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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Rick Santorum's New Hampshire Roadshow: Terrorist Judges, "Snookered" Reagan, and Fidel Castro

| Thu Jan. 5, 2012 1:01 PM PST
Rick Santorum.

Rick Santorum loathes the liberal judges of the Ninth Circuit, the federal appeals court that stretches from Alaska to California to Arizona. In small-town New Hampshire on Thursday, Santorum unveiled his plan for ending those judges' "reign of terror": Ship 'em all to Guam.

Santorum was full of spicy quips on Thursday at an old train station in the town of Northfield. Riding high from his impressive second place finish in Iowa's caucuses, Santorum held court before a standing-room-only crowd here, with almost as many journalists as voting-age New Hampshire citizens in attendance. He veered from issue to issue, from the evil of President Obama's Affordable Care Act to tax policy under Ronald Reagan, reforming Social Security to the 2009 Honduran coup.

On the Ninth Circuit, a favorite punching bag for conservatives, Santorum said he supported its abolishment—"What the Congress creates, it can uncreate"—or at least tossing out its most liberal judges and replacing them with new ones. He acknowledged there might be some Constitutional problems with just firing the Ninth's judges. His solution: "Maybe we can create a court that puts them in Guam or something like that," a jab that earned him more than a few laughs.

The Ninth Circuit wasn't the only court Santorum blasted. He singled out the Supreme Court—at least its more liberal justices—for plenty of criticism, calling the high court an out-of-control "super-legislature." "Five people who are not accountable to the people should not be able to amend the Constitution," he said.

Like any good conservative, Santorum paid his respects to Ronald Reagan. In Northfield, though, the tax increases presided over by Reagan came up, in particular the Gipper's payroll tax hike passed in 1983. Santorum winced at this. "I love Reagan," he said. "He got snookered in '83."

And in attacking Obama's foreign policy record, Santorum ripped the president for calling the 2009 change-over in power that ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya a coup. In doing so, Santorum said, Obama took his place alongside two other leaders: Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. "How many times do you want to hear America in the same sentence as a group of three countries that's Cuba, Venezuela, and the United States?"

Yet what earned Santorum the most applause was not his attacks on liberal judges or foreign policy but on Obama's Affordable Care Act. Santorum pledged to make repealing health care reform his first act if elected president, vowing to replace it with a free-market system built "from the bottom up."

Nearly two hours had passed since Santorum strode into the old train station surrounded by a crush of cameras and reporters. Now, Santorum said it was time to get moving again. "I'd love to stay and answer more questions," he said, "but there's miles to go before I sleep."

Ron Paul Takes the Lead in New Iowa Caucus Poll

| Wed Dec. 21, 2011 9:16 AM PST

Rep. Ron Paul, the libertarian favorite in the GOP presidential field, is giving establishment Iowa politicos headaches with his steady rise in popularity in their state, leading to predictions by some that the Texas congressman will win the state's caucuses next month. A new Iowa State University/Gazette/KCRG poll won't quell that speculation.

In the poll, Paul has overtaken former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for the top spot, with 27.5 percent of those polled saying they'll back Paul. Gingrich grabbed the second spot, with 25.3 percent. Mitt Romney (17.5 percent), Texas Gov. Rick Perry (11.2 percent), and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) rounded out the top five.

The ISU/Gazette/KCRG poll's organizer, however, says caucus-goers' opinions remain fluid, and that Paul's rise hardly guarantees his victory, KCRG reports:

While Paul's lead is easily within the margin of error, James McCormick, professor and chair of political science at Iowa State and coordinator of the poll, says the polling found that 51 percent of those naming the libertarian-leaning Texan as their first choice are "definitely" backing him.

The percentage for the next two candidates is much weaker, at 16.1 percent for Romney and 15.2 for Gingrich, McCormick said.

"Moreover, the percentage of respondents 'leaning to' or 'still undecided' in their support for these latter two candidates remains high, at 58 percent for Gingrich and 38 percent for Romney," he said. "In other words, I'm going to make the case that these numbers are still very soft for those two candidates."

Mitt Romney: Super-PACs Are a "Disaster"

| Tue Dec. 20, 2011 9:29 AM PST

Mitt Romney is biting the hand that feeds him. On MSNBC's Morning Joe on Tuesday, Romney railed against so-called super-PACs, the relatively new breed of political action committees that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money in elections. He called super-PACs a "disaster" and said, "We really ought to let campaigns raise the money they need and just get rid of these super-PACs."

That's quite a statement from a candidate who's benefited greatly from the rise of super-PACs. Restore Our Future, a super-PAC aligned with the Romney campaign and run by Romney 2008 aides, announced earlier this month plans to spend $3.1 million on TV time in Iowa to boost Romney's standing there. The blitz appears to be helping: recent polls show Romney's popularity inching upward. Restore Our Future, meanwhile, has plenty more gas in the tank; having raised $12.2 million as of June 30, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Romney's hardly the one to benefit from super-PACs backing a specific candidate. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Newt Gingrich, and even former US Sen. Rick Santorum have super-PACs fundraising and spending on their behalf.

Fred Wertheimer, a veteran campaign finance reform advocate at Democracy 21, says super-PACs "are a dangerous fraud on the American people…designed to launder into a candidate's campaign the very kind of unlimited contributions that the campaign finance laws have long prohibited candidates from receiving because they are corrupting."

Here's the video of Romney denouncing super-PACs:

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