Mojo - July 2012

Romney's Bain Story Is Falling Apart

| Thu Jul. 12, 2012 11:10 AM EDT
Mitt Romney speaking at a rally in Ohio in March 2012.

UPDATE: Bain released a statement to Politico saying that "Mitt Romney left Bain Capital in February 1999," and that "Due to the sudden nature of Mr. Romney's departure, he remained the sole stockholder for a time while formal ownership was being documented and transferred to the group of partners who took over management of the firm in 1999," which is why he was listed on the SEC filings after his claimed departure. Bain's statement doesn't address or challenge Mother Jones' reporting about Romney investing in companies that outsourced prior to 1999. 

Despite Mitt Romney's claims that he left Bain Capital in 1999, Securities and Exchange Commission documents show that Romney was still listed as the owner of the company in 2002, three years later. The documents, reported on today by the Boston Globe, contradict Romney's claims that he was not running Bain when it was investing in companies that were moving jobs overseas. The Globe quotes a Romney adviser who acknowledges that the campaign's claims regarding Romney's lack of involvement "do not square with common sense."

The charge that Romney moved jobs overseas while running Bain has been central to the Obama campaign's attacks on Romney. Until now, fact-checkers like the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler have described the Obama campaign's claims as misleading because of Romney's assertion that he stopped managing Bain in 1999. However, Mother Jones' David Corn reported Wednesday that Bain invested in companies that outsourced jobs prior to the time Romney says he left, and the documents cited by the Globe show that Romney was still listed as an executive at Bain during the time the Obama campaign accuses the company of outsourcing jobs.

The website Factcheck.org called the Obama campaign's claims "weak," stating that if they were true, Romney might have committed a felony by making false statements in his financial disclosure forms where he stated that he "has not had any active role with any Bain Capital entity and has not been involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way." A Romney spokesperson told Politico's Dylan Byers that Romney had not committed a crime. 

The Boston Globe is not the first to report evidence that Romney may have been misleading the public about when he left Bain. Following a Mother Jones report two weeks ago showing that Romney was at Bain when it invested in a medical waste firm that disposed of aborted fetuses, my colleague Nick Baumann noted that several public documents indicated Romney was still involved with Bain years after he claimed to have left. Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall posted SEC filings where Romney's "principal occupation" is listed as "managing director of Bain Capital, Inc."

The Globe is updating its story to credit Mother Jones and other news organizations. Martin Baron, the paper's editor, told Politico's Dylan Byers that attribution was removed during the editing process by mistake.

Romney told attendees at a fundraiser in Montana on Wednesday to tell their friends that "if they want more stuff from government, tell them to go vote for the other guy — more free stuff."

The Globe notes that after he claims to have left, Romney "continued to draw a six-figure salary from Bain Capital." Does that count as "free stuff?"

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 12, 2012

Thu Jul. 12, 2012 10:44 AM EDT

US Army Sgt. Eric Rothenberger, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment, checks his sights while pulling security at an alleyway in the village of Kunday. The mission was to facilitate members of the female engagement team as they conducted key leader engagements to promote a female health education program. Photo by the US Army.

GOP Health Care Plan Is Still a Dud

| Thu Jul. 12, 2012 6:04 AM EDT

This week, the House GOP voted for the 33rd time to repeal the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's signature health care reform law. But the only alternative they've offered up to the Democratic plan is essentially the same one they've been pitching for more than a decade: more restrictions on medical malpractice lawsuits, which they claim are out of control and a significant driver of health care costs. On Tuesday, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) spent a considerable amount of his time at a hearing on the impact of the ACA on patients and doctors grilling a Democratic witness about his stance on "tort reform," or limits on jury awards in malpractice suits, making clear that this is the only thing the GOP has to offer by way of alternative health care policy.

Unfortunately for the GOP's would-be tort reformers, a new report out from the nonprofit consumer group Public Citizen shows that malpractice lawsuit payouts are now at an all-time historic low, having fallen steadily for the past eight years without any impact whatsoever on escalating health care costs. Highlights from the report:

  • The number of malpractice payments on behalf of doctors (9,758 payments) was the lowest on record, having fallen for the eighth consecutive year;
  • The inflation-adjusted value of payments made on behalf of doctors ($3.2 billion) was the lowest on record. In actual dollars, payments have fallen for eight straight years and are at their lowest level since 1998;
  • The average size of medical malpractice payments (about $327,000) declined from previous years
  • Medical malpractice payments' share of the nation's health care cost was the lowest on record (just 0.12 percent of all national health care costs)

The report also challenges the notion pushed by Republicans that most malpractice lawsuits are frivolous. More than 40 percent of the lawsuit payments were in cases where people had been killed, turned into quadriplegics, or left brain damaged or in need of lifelong medical care thanks to negligence on the part of doctors or hospitals. Overall, 80 percent of the payments went to people who had major, significant and permanent injuries.

