As Facebook barrels toward one of the largest initial public offerings in US history on Friday, Mr. Schumer, New York's senior US senator, and Sen. Bob Casey (D) of Pennsylvania unveiled legislation Thursday that could pose a whole host of tough consequences for people like Mr. Saverin. He renounced his US citizenship last year and could save as much as $100 million in taxes on the proceeds of the Facebook IPO for doing so.
"This tax avoidance scheme is outrageous. Saverin has turned his back on the country that kept him safe, educated him, and helped him become a billionaire," Schumer told reporters Thursday. "This is a great American success story gone horribly wrong."
The Brazilian-born Saverin came to the United States at age 13, fleeing kidnapping threats against his wealthy father. He attended Harvard University, where he helped Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg found the global social-networking site but was pushed out in a dispute with Mr. Zuckerberg while the firm was still in its infancy. Saverin owns about 4 percent of Facebook's stock, good for about $3 billion when Facebook stock hits the public markets.
Saverin vows that he has renounced his citizenship because he is a "global citizen" and did not do so for tax purposes. He has relocated to Singapore, which has no capital-gains taxes.
Schumer's "status update," as he put it, for Saverin and some 3,000 other Americans who have made similar moves in the last five years is the "ex-PATRIOT Act." The bill stipulates that Americans wishing to renounce their US citizenship must prove to the IRS that they are doing so for non-tax reasons. Should they fail this test, they would be hit with a lifetime ban from entering the United States and a 30 percent tax on investment gains in the US.
Americans are already hit with an "exit tax" if they have an average income tax liability of $148,000 over the prior five years or net worth north of $2 million. The Schumer-Casey bill would keep those standards to determine whether individuals would qualify for their provision.The proposed measure could apply retroactively to anyone who gave up their American citizenship over the last decade.
Under current law, those who give up their passports are restricted from returning to the US. However, Schumer says there is no enforcement mechanism to prevent them from doing so – something the ex-PATRIOT Act would correct.
Although Saverin's decision was an "insult to the American people" and "spits in the eye" of American troops, Senator Casey says, the law wouldn't cast him out forever.
Saverin would be welcome back should he decide to pay his estimated tax bill in full.
Are some Ron Paul supporters going rogue and confronting the Republican Party in a manner of which Mr. Paul himself would not approve?
That question arises due to what went down on the evening of May 15 at a meeting of the Clark County GOP in Nevada. At the confab, Paul supporters pushed through a resolution rebuking Republican National Committee chief Reince Priebus and calling on him to resign his post due to his decision to merge some RNC fundraising with that of presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
The Paul crowd accused Mr. Priebus of violating an RNC rule against aiding one party presidential hopeful while another remains in the race.
“We hope that our Republican colleagues in local and state parties across the nation will join with us in expressing our outrage at having our role in the nomination process usurped by a select few individuals,” read the Clark County Republican statement, according to a copy posted on the blog of Nevada political analyst Elizabeth Crum.
Did the Paul supporters in Clark County – which contains Las Vegas and three-quarters of the state’s population – not hear that Paul has announced he will no longer campaign in states that have yet to hold primaries?
OK, that’s not the same thing as formally ending his campaign, as we ourselves have said. But you can see the campaign’s end from there. More to the point, Paul and his campaign staff have been urging his supporters to remain civil as they plan for the GOP national convention in Tampa, Fla., in August.
“By sending a large, respectful, and professional delegation to Tampa, we will show the party and the country that .,. our movement is growing and here to stay,” wrote Paul strategist Jesse Benton in a convention strategy memo.
Or, as Mr. Benton put it later in a conference call with reporters, “we’re emphasizing decorum.”
Call us sensitive, but insisting that that head of your party resign for helping the person who is the virtually certain nominee does not seem very decorous to us. And that’s what some analysts have pointed out: Paul’s supporters may not yet have given up on the campaign, despite the fact that the man they support has indicated that Mr. Romney is going to win the nomination.
“Interesting to see how this sort of thing develops in coming months ... Paul and Paul supporter divergence,” tweeted Josh Putnam, delegate-counting expert and Davidson College political scientist, on Wednesday.
