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: Don't Listen to Me, Just Read My Book

| Wed Nov. 30, 2011 11:19 AM PST

Perched awkwardly on chairs in the back of a Miami warehouse, Fox News' Bret Baier and Mitt Romney met on Tuesday for a lengthy televised interview. It was a rare moment of exposure for a candidate happy to keep the media at arm's length, but Baier didn't go easy on the GOP presidential front-runner. He wasted no time highlighting the former Massachusetts governor's wishy-washy record on an array of issues and asking Romney whether he believes voters can trust him given his flip-flopping.

Romney's reply, boiled to its essence: Forget what I've said; just read my book. He was referring to No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, published in 2010, in which he outlined his vision for restoring the US' stature as world superpower.

During the Fox interview, Romney deflected questions about his flip-flopping three times by pointing to No Apologies—which, as it turns out, had integrity issues of its own. (More on that later.)

Here are some excerpts from the Fox interview (emphasis mine):

Bret Baier: What is your reaction to [the New Hampshire Union Leader's] endorsement [of Newt Gingrich], and specifically that charge that you lack conviction?

Mitt Romney: And with regards to my own views, I'm happy to have people take a look at my book. I wrote that a couple of years ago, laid out my views for the country, and I believe my views are essential to get this country going again.

BB: Like the Union Leader, your critics charge that you make decisions based on political expediency, and not core conviction. You have been on both sides of some issues, and there's videotape of you going back years speaking about different issues—climate change, abortion, immigration, gay rights. How can voters trust what they hear from you today is what you will believe if you win the White House?

MR: Well, Bret, your list is just not accurate. One, we're going to have to be better informed about my views on issues. My view is, you can look at what I've written in my book, you can look at a person who has devoted his life to his family, to his faith, to his country, and I'm running for president because of the things I believe I think I can do to help this country.

BB: But I'm sure you've seen these ads using videotape of you in previous years speaking on various issues. And it seems like it's in direct contrast to positions you take now.

MR: Well, I'm glad the Democratic ads are breaking through and you guys at Fox are seeing them—

BB: Jon Huntsman has a couple ads that do the exact same thing.

MR: There's no question the people are going to take snippets and take things out of context and try and show that there are differences where in some cases there are not. But one place where I changed my mind: with regard to the government's role in relating to abortion. I am pro life. I did not take that position years ago. And that's the same change that occurred with Ronald Reagan, with George W. Bush, with some of the leaders of the pro life movement.

[Later, Baier asks Romney about the mandate signed into law by Romney that everyone in Massachusetts buy health insurance, and whether Romney believes Massachusetts' model would work on a national level.]

BB: But, governor, you did say on camera and in other places that at times you thought it would be a model for the nation.

MR: You're wrong, Bret.

BB: No, no, I mean there's tape out there—

MR: No. The tape out there—continue to read the tape. The tape goes on to say, for each state to be able to look at it. I was asked time and again, in the last debates...look back at the 2008 campaign. On the stage, I was asked at the debate, 'Is your Massachusetts plan something you would have the nation do as a federal plan?' Each time said, 'No, the answer is no."

When you write a book, you have the ability to put down your entire view. And I put in that book as clearly as I possibly could that the plan we did in Massachusetts had many features that I thought should be adopted by the other states. I thought there were very good ideas in there. There could be a model for the entire states.

Here's the full interview:

Baier's right: Romney's shifting positions on major issues are well-documented. He's flip-flopped on humans' role in causing climate change, foreclosure relief, privatizing social security, a flat tax, whether President Obama made the recession worse, gay rights, and on flip-flopping itself, among others.

And in No Apologies, between the hardcover and paperback editions, Romney edited a passage on the universal health-care plan he signed into law in Massachusetts. As PolitiFact noted, after trumpeting the success of Massachusetts' health-insurance reform, Romney wrote in the No Apologies hardcover edition, "We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country, and it can be done without letting government take over health care." But in the paperback, that line was changed to read, "And it was done without government taking over health care." Romney didn't write that Massachusetts' plan should be national policy, but as PolitiFact concluded, "a line that advocated the Massachusetts model as a strong option for other states was replaced by a shorter, more generic sentence."

Even Romney's book, his fallback when his integrity comes under attack, has shifted over time. So much for that defense.

