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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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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Rick Scott to Black Students: But I Lived in Public Housing!

| Fri Dec. 16, 2011 9:13 AM PST
Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

In response to hazing scandals at Florida A&M University that left one student dead, Florida Gov. Rick Scott has demanded the suspension of A&M's president, James Ammons. But students at Florida A&M, a historically black college in Tallahassee, the state capital, don't want Scott meddling with their business, and so on Thursday night, they marched on the governor's mansion and gave Scott an earful.

To his credit, Scott, clad in sweatpants, greeted the marchers outside his home. To his detriment, he decided to talk.

Apparently grasping for some common ground, Scott began his speech by reminding the protesters that he'd lived in public housing as a youngster. The Florida A&M marchers were less than pleased. "We're not poor!" one of them shouted back. Another, A&M student senate president Marissa West, told the Miami Herald that Scott's remarks offended her. "I guess he was trying to make some type of relation to our student body, as if we had lived in public housing," she said.

More on the march, from the Herald:

Students marched en masse from their campus to the Governor's Mansion, about a 2-mile walk, at about 9 p.m. chanting "We are FAMU!" After about 30 minutes of chanting from outside Scott's guarded gate, chief of staff Steve MacNamara told West and Student Body President Breyon Love that Scott had just returned from a trip to Israel and was sleeping, West said. Not long after, she said, Scott came out and ventured into the crowd wearing sweats. He grabbed a megaphone and took part in a Q&A with Love about funding FAMU and worries that it would merge with Florida State. He said he knew nothing about either topic, West said.

But Scott didn't say he would rescind his recommendation to suspend Ammons, so many students remained on his lawn. "This is not the time for FAMU to be without its university president," West said. "We believe in our university president."

It wasn't the first time Scott's public housing yarn blew up in his face. In February, Scott, a first-term governor elected in 2010, made a similar quip to a room full of black, Democratic lawmakers, also at the governor's mansion, the St. Petersburg Times reported. "I grew up probably in the same situation as you guys," he said. "I started school in public housing. My dad had a sixth-grade education." Needless to say, not all the lawmakers in the room empathized with Scott's hard-luck story.

Newt Gingrich's Freddie Mac Delusions

| Thu Dec. 15, 2011 8:19 PM PST

In Thursday night's Fox News debate, GOP presidential front-runner Newt Gingrich unloaded a whopper when confronted—again—about his controversial consulting gig with government housing corporation Freddie Mac in the late 1990s and 2000s.

At the debate, Gingrich dismissed his work for Freddie Mac. "I was a private citizen engaged in a business like any other business," he said. Details on his work with Freddie, however, suggest otherwise. Freddie, which was taken over by the federal government in 2008, paid Gingrich between $1.6 million and $1.8 million for consulting work. And although Gingrich has said he was paid to be a "historian" for Freddie, officials with the housing giant told Bloomberg News that Gingrich was hired, in part, to "to build bridges to Capitol Hill Republicans and develop an argument on behalf of the company's public-private structure that would resonate with conservatives seeking to dismantle it." So although Gingrich may not have technically lobbied for Freddie, he was hired to open doors in Congress for the company—and he received quite the paycheck for doing so.

Not only did Gingrich consult for Freddie, he also stood fast by its quasi-governmental status, which is anathema to many conservatives in Washington and beyond. Ex-Freddie employees told Bloomberg they didn't remember Gingrich ever voicing opposition to the company's business model or strategy. In September 2008, as both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae teetered on the brink of collapse (they were eventually taken over by the federal government), Gingrich said he had no plans to question Freddie's business model. "I was perfectly happy to not push the issue as long as they weren't failing," he explained at the time. That's a claim that could come back to haunt Newt. Here's video of it:

Scott Walker Recall Effort Collected 507,000 Signatures in a Month

| Thu Dec. 15, 2011 10:37 AM PST
Supporters of the Scott Walker recall effort.

With a month to go, activists trying to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have collected more than 507,000 signatures in just a month's time, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin announced Thursday.

Walker foes need at least 540,208 signatures to trigger a recall election of the first-term governor. It's now obvious they'll easily surpass that requirement. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin, part of the coalition of groups spearheading the recall effort, say they hope to gather 720,000 signatures by the end of the two-month window. They say that's a large enough cushion to account for legal challenges and bogus signatures thrown out by recall activists and the Wisconsin elections board, which ultimately vets the signatures.

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