Of course, to some extent the roguehood of Paul supporters is inherent in Paul’s delegate accumulation strategy. He has been urging his backers to organize and win as many delegates as possible at state conventions and caucuses. This inevitably has led to some angry clashes with more traditional Republicans, many of whom have been surprised to suddenly find themselves outvoted in organizations they’ve controlled in the past.
Nevada is perhaps ground zero for this conflict. Paulites have taken control, not just of the Clark County GOP, but of the state Republican Party organization. As a result, some Nevada Republican donors and volunteers are coalescing behind nonparty organizations such as the local chapter of Americans for Prosperity, according to a report in the Las Vegas Sun.
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Is Washington getting ready for a replay of the 2011 debt limit crisis? It sure seems like it at the moment.
House Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday drew a line in the sand with his wingtip, saying that House Republicans will not approve another increase in the nation’s debt ceiling unless there are offsetting cuts in the federal budget. On Wednesday, the White House responded in kind, saying President Obama won’t let the GOP hold the US and global economies “hostage” to its “ideology.” Republicans must accept a “balanced approach” to reducing the federal deficit that includes both budget cuts and tax increases, said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
“We’re not going to re-create the debt ceiling debacle of last August,” said Mr. Carney, after a luncheon meeting between Mr. Obama and congressional leaders.
Might we do so anyway, no matter what the White House insists? After all, things got pretty tense last time. Before it ended, Standard & Poor’s had downgraded America’s debt for the first time in its history.
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The United States government has more than $16 trillion in debt at the moment. When it bumps up against the debt limit – the statutory limit of money the US can borrow – Congress either votes to raise it or risks that the US will be unable to pay its bills.
The White House wants the next debt-limit vote to be on what it calls a “clean bill” – simple legislation that deals with the limit only. That’s the way the issue had been handled in decades past, for the most part. Republicans would prefer to use the threat of a possible default as leverage to induce bigger budget reductions than the White House might otherwise accept. After all, that worked OK for them last time around. The budget compromise that Obama finally signed included $917 billion in cuts, spread over 10 years, in exchange for a $900 billion debt-limit increase.
Well, never underestimate Washington’s ability to create a dangerous stalemate. But we think fears of a 2011-style debt-limit crisis are overblown, at least given current conditions.
Why? Mostly because the debt limit probably won’t have to raised again until early next year, according to Treasury Secretar Timothy Geithner. And something politically big will happen before then: the 2012 presidential election.
If Obama wins, he’ll be able to claim a mandate for his approach to fiscal issues, with some justification. That’s likely to increase his leverage. If Mitt Romney wins, it probably won’t be a problem, as he’s likely to agree to the sort of approach Speaker Boehner would like.
There could be more complicated political outcomes, of course. Obama could win, but the Democrats could lose the Senate, making it easier for Republicans to get their favored bills through Congress to the president’s desk.
But we still think our general idea holds: This is an argument that will be clarified in some manner by the nation’s quadrennial electoral contest. After all, the arguments over the debt limit mirror the arguments over fiscal policy in general: Obama wants the GOP to accept at least some tax increases, and Republicans say they won’t. Voters will get their say on the matter in November.
President Obama was on “The View” Tuesday, in case you haven’t heard. It was his fourth time on the couch of ABC’s multihost daytime chat show, and he looked comfortable, as you might expect. He joshed with Barbara Walters about her habit of keeping presidential napkins from White House visits (“You’re stealing our stuff!”). And he guessed, correctly, that Sherri Shepherd was the “View” panelist who recently appeared on “Dancing With the Stars.”
But did “The View” go too easy on him? Let’s be clear: We’re not implying that the hosts can’t be tough questioners. We would not want Ms. Walters to interrogate us about snack-food habits, much less our approach to Medicare policy. However, it may be that the format of the show allows a skilled politician a lot of control over the message.
The show jumps from host to host, each with a different topic to discuss. Follow-ups are limited, before the show moves on to the next point. That made it difficult for even resident conservative Elisabeth Hasselbeck to pin Mr. Obama down.