Public Citizen says there is simply no evidence that restricting malpractice lawsuits even further will have any impact on health care costs. The report points out that Texas, home state of Rep. Lamar Smith (R), who has sponsored the main tort reform legislation in Congress, severely restricted the rights of injured people to sue back in 2003. Malpractice lawsuit payouts in the state plummeted 65 percent by 2010. At the same time, though, per-patient Medicare costs and private insurance rates grew at rates faster than the national average. 

The sharp decline in lawsuit payouts is going to make it even harder for the GOP to make the already weak case that preventing victims of medical negligence from suing will somehow fix the broken health care system. At some point, they really are going to have to come up with something else.

Romney Falls Flat in NAACP Appearance

| Wed Jul. 11, 2012 1:54 PM EDT
Mitt Romney at the NAACP.

Mitt Romney's speech to the NAACP Wednesday didn't go spectacularly well. Although he received a largely cordial reception, he was booed when he promised to repeal Barack Obama's signature domestic accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act.

Some analysts have suggested the boos may help Romney by making him look magnanimous and showing that he's willing to appear before an unfriendly audience to make his pitch. It's doubtful, given Romney's reaction and the campaign's decision to send out a version of the video with the boos edited out, that getting booed was part of Romney's plan. Nevertheless, the Romney campaign is likely to use the boos to its advantage going forward. Conservative pundits, already wary of at the NAACP for previous slights, will foment outrage on his behalf. Politically, it's hard to see how the appearance hurt Romney, or how it could have—so it's overstated as an example of political valor.

There are substantive reasons why Romney's pitch fell flat. Romney told the NAACP that "I believe that if you understood who I truly am in my heart, and if it were possible to fully communicate what I believe is in the real, enduring best interest of African American families, you would vote for me for president." This is a spectacularly bad pitch for any politician, because it happens to matter very little what candidates feel in their heart. What matters is the party they represent, and the policies they've committed to pursuing. 

The economic crisis has lead to a collapse of minority wealth, and black Americans continue to have a higher unemployment rate than whites. But even here, the GOP's message to black voters is hampered by the false Republican narrative that laws banning discrimination in lending led to the crisis, and, as Slate's Dave Weigel points out, a Republican-backed policy of austerity has disproportionately affected black people, who are more likely to work for the government. The audience at the NAACP is not going to take kindly to the suggestion that lending institutions need more leeway to shovel out "ghetto loans" to minorities. Nor are they likely to appreciate the argument that friends and family members deserved to lose jobs that could have been easily preserved by policies past Republican presidents have used but the GOP blocked when Obama proposed them.

The unpleasant reception to Romney's reiteration of his promise to repeal the federal health care legislation modeled on his own reforms in Massachusetts likely goes beyond a dispute about policy. Romney said prior to the Supreme Court ruling upholding most of the Affordable Care Act that if the high court overturned the law Obama's first and possibly only term would have been "wasted." By promising to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Romney was reminding the NAACP that he is running on a promise to erase the term of the first black president as though it never happened.

During her controversial routine at the White House Correspondents' Dinner in 2009, comedian Wanda Sykes joked that "You're proud to be able to say that, The First Black President. That's unless you screw up. Then it's going to be, 'What's up with the half-white guy, huh? Who voted for the mulatto, what the hell?'" Part of the joke is that despite racial progress in the US, the black community will be collectively affected by whether history judges Obama's presidency as a success or failure. Even those NAACP members more favorably disposed to Republican ideas may feel the same way. That is why Romney's pledge to wipe the Obama administration from history has an unpleasant resonance for many black voters, even beyond the community's decades-long allegiance to the Democratic Party. 

NYPD Spokesman Pwned in ProPublica's Comments

| Wed Jul. 11, 2012 10:43 AM EDT
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

ProPublica's Justin Elliott published a piece Tuesday questioning the New York Police Department's claim to have foiled 14 serious terrorist plots since the 9/11 attacks—a claim that numerous media outlets have repeated without verifying. "The list includes two and perhaps three clear-cut terrorist plots, including a failed attempt to bomb Times Square by a Pakistani-American in 2010 that the NYPD did not stop," Elliott writes. He continues:

Of the 11 other cases, there are three in which government informants played a significant or dominant role (by, for example, providing money and fake bombs to future defendants); four cases whose credibility or seriousness has been questioned by law enforcement officials, including episodes in which skeptical federal officials declined to bring charges; and another four cases in which an idea for a plot was abandoned or not pursued beyond discussion.

