Andy Kroll

Andy Kroll

Senior Reporter

Andy Kroll is Mother Jones' Dark Money reporter. He is based in the DC bureau. His work has also appeared at the Wall Street Journal, the Detroit News, the Guardian, the American Prospect, and TomDispatch.com, where he's an associate editor. Email him at akroll (at) motherjones (dot) com. He tweets at @AndrewKroll.

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How Will Mitt Romney Spin These Jobs Numbers?

| Fri Feb. 3, 2012 11:30 AM EST
A jobs rally sponsored by the AFL-CIO union.

Mitt Romney never misses a chance to hammer President Obama for supposedly tanking the US economy. He accuses Obama of heaping on job-killing regulations and jacking up taxes on businesses large and small. "Obama's economic failure," the Romney campaign calls it.

But Romney will need some fancy rhetorical footwork to spin away the jobs numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday, which offer arguably the most optimistic snapshot of the American job market seen in four or five years.

The headline unemployment rate dropped for the third month in a row, to 8.3 percent. The private sector created 257,000 jobs, and although the government sector lost 14,000 jobs, that still meant a net gain of 243,000 jobs overall. To boot, the number of jobs added in December was revised up. The BLS now believes the economy added 203,000 jobs in December, 3,000 more than initially thought. November's jobs numbers were revised upwards, too, to 157,000—57,000 higher than the previous estimate. That means job market growth was stronger in those months than originally thought, and the recovery continues to gain momentum.

Not all the news was rosy. Long-term unemployment—those out of work for six months or more—held steady at 5.5 million people, or 43 percent of the unemployed. And the overall unemployment rate, including the underemployed and those who've stopped looking for work, dipped by just a tenth of a percentage point, to 15.1 percent.

Still, the reaction to the jobs numbers was cheery all around. Moody's Analytics economist Mark Zandi said, "This is unambiguous. Everything is good." Financial blogger Felix Salmon called January's report "positively glowing."

Back to the presidential race. Does Friday's job report significantly boost Obama's re-election chances? You bet, at least according to New York Times stats guru Nate Silver. Silver pegs Obama's "magic jobs number," the monthly net job creation total needed to win re-election, at about 150,000. The US economy netted nearly 100,000 more jobs than that last month.

In other words, Friday's numbers are not just good news for American workers but especially for Obama and his re-election chances. Mitt Romney has his work cut out for him trying to explain away these numbers.

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Romney's Super-PAC Attack Machine, Brought to You by Big Finance

| Wed Feb. 1, 2012 12:37 PM EST

Mitt Romney's thumping victory in Florida on Tuesday was due in part to the wave of negative ads barraging his opponent, Newt Gingrich, in the week before the primary. Sixty-eight percent of all Florida primary ads attacked Gingrich, and it was the pro-Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future leading the charge, spending $13.3 million to tear down Gingrich—more than all the other super-PACs combined.

Late Tuesday night, after Romney's win was in the bag, the public discovered the funders behind this anti-Newt assault. The key takeaway: FIRE.

FIRE is short for the "finance, insurance, and real estate" sector. According to a new disclosure filing with the Federal Election Commission, $11.7 million of the nearly $18 million raked in by Restore Our Future in the second half of 2011 came from the FIRE sector—financiers, investment bankers, Bain Capital directors, real estate developers, and more. That's 65 percent of all the money Restore Our Future raised. Put another way, 93 of the 199 donations to Restore Our Future came from members of the FIRE sector.

Who are these wealthy donors? They include hedge fund managers Paul Singer and Julian Robertson; Steven Roth, CEO of commercial real estate giant Vornado; GOP mega-donor and home-building magnate Bob Perry; and Kenneth Griffin, founder and CEO of the Citadel investment firm.

Even with the FIRE sector's backing, though, Restore Our Future's windfall and Romney's own haul of nearly $40 million in the second half of 2011 doesn't match President Obama's campaign war chest. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Obama and supporting super-PACs have raised $125 million for his re-election effort; for Romney, the figure is closer to $88 million.

Romney Forces Crush Gingrich in Florida Ad Wars

| Mon Jan. 30, 2012 3:13 PM EST
Newt Gingrich.

Despite banking another $5 million from billionaire casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson—OK, technically Adelson's wife—Winning Our Future, the pro-Newt Gingrich super-PAC, is getting trounced by Mitt Romney forces in the ad wars leading up to Florida's primary on Tuesday.

Quoting a "source monitoring the Sunshine State ad war," Politico reports that the Romney campaign and pro-Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future spent $15.3 million on television ads in Florida. That's 450 percent more than Gingrich's campaign and super-PAC Winning Our Future spent on TV ads. And that doesn't include money spent on direct mail sent to voters, get-out-the-vote efforts, and other non-TV campaigning.

In other words, just as Gingrich clinched a double-digit victory in South Carolina after blitzing the airwaves there with ads attacking Romney, Romney and his allies are doing the same in Florida. And boy is it paying off: Romney now leads Gingrich by 12 percentage points, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Sunday. A separate Miami Herald poll showed Romney trouncing Gingrich among Florida Hispanic voters, 52 percent to 28 percent.

Restore Our Future is already laying the groundwork for Romney wins in other key primary states. According to ProPublica, the deep-pocketed super-PAC has already spent $52,000 attacking Gingrich in Nevada (Feb. 4 caucus), $120,000 attacking him in Arizona (Feb. 28 primary), and $168,000 attacking him in Michigan (Feb. 28 primary). You can bet those sums will increase dramatically in the coming weeks—unless, that is, Gingrich bows out, in which case Restore Our Future and its political guru, Carl Forti, will have done their job.

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