(OK, the show is just like a White House press conference in this regard, only on a different scale. But that’s another conversation.)
Take Obama’s recent statement in favor of gay marriage as an example. Walters asked him some good questions: Would he push a federal bill legalizing same-sex marriage? Would he work to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as something that occurs between one man and one woman?
Obama answered by talking at first about the reasons he’d come out in support of gay marriage. In part, this was due to personal experience with gay couples.
“They said to me, 'You know what, the words matter.... Civil unions aren’t sufficient,' ” said Obama.
Fine. But what about working to change the law?
“Congress is clearly on notice that I think it’s a bad idea,” he said, which is actually a non-answer. And then, before Walters could trap him like a stray White House napkin, “The View” veered into another topic.
Similarly, Whoopi Goldberg let Obama get away without answering her question on financial-markets reform. Citing the recent $2 billion trading loss at JPMorgan, Ms. Goldberg asked if the president will hold anyone responsible. “This has to be the last straw,” she said.
Obama responded by saying that the loss showed why he had pushed for passage of the Dodd-Frank financial-markets reform act. This raised capital requirements to enable banks to withstand such floods of red ink, and it made it against the law for banks to take big bets in derivative markets with their own funds.
“You can’t make bets on your own trades with your own money,” Obama said of the banks.
Well, the trade that cost JPMorgan all that cash looked a lot like just such a bet, but it fell within a Dodd-Frank exception allowing banks to hedge against losses. Why was it still legal? There’s a follow-up that didn’t get asked, because the next host to seize control of the show went in a different direction.
We know we’re being a little pedantic here: “The View” isn’t “Meet the Press.” It isn’t even “Charlie Rose.” We have nothing against learning that Obama likes guacamole and corn chips, or will watch any kind of sport on TV, even luge. It isn’t bad to humanize America’s leaders.
But Obama recently has been accusing the US media of a “lack of gravitas,” according to a story in Politico on Wednesday. The president complained of a “steady stream of sensationalism and scandal” in his address Monday at Barnard College in New York, for instance.
The Politico piece quotes a former White House press adviser to the effect that Obama likes The New York Times because he thinks they’re serious.
“He thinks the rest of you guys aren’t,” the adviser tells Politico.
Point taken. But from our years in Washington, we’ll note that in general, the biggest problem that presidential administrations end up having with the press is not that it isn’t serious enough, but that it is an unruly, unpredictable hound they find difficult to control.
Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday vowed that the House will not wait until after November elections to find a way to avoid a year-end "fiscal cliff" – and that House Republicans will, again, refuse to raise the national debt limit, unless Congress offsets the hike with spending cuts.
"Previous Congresses have encountered lesser precipices with lower stakes and made a beeline for the closest lame-duck escape hatch," Mr. Boehner said, at a speech at a fiscal summit sponsored by the Peterson Foundation in Washington. "Let me put your mind at ease. This Congress will not follow that path, not if I have anything to do with it."
But Democrats bristled at the way Boehner would keep the United States from financial Armageddon – an approach that the House Budget Committee's ranking Democrat likened to "playing chicken with our economy."
With Congress putting off an 18-wheeler's worth of challenges until the lame-duck session between the November elections and the new year, it could be said that all of Capitol Hill is staring down a massive financial collision. Whether to extend the Bush tax cuts and the budget-slashing "sequester," raise the debt ceiling, extend unemployment benefits and the payroll tax holiday, and fix payments to physicians from Medicare may all have to be resolved in only six short weeks.
By contrast, Boehner aims to get to work before November elections, offering by far the most concrete plans to get to work ahead of the lame-duck session of any congressional leader. The House will hold votes on the expiring Bush tax cuts before the elections, he said. It will also put together a process for an "expedited" path to tax reform in the new year.
"If we do this right, we will never again have to deal with the uncertainty of expiring tax rates," Boehner said.
It is on the question of the debt ceiling, however, that Boehner drew the most Democratic ire for his insistence on what might be called the "Boehner principle," that is: Every dollar of additional debt increase for the federal government must be matched by an equal or greater reduction in government spending.
