Obama refuses to apologise over 'felony' remark

Wed, Jul 18, 2012, 01:00

THE US presidential race has descended into an all-out brawl, with the Obama campaign labelling Republican candidate Mitt Romney a possible felon and the Romney campaign peppering

its invective with allusions to the gangster past of US president Barack Obama’s home town, Chicago.

Tit-for-tat recriminations have become standard procedure.

To deflect attacks on Romney’s record at Bain Capital and his refusal to release more income tax returns, the Romney campaign now accuses the Obama administration of “crony capitalism”, claiming it has paid off more than 200 donors to Obama’s last campaign with government bank loans.

The Romney campaign points to a $535 million (€436 million) US department of energy loan to solar company Solyndra, which subsequently went bankrupt, and $193 million in federal loans to Fisker, which is manufacturing electric cars in Finland, as proof that Obama uses taxpayers’ money to reward his friends and is the “outsourcer in chief”.

Solyndra and Fisker have strong Democratic Party connections.

“If you’re a campaign contributor to Barack Obama, your business may stand to get billions or hundreds of millions of dollars in cash from the government,” Romney said on Fox News. “I think it stinks to high heaven.”

The Obama campaign responded in kind, saying Romney gave tax breaks to friends’ companies as governor of Massachusetts.

“Mitt Romney would do anything to avoid answering serious questions about his tenure as a corporate buyout specialist,” Lis Smith, an Obama spokeswoman, said, “but launching false attacks that only boomerang on his record of cronyism in Massachusetts and the Olympics won’t do it.”

A chief tenet of the Obama attacks has been the absence of transparency regarding Romney’s stewardship of Bain and his private finances.

The Romney campaign fought back yesterday. “If Bain is so bad, why did you take $120,000 in campaign cash?” read the headline on a statement from Romney’s spokeswoman, Andrea Saul.

Over the past eight years, Saul said, Obama received $188,121 in contributions from donors who listed Bain as their employer.

A three-page statement put out earlier yesterday by the Romney campaign, titled Transparent Hypocrisy, accused Obama of running “one of the least transparent administrations in American history”.

The Obama camp initiated the present offensive after a disappointing jobs report on July 6th.

The onslaught gained steam on July 12th, when the Boston Globe published its investigation of Romney’s claim that he had nothing to do with Bain after February 1999, when he left to organise the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

The Globe found that until 2002, filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), signed by Romney, listed him as “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer and president” of Bain Capital.

In addition to earnings on investments, Romney drew a salary from Bain of $100,000 a year from 1999 until 2002. He has in the past sought to take credit for jobs created by Bain after his departure, but says he had nothing to do with the lay-offs, outsourcing and bankruptcies that occurred under Bain management during the same period.

Ed Gillespie, a senior adviser to Romney, tried to explain away the contradiction, saying Romney “retired retroactively” from Bain.

Stephanie Cutter, a spokeswoman for Obama, noted that lying on an SEC form was a felony, and that Romney either lied to the SEC or was lying to the American people now.

Romney demanded an apology from Obama, who said they would not be apologising for anything.

Republican operative Karl Rove denounced Cutter’s statement as “gutter politics of the worst Chicago sort”.

Obama continued the outsourcing accusation. “There’s a new study out by non-partisan economists that says Governor Romney’s economic plan would, in fact, create 800,000 jobs,” he told a rally in Cincinnati.

“There’s only one problem: the jobs wouldn’t be in America.”

The audience roared with laughter.

Pressure continues to mount on Romney to release more income tax returns.

At the insistence of his Republican rivals, Romney released his 2010 return last winter and promised – but has not yet delivered – his 2011 return.

Presidential candidates have a long tradition of turning over their tax returns; in 1996, Republican candidate Bob Dole released 28 years of records.

However the Romney campaign stubbornly ignores pleas from at least one Republican governor and several of the party’s leading intellectuals, including George Will and William Kristol.

Many Americans have concluded that Romney has more to hide than the Swiss and Caribbean accounts revealed in his 2010 return. There is speculation that the hundred millionaire may have paid zero income tax some years.

Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago and Obama’s former chief of staff, noted that Mr Romney gave 25 years of returns to John McCain when he hoped to be Mr McCain’s running mate. After seeing the returns, McCain chose Sarah Palin instead.

Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh and Michele Bachmann are mollifying the far right, – which has not warmed to Romney – with their antics.

“I think it can now be said, without equivocation . . . that this man hates this country,” Limbaugh said of Obama. “There’s no other way to explain this. He was indoctrinated as a child. His father was a communist. His mother was a leftist.

“He was sent to prep and Ivy League schools where his contempt for the country was reinforced.”

For her part, Bachmann drafted a 16-page letter justifying her allegation of “deep penetration” of the US government by the Muslim Brotherhood. Among those singled out by Ms Bachmann are Huma Abedin, a Muslim who is a senior aide to US secretary of state Hillary Clinton.