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's Big Obama Jobs Lie

| Mon Jan. 16, 2012 11:07 PM EST
Mitt Romney.

At the Fox News/Wall Street Journal debate Monday night in South Carolina, GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney made a breathtakingly bogus claim about President Obama's jobs record. "We have a president in office three years," Romney claimed, "and he does not have a jobs plan yet."

Romney is either suffering from selective amnesia or is trying to dupe the public. Last fall, the president unveiled his American Jobs Act, a $447 billion package of tax cuts for businesses; funds to retain more teachers, cops, and firefighters; and money to hire construction workers to upgrade and retrofit public schools nationwide. The bill also included $50 billion for investing in America's roads, bridges, rail lines, and other infrastructure. All the measures in the Jobs Act are intended to spur hiring and prevent layoffs throughout the American economy. Need more? Check out this entire website devoted to the Jobs Act.

In November, Senate Republicans blocked various pieces of the American Jobs Act on three separate occasions. Now, Obama says he's going to try to implement job-creating measures on his own without sending legislation to Congress. But to claim that the president "does not have a jobs plan yet," as Mitt Romney did on Monday night, couldn't be further from the truth.

Jon Huntsman's Billionaire Dad Won't Commit to More Campaign Cash

| Wed Jan. 11, 2012 12:03 AM EST
Jon Huntsman.

Soon after the news networks confirmed Jon Huntsman's third-place finish in New Hampshire's primary, Huntsman strode onto the stage at a Manchester bar to address his supporters. Huntsman's family joined him, including a elderly man integral to the future of Huntsman's campaign: his billionaire father, Jon Huntsman Sr.

A powerful chemical titan, Jon Sr. has played a key role supporting his son's candidacy. He helped finance a super-PAC called Our Destiny that's spent $2.1 million so far backing Huntsman Jr. And going forward, the only person likely to give the Huntsman campaign the kind of financial jolt it needs to stay alive is Jon Sr..

On Tuesday night, I twice asked Huntsman Sr. if he planned to step in and support his son's campaign going forward. Both times he dodged the question before security personnel led him into a waiting car. Here's our brief exchange:

AK: I was just wondering about the Our Destiny super-PAC. Do you plan to support it or support your son's campaign? Any comment on that going forward?

JH: Oh, I think he's just done a great job tonight. We love him very much.

AK: Do you think you'll continue supporting him financially going forward, sir?

JH: [Pauses and smiles.] Thank you. Thank you very much.

Here's the audio:

Jon Huntsman Sr. on funding his son"s campaign (mp3)

At the event, Huntsman Jr. announced he would continue his bid for the White House, heading now to South Carolina, which holds its presidential primary on January 21. "I'd say third place is a ticket to ride," Huntsman told the crowd. "Hello, South Carolina!"

South Carolina's primary fight is shaping up to be a bruising battle, with campaigns and super-PACs spending more on ads there than in New Hampshire. The New York Times reported Tuesday that 2,800 campaign ads had appeared in New Hampshire compared to 5,500 in South Carolina. Much of ad spending will come from super-PACs, like the pro-Romney Restore Our Future group and pro-Gingrich Winning Our Future.

Huntsman will have to duke it out on the airwaves as well if hopes to compete in South Carolina. But for now, his bankrolling dad doesn't sound too enthusiastic about injecting more of his wealth into the fight.

Houston, We've Reached Peak Huntsman

| Tue Jan. 10, 2012 11:27 AM EST

Gage Skidmore/FlickrGage Skidmore/Flickr

It was a homecoming, of sorts. On the eve of the New Hampshire presidential primary, Jon Huntsman returned to the Exeter Old Town Hall Monday night for his final rally in this state. Huntsman had launched his campaign in Exeter back in June, but the two events couldn't have been more different. This summer, as Huntsman recalled, "a few people" showed up for his Exeter launch, an indifferent crowd with "a look of disbelief." And why wouldn't they have? Huntsman was an ex-diplomat, just returned from years in China, unknown to most anyone outside Utah.

Fast forward more than 170 public events, and the hall shook with excitement Monday. Reporters and cameras crowded into the upper balcony; before speaking, Huntsman did interviews with the popular talking heads Greta van Susteren of Fox News and CNBC's Larry Kudlow. Then, as the hundreds of supporters jammed into the 157-year-old hall grew restless, Huntsman and wife Mary Kaye emerged. The crowd roared with approval. Both Huntsmans looked at ease at the center of it all, more comfortable than they have in the past week. Mary Kaye led with a genuine, heartfelt, and—most important of all—brief introduction, and then Huntsman took control. The crowd hung on his every word.

"Ladies and gentlemen, can you feel a little bit of momentum in the air?" he exclaimed. "Can you feel the energy out there, ladies and gentlemen?" When he finished, duel confetti guns went off, raining down flakes of red and white and blue. U2's "Beautiful Day" filled the hall.

Huntsman is peaking at just the right time. A recent American Research Group poll showed him in second place in New Hampshire, surpassing Ron Paul, while others show him further back but still surging.

Yet there was an inescapable feeling in Exeter that this is as good as it gets for Jon Huntsman. This is Peak Huntsman.

Here's why. Huntsman has staked his entire campaign on a strong showing in New Hampshire; anything less than second place and poof, all of his momentum here in the Granite State is gone. A second-place finish behind Mitt Romney, not unlike Rick Santorum's near-win in Iowa, could bring in some much-needed donations to help him compete in South Carolina, the next primary fight. But even then, Huntsman's prospects are dim.

Huntsman has little, if any, campaign infrastructure in South Carolina—or anywhere else, for that matter—and notched 1 percent there in a recent CNN/Time poll. That's not surprising: Huntsman's more moderate positions on social issues don't appeal to South Carolina Republicans in the same way they do to New Hampshire voters. "Jon Huntsman's profile as the most liberal candidate in the field really limits his growth potential and makes him very unlikely to gain any meaningful traction," South Carolina pollster Jon Lerner told the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza. And at any rate, Huntsman doesn't have time for 170 events in South Carolina to win over skeptics. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, has campaign operations in almost every state, and leads in South Carolina polls.

Even before primary day, there were reminders of Huntman's limits. National Journal reported Monday night that Huntsman failed to qualify for the ballot in Arizona due to a "notary issue." (The campaign says it will challenge the state's decision.)

This isn't to say it's impossible for Huntsman to defy political logic. He could, in theory, inject millions of his own money to keep his campaign alive after new Hampshire. Or his billionaire dad, Jon Huntsman Sr., could step up with a six-figure check to keep Huntsman 2012 or a pro-Huntsman super-PAC chugging along. And that could put enough fuel into Huntsman's tank to keep him alive through South Carolina's primary on January 21 or Florida's at the end of the month.

Barring a minor miracle, however, it's hard to see how Huntsman's campaign survives for much longer, much less generates the kind of support seen here in New Hampshire. The scene inside the Old Town Hall, then, was a glimpse at what might've been, but ultimately was not, for Jon Huntsman.

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