"This is the only avenue I see right now to force the elected leadership of this country to solve our structural fiscal imbalance," he said.
But Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) of Maryland, the leading Democrat on the House Budget Committee, pointed out that the House's own Republican budget would violate Boehner's principle, as it requires $5.2 trillion in additional deficit spending. "This isn't just hypocritical," Mr. Van Hollen said in a statement, "it's dangerous."
"The GOP’s refusal to consider both spending and revenues – despite the recommendation of every bipartisan group that has looked at this issue – does nothing to bring us any closer to getting our fiscal house in order," he added.
Boehner's stance – the same one that eventual won Republicans a hard-fought deal with President Obama to raise the debt limit last summer – conjures a time when Republican demands on the debt ceiling sent Congress's approval rating plummeting into the single digits, crushed consumer economic confidence, and helped spur an unprecedented downgrade in America's credit rating.
In the speaker's mind, however, setting conditions to increase the debt limit forces a lethargic Congress to make tough choices.
"We shouldn’t dread the debt limit. We should welcome it. It’s an action-forcing event in a town that has become infamous for inaction," he said.
Speaking at the same event, however, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner took issue with viewing the debt ceiling as a vehicle for anything other than upholding America's financial obligations.
"This commitment to meet the obligations of the nation, this commitment to protect the creditworthiness of the country is a fundamental commitment you can never call into question or violate because it's the foundation for any market economy, the foundation of our financing," Mr. Geithner said. "This allows us to govern, to fight wars, to deal with crises, recessions, to adjust to a changing world. You can't put that into question; you can't put it into doubt."
Boehner's Senate bête noire, majority leader Harry Reid, said the Speaker's plans showed that he is moving at the behest of his caucus's most conservative members.
"American people have had enough of this brinkmanship," Mr. Reid told reporters Tuesday afternoon. "It's pretty clear to me that the tea party direction to the Republican Party is driving them over the cliff."
No matter who is driving, though, Boehner is done with waiting.
"[W]e’ve talked this problem to death," he said. "It’s about time we roll up our sleeves and get to work."
The Ron Paul campaign wants its supporters to remain fired up and ready to go.
One day after announcing that the Texas libertarian will stop campaigning in states that have yet to hold primaries, Paul officials on Tuesday issued a memo outlining their strategy for the GOP convention in Tampa.
What’s the point of this? “Maximizing our resources to ensure the greatest possible impact,” writes Jesse Benton, Paul’s chief strategist.
The Paul people will continue to try and pick up additional delegates at state conventions between now and the national confab in August, notes Benton. He claims that in the end the campaign will have several hundred Paul delegates, combined with several hundred delegates who personally are Paul supporters but are bound to Mitt Romney or one of the withdrawn GOP candidates.
The strategy document admits the obvious fact that Romney, not Paul, is going to be the nominee. But it holds out hope that Paul will be strong enough to influence the party platform.
“Our campaign is presently working to get several items up for consideration, including monetary policy reform, prohibitions on indefinite detention, and Internet freedom,” writes Benton.
What’s going to come of this? Is Paul really going to be a power at the convention?
Well, it’s certainly possible that he’ll get a platform plank calling for an audit of the Federal Reserve, or some other restriction on the Fed’s power. In recent years the GOP as a whole has been moving towards his Fed-critical position. It’s also possible that the convention will approve some sort of vague call for Web freedom. But a prohibition on indefinite detention? That is unlikely to pass muster, given that GOP voters generally are more hawkish on security issues than Paul.
“My best guess? Ron Paul pushes for votes on a few platform issues, and settles for platform committee losses on most of them but gets one or two minor victories, with something about the Fed probably the most likely,” wrote political blogger Jonathan Bernstein Monday in a Washington Post opinion piece.
The other thing Paul appears to be after is comity. In recent weeks his supporters have caused trouble at some state conventions as they push for advantage – in Arizona, for instance, they booed Mitt Romney’s son Josh.
“By sending a large, respectful, and professional delegation to Tampa, we will show the party and the country that not only is our movement growing and here to stay, but that the future belongs to us,” writes strategist Benton.
