Romney Campaign Sleepwalks into "Name Your Bundlers" Story

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 16 2012 9:37 AM

Romney Campaign Sleepwalks into "Name Your Bundlers" Story

Floating Condi Rice's name as a possible VP pick didn't really change the Bain storyline. Neither did Mitt Romney's Modified Full Ginsburg* of TV interviews. Today, the campaign enters Door Number Three, attacking the Obama administration via web ads and soft Fox and Friends interviews over what we typically call "crony capitalism."

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

 

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Spot the problem. Obama and Priorities USA are making a series of proud class-war arguments when they attack Bain. Among them: The accusation (which happens to be true) that Mitt Romney's benefited from regressive tax cuts, and his own tax cuts would enrich him further, and enrich his donors. We haven't heard that used against many candidates, but we haven't had many candidates as rich as Romney. (Adjusted for inflation, I think he'd be the president with the greatest personal wealth since Jefferson. Depends on how you want to calculate JFK's wealth.)

The Romney response: Obama has crafted policy to help his donors. The proof is in disclosures which reveal how Obama campaign bundlers also invested in companies that got government contracts. George Kaiser fund-raised for the Obama campaign and invested in Solyndra, and by 2010 he was worrying -- correctly! -- that reporters would suss him out as the company sputtered.

Got it? We've arrived at the logic problem. We know that Obama's bundlers stood to gain if, say, Solyndra did well, because Obama's campaigns have disclosed the names of bundlers. But the Romney campaign hasn't disclosed the names of bundlers.

So, this morning, the Romney campaign made Ed Gillespie available to talk about the new line. "Do you want to have an economy in which political appointees in D.C. make decisions about where tax money is spent based on who contributors were in the last cycle?" asked Gillespie, rhetorically.

NBC's Peter Alexander asked the natural follow-up: Would Romney's campaign reveal who its bundlers were? That way, you know, people could determine, now or in 2013, whether they were benefiting from Romney policy.

The issue here is the, uh, not so much the appointments and that kind of thing," said Gillespie. "It's the contracts, the subsidies, the loan guarantees... Gov. Romney's contributors are made public, they're disclosed, and we're gonna continue to do that... we make public our donors."

Sure, the names of people who donate more than $200 are disclosed in FEC reports. But Gillespie refused to say whether Romney would take the extra, always-damaging step of disclosing who bundled (stacked up donations from other people) for the campaign.

All of this occurs as the Senate prepares to vote on (and kill with a cloture vote) the new version of the campaign finance DISCLOSE Act.

*The "full Ginsburg" means a tour of all the Sunday shows, named for the power drive that attorney William Ginsburg hit during the Clinton scandal. Romney did his tour on Friday, of different shows.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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