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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Romney Rips Gingrich for $1.6 Million Freddie Mac Deal

| Mon Jan. 23, 2012 11:13 PM EST
Mitt Romney.

At the NBC presidential debate Monday night, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney wasted no time attacking his main competitor, Newt Gingrich. In particular, Romney took aim at the former speaker's $1.6 million contract with government housing corporation Freddie Mac, blasting Gingrich as an "influence peddler."

Gingrich rejected Romney's attacks, saying he made only $35,000 a year from his Freddie gig. (The rest, he said, went to his firm.) As for the "influence peddler" claim, Gingrich went on, "I have never, ever gone and done any lobbying."

Hours before the debate, Gingrich's campaign released one of the candidate's contracts with Freddie. The contract, dated February 8, 2006, called for paying the Gingrich Group $25,000 a month that year, and lists Freddie's top lobbyist at the time, Craig Thomas, as Gingrich's main contact at the housing corporation. The contract raises fresh questions about whether Gingrich traded on his network of Capitol Hill contacts or engaged in actual lobbying.

After Gingrich's campaign released the 2006 contract, a top Romney aide, Eric Fehrnstrom, tweeted, "Newt's K Street firm finally released the Freddie contract, but only for 2006. Where are missing years? He started there in 99."

Here is Newt's 2006 contract:

 

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Occupy's Latest Target: Citizens United

| Mon Jan. 23, 2012 12:25 PM EST
An anti-Citizens United protester at Bank of America.

From Tennessee to DC, New York City to Seattle, Saturday marked one of the biggest days of protest around the issue of money in politics and corporate power in America. Pegged to the second anniversary of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, there were more than 300 events, flying under the #J21 and "Occupy the Corporations" banners, at courthouses, banks, and corporate offices nationwide. The protesters have two main demands: get corporate money out of American politics and demolish the doctrine that corporations deserve the same free speech rights as real people—what's known as "corporate personhood."

Here's a video the group Public Citizen put together recapping the weekend's events:

The campaign to roll back Citizens United and end corporate personhood is slowly gaining traction around the country. The aims of the organizations involved—Public Citizen, Move to AmendPeople for the American Way, and others—range from demanding a constitutional amendment ending corporate personhood to giving Congress more power to regulate money in politics. So far, the city governments of Los Angeles, New York City, Boulder, Colo., Madison, Wis., and Missoula, Mont., have passed resolutions demanding a constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood. Move to Amend wants anti-Citizens United measures on the ballot in 50 cities around the country.

There are also at least six proposed amendments targeting corporate personhood and Citizens United in the House and Senate, all introduced by liberal lawmakers.

For the anti-Citizens United effort, 2012 is a make-or-break year. Organizers say they hope to ride the wave of enthusiasm surrounding the Occupy movement, and to make corporate money in politics a hot-button issue in an election projected to be the most expensive in American history. Lawmakers and activists say they've settled on the constitutional amendment strategy, as opposed to new legislation, because there are no other options left. The Citizens United decision, Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) said last month, "has made it so we need a constitutional amendment. I don't see how we tackle this any other way."

Candidates and the Totally Unrelated Super-PACs That Love Them

| Fri Jan. 20, 2012 7:00 AM EST
The only thing breaking coordination rules here is Stephen Colbert's outfit.

"God bless you all! And God bless Citizens United!"

So roared a beaming Stephen Colbert, arms spread wide, on his show a week ago. He'd just handed over control of his super-PAC to his Comedy Central colleague Jon Stewart—just in time to unveil an exploratory committee to run for "president of the United States of South Carolina." Colbert, of course, won't succeed in his comical presidential bid. But the latest stunt in his long-running super-PAC gag intentionally laid bare what campaign-finance advocate Fred Wertheimer calls "the campaign finance scandal of the 2012 elections."

In the wake of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision nearly two years ago, super-PACs can raise and spend unlimited sums of money to support or attack candidates, but with one catch: They can't coordinate with the candidates they're backing. In other words, Colbert can't tell Stewart how to run the pro-Colbert super-PAC. But is Stewart really running the PAC independently of his friend and coworker? Who knows, and besides, the rule is virtually impossible to enforce. To rub in the ridiculousness, Stewart said he'd rename his new super-PAC "The Definitely Not Coordinating With Stephen Colbert Super-PAC." Hyuk, hyuk.

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