However, as far as the GOP is concerned, the immediate future belongs to Romney. And the presumptive nominee will be exercising tight control over convention proceedings, as most presumptive nominees do. Will he allow Paul a little room to maneuver? That’s not clear.
It’s true that Romney and Paul have long seemed to get along, personally. But Paul is not offering Romney an endorsement, and he’s not urging his followers to toe the Romney line.
“If Romney wants to win the Paul vote, it seems, it won’t be good enough to put an audit-the-Fed plank in the Republican Party platform. He’d have to actually embrace and campaign on Paul’s issues, which could, in case it needs to be said, be a tricky proposition where the mass of the electorate is concerned,” writes political correspondent Molly Ball of The Atlantic Tuesday.
To avoid a "fiscal cliff" at year's end, House Speaker John Boehner is going to rely on an old road map.
If President Obama and congressional Democrats want to raise the debt ceiling, Mr. Boehner will say in a speech later on Tuesday, they're going to have to hew to what might be called the Boehner principle: Every dollar of new debt must be paid for by at least a dollar of reduced government spending.
“This is the only avenue I see right now to force the elected leadership of this country to solve our structural fiscal imbalance," Boehner will say, according to excerpts of his remarks at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation in Washington.
That's the position to which Boehner and House Republicans eventually held Democrats to raise the debt ceiling last August.
Of course, that trip to the fiscal precipice sent Congress's approval rating plummeting into the single digits, crushed consumer economic confidence, and helped spur an unprecedented downgrade in America's credit rating.
Democrats have called for an approach that uses both increased taxes and lower government spending to cut the government's debt.
Boehner's principle "is a simplistic characterization of the issue that confronts us," said Rep. Steny Hoyer (D) of Maryland, the House minority whip, in a talk with reporters Tuesday. "The Democrats are clearly going to look at and press for a balanced response. The debt limit should not be a political issue. Mr. Boehner knows it shouldn't be political."
Congress is putting off nearly every substantive policy issue until after the November elections. In addition to the debt ceiling, the heavy issues awaiting Congress between Election Day and the end of year include the Bush tax cuts, unemployment benefits, the budget-slashing "sequester," and Medicare payment rates for doctors.
On taxes, however, the House will move to lay the groundwork for a deal well before the lame-duck session, Boehner says. The House will vote on taxes before the election to "give Congress time to work on broad-based tax reform that lowers rates for individuals and businesses while closing deductions, credits, and special carveouts," according to excerpts of Boehner's speech.
The House legislation would also enable an "expedited process" for tax reform in 2013. This could mean, Boehner says, that "if we do this right, this will be the last time we ever have to confront the uncertainty of expiring tax rates." He continues in the prepared remarks, "We’ll have replaced the broken status quo with a tax code that maintains progressivity, taxes income once, and creates a fairer, simpler code."
But Boehner doesn't rule out nudging the government along with incremental debt-ceiling deals.
"If [adhering to the Boehner principle] means we have to do a series of stopgap measures, so be it – but that’s not the ideal," Boehner will say Tuesday. "Let’s start solving the problem. We can make the bold cuts and reforms necessary to meet this principle, and we must."
The Boehner principle does not, on its face, rule out tax hikes or other increased revenues to help address the fiscal issues. A mix of tax increases and spending cuts have been offered by a variety of fiscal-reform commissions, including the widely hailed Simpson-Bowles group.
But a Boehner aide says in an e-mail, "Tax hikes are not – and never have been – on the table."
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On Monday, the Obama campaign released an ad accusing Mr. Romney’s former firm Bain Capital of sucking cash out of a Missouri company named GST Steel, driving it into bankruptcy. Tuesday, a pro-Obama super political-action committee, Priorities USA Action, is releasing an ad that focuses on Bain’s ownership of (surprise!) GST Steel, which closed in 2001, throwing more than 700 people out of work.
“He promised us the same things he’s promising the United States. And he’ll give you the same thing he gave us. Nothing. He’ll take it all,” says a former GST worker named Pat Wells in the Priorities USA spot.