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Big-Money GOP Bundlers Stay on the Sidelines

| Mon Nov. 21, 2011 6:18 AM PST

Bundlers are a presidential candidate's best friend. They're the super-fundraisers who not only give thousands of their own money to political candidates, but also round up hundreds of thousands more from other deep-pocketed donors. The Republican Party's most dependable bundlers, 46 individuals in all, raised a total of $24 million for George W. Bush in the 2000 and 2004 elections and John McCain in 2008. But as iWatch News reports, almost half of those rainmakers from the last three elections are still on the sidelines for the 2012 presidential race.

Among the GOP bundlers who have backed a candidate, 16 of them are fundraising for Mitt Romney, the presumed frontrunner in the fight for his party's nomination. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has raked in cash from eight of the bundlers, and three have given to Jon Huntsman. But 22 GOP bundlers have yet to pick a candidate—and their reasons range from waiting until the nominee is chosen to concentrating their efforts on House and Senate races:

Munr Kazmir, chief executive officer of Direct Meds, a pharmacy company in New Jersey, said he had hoped New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would enter the race. But when that didn’t happen, he was left without a favored candidate and has been pondering whom to back ever since.

"I'm still debating. I didn’t make a decision yet," he said. Kazmir said he has heard from dozens of other George W. Bush bundlers from the 2000 and 2004 elections and many, like him, have yet to commit to anyone for 2012. "They haven't decided yet," he said.

Fred Zeidman, a Houston-based private equity investor who backs Romney, said, "Many of the big bundlers I've spoken to have a familiarity with the major candidates. They all feel like the goal is to beat Obama and a number are waiting" until there is a nominee.

[…]

"It's a game that requires a lot of energy and effort. It takes an enormous amount of time," said David F. Girard-diCarlo, a Philadelphia lawyer and super bundler, who is now supporting Huntsman.

While he's in his "seventh presidential go round," Girard-diCarlo, who served as ambassador to Austria near the end of Bush's second term, said some of his fundraising peers "may not be willing to expend the time and effort because of where they are in their lives."

The biggest recipient of bundler money, of course, is President Obama. So far in the 2012 election cycle, Obama's campaign has pulled in $56 million from 358 bunders that include Dreamworks executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, Comcast executive David Cohen, and former New Jersey governor and financier Jon Corzine, whose brokerage firm MF Global recently went belly up.

In Grover Norquist's World, Ronald Reagan Is a "Rat Head in a Coke Bottle"

| Mon Nov. 21, 2011 5:00 AM PST

On Sunday night, 60 Minutes' Steve Kroft profiled the man who's done more than anyone to ensure that Congress' budget-slashing supercommittee goes down in flames: anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist.

Norquist, who runs the group Americans for Tax Reform, is best known for his "Taxpayer Protection Pledge." Those who sign the pledge, usually Republican members of Congress, vow to oppose all tax increases. "Pledge" signers include 270 members of Congress, among them House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), as well as every GOP presidential candidate except for Jon Huntsman. Indeed, the refusal of any notable Republican in Congress to stomach tax increases as part of this summer's debt ceiling deal or the supercommittee's plan to cut $1.2 trillion from the national deficit is owes largely to Norquist's "Pledge." Those who break it face Norquist's wrath when re-election time rolls around. Norquist told Kroft his organization will fund ads opposing that candidate "to encourage them to go into another line of work, like shoplifting or bank robbing, where they have to do their own stealing."

But perhaps the most curious moment of the interview came when Norquist described his role as simply protecting the Republican brand, just as Coca-Cola ensures the quality of its signature product:

Norquist: 'Cause let's say you take that Coke bottle home, and you get home, and you're two thirds of the way through the Coke bottle. And you look down at what's left in your Coke bottle is a rat head there. You wonder whether you'd buy Coke ever again. You go on TV, and you show 'em the rat head in the Coke bottle. You call your friends, and tell them about it. And Coke's in trouble.

Republicans who vote for a tax increase are rat heads in a Coke bottle. They damage the brand for everyone else.

Norquist belongs to a group of conservative stalwarts who idolize Ronald Reagan and his economic policies. A bust of Reagan sits on Norquist's desk. The irony, of course, is that Reagan himself would've repeatedly violated Norquist's "Pledge" (had he even signed it) during his presidency. Reagan closed business tax loopholes in 1984. He raised corporate taxes in 1986. He hiked capital gains taxes by 40 percent. In all, Reagan raised taxes 11 times in eight years. In Norquist's world, Reagan was just another "rat head in a Coke bottle."

The full 60 Minutes profile of Norquist is worth watching, if only to better understand the man behind the fiscal gridlock in Washington. It's here:

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