The NYPD didn't particularly like Elliott pointing out that they had inflated their record. So a NYPD spokesperson, Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne, decided to weigh in down in the comment section, to rather hilarious results:

 

Browne did not post any further comments. 

So the lesson here is, Google before you gripe. Also a good idea: Making sure you have your facts right before writing a glowing profile of the NYPD commissioner based on the bogus statistic that "14 full-blown terrorist attacks have been prevented or failed on Kelly's watch," and claiming that record is "hard to argue with."

The Battle for Marriage Equality Is Officially On in Maryland

| Wed Jul. 11, 2012 9:57 AM EDT
The daughter of a Maryland state senator adds her signature to the legislation extending certain rights short of marriage to same-sex couples in the state.

The Maryland Board of Elections officially certified on Tuesday that opponents of the state's recently passed same-sex marriage law have enough signatures to put the matter to a referendum. That means voters will decide in November whether Maryland's same-sex couples have the right to get married. 

Opponents of same-sex marriage in Maryland exceeded the number of required signatures by an order of magnitude. According to Maryland law, it would have taken about 56,000 signatures to put the law to referendum. Marriage equality opponents put forth more than 160,000, only about six thousand of which have been invalidated so far. Now both pro- and anti-same-sex marriage groups will be able to set up ballot committees whose funding won't be released to voters until October, shortly before Marylanders vote on the law.

For once, the National Organization for Marriage, America's main anti-marriage equality group, may be operating at a disadvantage. Black Marylanders once supported banning gay marriage, but that changed after President Barack Obama endorsed marriage equality. While earlier polls showed more than 50 percent of black voters opposed to same-sex marriage, the Democratic-leaning polling firm Public Policy Polling found in May that a majority of black voters now support same-sex marriage rights. And even before black voters flipped, polls showed that Marylanders overall opposed banning gay marriage.

Maryland's marriage equality law isn't set to take effect into 2013. Wade Kach, a Maryland Republican delegate who supported the marriage equality bill, nevertheless added an amendment to the bill ensuring no marriages would take place before marriage equality opponents could contest it via referendum. Kach was concerned about the recent federal court ruling that found California's Proposition 8, the ballot iniative that stripped Californian same-sex couples of their marriage rights, unconstitutional in part because it took rights away that had already been given. This way, if Marylanders ban same-sex marriage, marriage rights advocates won't be able to use that same argument in court because no same-sex couples will have been able to get married yet. 

Marriage equality opponents have reasons to be confident. After all, they've never lost a referendum. On the other hand, it's looking very possible that Maryland will be one of the first states to buck the trend.

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 11, 2012

Wed Jul. 11, 2012 9:51 AM EDT

 

Soldiers from the Canadian Army, Princess Patricia's Light Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, and a US Marine move in as a fireteam to clear a roof top during a Marine Operations on Urban Terrain exercise at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows. Approximately 2,200 personnel from nine nations are participating in RIMPAC 2012 as part of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 3, Combined Force Land Component Command. The CFLCC is conducting amphibious and land-based operations in order to enhance multinational and joint interoperability. US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tyler Main.

Corn on MSNBC: Right-Wing "Social Welfare" Money May Tip Senate

Tue Jul. 10, 2012 8:47 PM EDT

David Corn joins The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson and Democratic strategist Julian Epstein on MSNBC's "Martin Bashir" to discuss how conservatives are planning to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars into politically-driven "social welfare organizations," possibly tipping the balance of the Senate.

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.

3 Ways Lazy America Could Bring Back the Draft

| Tue Jul. 10, 2012 2:45 PM EDT

Uncle Sam wants you, maybe. Flickr/Robert Couse-BakerUncle Sam wants you, maybe. Flickr/Robert Couse-BakerThe New York Times op-ed page says it's time to bring back the draft! In a brief column published this morning, longtime military reporter Tom Ricks takes a novel approach to required mandatory national service. "Unlike Europeans, Americans still seem determined to maintain a serious military force, so we need to think about how to pay for it and staff it by creating a draft that is better and more equitable than the Vietnam-era conscription system," Ricks writes. He then describes what such a draft would look like, and it's actually not so terrible: There's something for everyone, even war resisters and tea partiers and libertarians. Seriously.

Rick's proposal has three options for young men and women:

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 10, 2012

Tue Jul. 10, 2012 11:28 AM EDT

Army Reserve Capt. Herm Blacaflor speaks to a local teenager about the location of his school during a visit to the Central Kunar Demo Farm. The Provincial Reconstruction Team Kunar agricultural section assists the demo farm to show the farmers and other locals nearby more effective ways to cultivate crops. The PRT is made up of Navy, Army, Air Force and civilians who work alongside local government officials to reconnect the people of Afghanistan with their government. US Air Force photo by Tech Sgt Christopher Marasky.