Yikes – that’s harsh, isn’t it? For the record, we’ll note that super PACs aren’t supposed to coordinate with candidates, though they can watch the news like everybody else and follow a campaign’s lead if they wish. Also, by the time that GST went under, Romney was long gone from Bain. He’d left to run the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics.
Steel firms such as GST faced tough competition from imports during the period in question. Still, Bain did raise the company’s debt load, while extracting at least $12 million for itself. Overall, the Washington Post Fact Checker column gives the Obama campaign ad a rating of “One Pinocchio,” meaning that it shades the truth, and omits some facts while exaggerating others, but contains no outright falsehoods.
So how is Romney responding? First, his campaign is accentuating the positive. They’ve already released their own counter-ad – a spot that features a thriving Indiana firm named Steel Dynamics in which Bain had a minority stake.
Steel Dynamics "almost never got started,” says one worker in the ad. “When others shied away, Mitt Romney’s private sector leadership team stepped in.”
Second, Romney supporters are hammering at the fact that one of the Obama campaign’s top financial backers, Jonathan Lavine, is a Bain director who was at the firm when GST went under.
“So according to the Obama team’s logic, Romney, who had left Bain, is responsible for GST Steel’s demise, but Lavine, who was there, is not? Expect to hear more about this connection,” wrote Robert Costa yesterday on the National Review Online blog The Corner.
Finally, the Romney camp may point out that Mr. Obama is himself responsible for layoffs. Remember the auto bailout? General Motors and Chrysler shut down more than 700 dealerships during that crisis period, at the cost of thousands of jobs.
Hmmm. We’re not so sure that invoking the auto bailout is a big winner for Romney – GM and Chrysler remain alive, after all, which was the point at the time. In any case, the Obama team insists that is a discussion about the presumptive GOP nominee, not their guy.
“The central premise of [Romney’s] campaign is that his business experience will make him a good president. So let’s look at what kind of president it would make Mitt Romney. That’s a legitimate question,” said Stephanie Cutter, Obama deputy campaign manager, in an appearance Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown.”
Is Ron Paul ending his official campaign for the Republican presidential nomination? That seems to be case, as he announced Monday that he won’t be spending any more money in states that have not yet voted.
That would mean no Ron Paul ads in Texas, no Ron Paul travel to California, no Ron Paul pamphlets in Kentucky, and in general no Paul presence on the stump.
Continuing on “with any hope of success would take many tens of millions of dollars we simply do not have,” said Congressman Paul in a statement posted Monday on his campaign website.
However, does the end of the Ron Paul campaign mean the end of the Ron Paul 2012 effort? We would argue that it does not. Paul will continue to look for ways to make headlines and press forward to some sort of appearance at the GOP’s August convention in Tampa, Fla.
Why do we think this? First, Paul said so. In his statement today, he noted that “we will continue to take leadership positions, win delegates, and carry a strong message to the Republican National Convention that Liberty is the way of the future."
Obviously, the Paul campaign will continue with its strategy of urging supporters to swamp state conventions and get themselves elected delegates to the national confab. As we’ve written before, this is a clever, cheap way of using complicated delegate-allocation rules to Paul’s advantage.
What the Texas libertarian may be doing is amassing “stealth delegates” – delegates bound by primary or caucus vote to Mitt Romney, or one of the withdrawn GOP candidates, who are personally in favor of Paul. It’s hard to count how many such delegates there are – or whether they’ll abstain in the first round, or otherwise cause some sort of disturbance, in Tampa.
OK, Paul is not exactly winning the nomination this way. The 192 delegates at stake in California – a state Paul is no longer contesting – are more then he’ll pick up with his state convention-packing approach.
But – and this is our second point – we think Paul will still continue with a quasi-campaign. Sure, he may take time off, but for the most part he was already appearing at college campuses and other places where he might have gone in any case to push his libertarian agenda. There was something sly in his announcement Monday – he said he didn’t have the “tens of millions” of bucks needed to keep going. He has millions in the bank, however, as near as we can determine, and that’s enough to keep him from fading away this election cycle. If he doesn’t want to, that is.
