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: Anti-Citizens United Amendment Is "Horrible"

| Sat Jan. 7, 2012 5:05 PM EST
Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum attracted a mob of supporters, reporters, and Occupy protesters at a small general store and deli in the small town of Amherst this afternoon. Later, after shooting a segment on Mike Huckabee's Fox News show, Santorum took a question on whether he supported a constitutional amendment aimed at rolling back the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision that tore down limits on corporate political spending and paved the way for super-PACs, the independent groups that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of cash.

"I think it's horrible," Santorum said. "I think it would be against the right to petition your government." Asked whether corporations should have the kind of influence they do now, Santorum replied, "Everybody should have an opportunity, who are affected by government, to participate in the activities of the government. No one should be disenfranchised."

Santorum is far from the only Republican to dismiss the idea of a constitutional amendment targeting Citizens United. On Friday, at a firearms factory in Newport, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich similarly dissed a Citizens United, in response to a question from a factory worker. Instead, Gingrich said, the nation's campaign finance laws should be changed so that outside groups—like the pro-Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future that hammered Gingrich in Iowa—are marginalized and more funds go to a candidate's actual campaign.

As for Mitt Romney, the front-runner here in New Hampshire, he's criticized super-PACs on several occasions. But, in reality, there's no doubt where he stands. As he said last August at the Iowa State Fair, "Corporations are people, my friend."

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Newt Gingrich Has Never Owned a Gun

| Fri Jan. 6, 2012 4:00 PM EST
Newt Gingrich

With a fresh set of super-PAC attack ads heading his way, Newt Gingrich rolled into the town of Newport midday on Friday. His destination: the Sturm, Ruger & Co. arms factory here, the largest employer in the county and one of the largest arms manufacturers in America. The factory was everything you'd imagine it to be—rifles and pistols and trade mags, oh my!—and more. (Including the mounted animal heads all over the walls.)

Gingrich, who bills himself as the true conservative's pick for the GOP presidential nomination, looked typically at ease as he strode into the factory. Then came this exchange [emphasis mine]:

Reporter: Speaker Gingrich, given where we are today, do you own any guns personally?

Gingrich: No.

Reporter: When was the last time you went shooting?

Gingrich: It's been a couple years. I can tell you that my grandson just got his .410 for Christmas. Very exciting.

[…]

Reporter: Have you ever owned a gun?

Gingrich: No, I actually personally have never owned a gun. I believe in the right to bear arms, and I strongly defend the right to bear arms.

Nearby, a group of the company's higher-ups shifted uneasily and glanced around at each other.

Gingrich received an A or A- rating from the National Rifle Association, the leader of the gun lobby, throughout his Congressional career, his website says. That hasn't prevented him from taking fire, though, from the far right. In Iowa, a robo-call paid for by a hardline gun-rights group, IowaGunOwners.org, bashed Gingrich for allegedly supporting the 1994 Brady handgun law that mandated waiting periods and background checks for people who buy firearms. A Gingrich spokesman said the Iowa group's claims were incorrect.

Pro-Romney Super-PAC's New Ad: Newt = Obama

| Fri Jan. 6, 2012 11:13 AM EST

The pro-Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future, run by a trio of former Romney aides, is out with a new attack on flailing GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich.

The super-PAC's "factual comparison" (its own description) attempts to show how Gingrich, the former House speaker, "has so much in common" with President Obama, and that the two men repeatedly "have stood on the wrong sides of issues," in the words of Restore Our Future treasurer Charles Spies. The ad will appear on Monday in the New Hampshire Union Leader and The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina—prominent publications in states hosting the next two presidential primaries.

Restore Our Future spent $4.6 million on advertising in Iowa, most of it attacking Gingrich, who had briefly climbed in the polls. The ads pulled no punches, and almost immediately Gingrich's support crumbled in the Hawkeye State. He ended up finishing a distant fourth in Iowa's GOP caucuses; Romney won by eight votes. Gingrich has lashed out at Romney for the barrage of negative ads lobbed by Restore Our Future. Earlier this week, he called Romney a "liar" for saying he knew nothing about the attack ads, and, on the evening of the primary, Gingrich strongly implied that his campaign was about to go scorched earth on Team Romney. This surely isn't going to help. 

Here's the ad:

 

Does Jon Huntsman Think Bank of America is a Person? [UPDATED]

| Fri Jan. 6, 2012 10:47 AM EST
Jon Huntsman.

[This post has been updated. See below.]

On Thursday night, Jon Huntsman made his 157th campaign stop in New Hampshire, at a National Guard armory turned rec center in the city of Newport. He noted this fact with the same ease and aplomb that he displayed when answering hours' worth of questions lobbed at him by the audience. But Huntsman did bungle one question—and it was a telling one.

Near of the end of the event, Glenn Kaplan, 42, a cameraman and filmmaker, asked Huntsman if he supported the idea of "corporate personhood"—essentially, that Bank of America and Goldman Sachs have the same rights as people like you and I. "Will you support a constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood?" Kaplan asked.

"On corporate what?" Huntsman replied.

"Personhood," Kaplan said.

Huntsman looked uneasy. He said he'd only been asked this question once before: on the satirical Colbert Report. Then Huntsman gave his answer, which was, more or less: Mumble mumble...fix our broken tax policy...mumble mumble...revolving door...level the playing field...mumble mumble...thank you. He didn't come with a cruise ship's distance of answering Kaplan's question. "It was a total cop-out," Kaplan said afterward.

The belief that corporations are people is no small matter. You'll remember in Iowa last fall Mitt Romney caused quite a stir when he said, "Corporations are people, my friend." Democrats and progressives pounced on Romney's remark as ammunition for their attacks on Romney as a candidate in corporate America's pocket, a man bought and paid for by America's 1 percenters. (It is true that 10 percent of America's billionaires have given money to Romney's campaign.)

In Newport, Kaplan specifically raised Romney's belief that corporations are people when posing his question to Huntsman. And Kaplan's mention of a constitutional amendment to roll back corporate personhood, which the Supreme Court furthered with its 2010 Citizens United decision, is especially timely. A coalition of good government groups and grassroots activists is ramping up efforts at the local and state level nationwide to demand that Congress pass legislation taming Citizens United. At the same, there are at least a half-dozen resolutions in Congress that would do just that. On the upcoming second anniversary of Citizens United, on January 20, a wave of events, including occupations of federal courts, are planned to demand an end to corporate personhood.

The fight against corporate personhood and Citizens United is shaping up to be the biggest fight in campaign finance. Jon Huntsman, it seems, can't figure out whose side he's on—Bank of America's or yours.

[UPDATE]: At a Q-and-A Friday morning in Concord, the state capital, Huntsman clarified his position on corporate personhood. "Of course corporations are not people," he said. "Who would say such an outlandish thing?"

 

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