GOP presidential forum Monday in Columbia. He said his plan impacted only 8 percent of people in his home state who lacked coverage, not all Americans as Obama's plan eventually would do.

"(Obama health care reform) has got to be stopped," he added, "and I know it better than most."

Vying to be the Tea Party favorite in a state increasingly known for its limited government/less taxes fervor, five leading GOP presidential contenders took to the stage, fielding questions from popular conservative U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint and the American Principles Project, a nonprofit encouraging a political return to constitutional principles.

Of the five candidates at the forum — Romney, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Godfather's Pizza chief executive Herman Cain — Romney received the highest approval ratings in the most recent poll of likely GOP primary voters in South Carolina.

But the top vote-getter in that same poll, Texas Gov. Rick Perry — who is leading in South Carolina by 20 percentage points — withdrew plans to attend Monday's forum to return to Texas to deal with wildfires there, after attending an event earlier in the day in Myrtle Beach.

Still, the state's First-in-the-South primary is months away, in February, with big names like DeMint yet to endorse.

U.S. Rep. Tim Scott of Charleston said Monday he was pleased to see Romney engaging with the state's voters. With few ...

Published: Friday 12 August 2011
“This morning, the co-hosts on Fox & Friend' curvy couch attacked a video made as part of a new campaign, ‘Contract for the American Dream,’ led by a coalition of progressive groups.”

 

This morning, the co-hosts on Fox & Friends' curvy couch attacked a video made as part of a new campaign, "Contract for the American Dream," led by a coalition of progressive groups. As The Huffington Post reported on August 8:

On Monday afternoon, MoveOn.org and Rebuild the Dream announced a campaign to build up a popular movement that could match (if not surpass) the debt reduction crowd in both size and energy. And they have borrowed a concept from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) as their organizing principle.

The campaign, led by Van Jones, President of Rebuild the Dream; Justin Ruben, Executive Director of MoveOn.org; and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), among others, is debuting a new Contract for the American Dream. They describe it as "a progressive economic vision crafted by 125,000 Americans ... to ...

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