Just look at his most recent money figures, as crunched by the Center for Responsive Politics. At the end of March, Paul had $1.8 million in cash on hand, with no debt. He’d raised more than $2 million in the preceding 30 days.
Yes, that was a month and a half ago. It’s still plenty of cash for him to jet around and appear where and when he wants to, particularly since we suspect he’s still raising a steady stream of cash from small donations to his online “money bombs.”
So what’s ending? Ron Paul TV ads. Look at Paul’s expenditures this campaign cycle, and you’ll see that he has spent $15 million on communications and media services. That figure is equal to about 40 percent of the total $37 million he’s raised.
Mr. Romney is going to be the GOP nominee, so there’s really no point in Paul wasting money on expensive air time in upcoming primary states. Instead, he can now husband his resources to continue to build his base of committed supporters. He’s spent less than $2 million on air charters in the whole campaign, so continued travel to selected appearances shouldn’t be a financial strain.
So the official Ron Paul presidential campaign may be over. But we don’t think that’s the same thing as an end to the Ron Paul effort to push his agenda in the months ahead.
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President Obama’s reelection campaign has a new ad up that portrays Mitt Romney as a heartless, job-destroying financier. It’s an attack on Mr. Romney’s record as head of Bain Capital that’s similar to some of the stuff Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and other ex-GOP presidential hopefuls produced during the primary campaign.
Will this line of assault work for Mr. Obama, where it didn’t for Mr. Gingrich, et al.?
Well, the context is different – Obama is trying to reach the whole electorate, as opposed to conservative Republicans in a few states. The timing is different, too. Obama’s ad has come out months prior to the general election. Romney’s primary opponents were trying to influence GOP state voters only days or weeks before they went to the polls.
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But before we dive into this, let’s look at the ad itself, shall we? At first glance, it’s brutal.
The spot, labeled “Steel,” focuses on a Kansas City, Mo., specialty metals firm that Bain acquired in 1993. The company, GST Steel, eventually filed for bankruptcy in 2001.
Most of the two-minute ad is taken up with the personal tales of veteran GST steelworkers. They accuse Bain of vacuuming as much cash out of the firm as it could, then leaving the company for dead.
“It was like a vampire. They came in and sucked the life out of us," says 31-year steelworker Jack Cobb in the Obama spot.
The ad accuses Bain of closing the company pension plan and seeking the elimination of retiree life and health insurance.
“Those guys were all rich. They all had more money than they’ll ever spend. But they didn’t have the money to take care of the people who made the money for them,” says 30-year company veteran Joe Soptic in the ad.
Ouch. The main point of this, in political terms, is obvious: The Obama campaign is trying to define Romney to crucial segments of the US voting population, as early as it can.
The “Steel” spot is set to run in five swing states over the next few weeks. The underlying message is that Romney is not a successful businessman who knows how to create jobs, but someone for voters to be afraid of, a rich guy who cares little about the prospects of the little people.
“The message of Obama’s ad attacking Bain couldn’t be clearer. Romney = middle class insecurity,” tweeted liberal blogger Greg Sargent of the Washington Post on Monday.
Will voters buy it? Some may. The spot plays into powerful stereotypes of US capitalism, after all. The Gingrich and Perry attacks on Romney’s business record were targeted in only a few states, for a limited period. Much of the nation may be unaware of Bain Capital’s record, and the fact that Romney has spent much of his business career in venture capital.
But we’ll note that Obama has had trouble attracting white, lower-middle-class voters, who are precisely the sort who would presumably feel most threatened by Gordon Gekko-style corporate raiding.
Plus, the ad elides some facts: Romney left Bain shortly after it acquired GST Steel, though he continued to receive profits from Bain payouts. He wasn’t around when GST went under. Also, it was an era when cheap foreign imports were hitting US steel firms hard, in general. It’s not clear whether GST would have survived in any case.
And some conservatives say the Obama team rolled out this line of attack too early. It gives the Romney camp plenty of time to respond prior to November.
“And while it’s a natural attack on the One Percent for Team Obama, it highlights Romney’s business experience and economic acumen at the expense of their own man,” writes Ed Morrissey on the conservative Hot Air website.