Shellacked, Mitt Fights Back
February 8, 2012 - 3:06pm ET
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Funny how things change. When Herman Cain and Rick Perry imploded in one week last November, Jon Stewart called Mitt Romney "the luckiest motherfudger on Earth." That was before last night's "shellacking," when Rick Santorum trounced Romney in Minnessota, Missouri, and Colorado — three states that Romney won in 2008. Whupped by the same guy who snatched away his Iowa caucus victory, it safe to say Romney is no longer "the luckiest motherfudger on Earth." That title may pass to another 2012 presidential candidate.
To his credit, Romney isn't taking this latest humiliation lying down. He's hitting Santorum with the "Washington Insider" label — and it's likely to stick.
Romney sounded less confident than last weekend when, fresh off strong victories in Nevada and Florida, he pivoted to attacks on President Barack Obama. Instead, he contrasted his record as an outsider with that of Santorums as a former Pennsylvania senator and Washington insider in the first time hes mentioned Santorums name on the stump in weeks.
Washington cannot reform itself, Romney said at the University of Colorados campus here. And Washington will never be reformed by those who have been compromised by the culture of Washington. This is a clear choice. Im the only person in this race, Republican or Democrat, who has never served a day in Washington. In the world I come from, leadership is about starting a business, not trying to get a bill out of committee.
...Romneys surrogates began their attacks on Santorum on Monday, when it became clear the former senator was gaining on him. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Romney ally, attacked Santorum for earmarking while in Congress, and attacking the ex-senator via email for his criticisms of Romney for his health care bill while governor.
Former 2012 hopeful and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who was ultimately humiliated by Romney's loss to Santorum in his own state, took to his role as Romney surrogate with considerable gusto, even before the Minnesota caucuses.
The former governor dropped out of the Republican race in August after a poor showing in the Iowa Ames Straw poll and shortly thereafter he endorsed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Now, with a day remaining until the Minnesota Republican caucuses and Mr. Santorum leading Mr. Romney in a recent poll of Minnesota voters, Mr. Pawlenty is hoping his popularity in Minnesota will help sway voters to select his candidate Mr. Romney.
...One of those attacks consisted of comments from Mr. Pawlenty regarding Mr. Santorums record as a Pennsylvania senator. The former Minnesota governor calls Mr. Santorum a nice guy, but attacks his record as having called for too many earmarks.
Rick Santorum is a nice guy, but he is simply not ready to be President, said Mr. Pawlenty in a statement. As a U.S. Senator, he was a leading earmarker and pork-barrel spender. He described himself as very proud of the billions of dollars in pork-barrel projects he championed, and promised to defend the wasteful spending.
Apparently, that one hit home. Romney and surrogates must have gotten something right, because Santorum actually defended his earmarks.
Rick Santorum, under attack from Mitt Romney's campaign for his history of securing earmarks during his time in the Senate, said Monday his record was similar to many other conservative politicians.
"Jim DeMint, a favorite of the tea party, supported earmarks at the same time I did," Santorum said on CNN's "John King USA."
"I've now opposed earmarks because they were abused. But during the time I was supporting them, so was Jim DeMint and just about every other member of Congress. It was abused and should be banned. I'm taking the position of banning them."
...Santorum said on CNN that Romney also supported earmarks before Republicans collectively shunned the practice.
I don't know if "I was for earmarks before I was against earmarks" counts as much of a defense, but Santorum does have a point: until recently, everybody was doing it.
Santorum's work the with "K Street Project," not only established Santorum as a Washington power broker during the heady days when the GOP held a virtual lock on government, but probably laid the foundation for Santorum's post-Senate career as a lobbyist.
Beginning in 2001, after Republicans seized control of Congress and the White House, then-Sen. Santorum (R-Pa.) began hosting Tuesday morning meetings with a select group of lobbyists. These meetings were part of a larger plan originally launched in the 1990s by Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), conservative activist Grover Norquist and others when the GOP retook the House of Representatives after 40 years of Democratic control to pressure lobbying firms and trade associations to dump their Democratic lobbyists and replace them with Republicans. Named after the Washington business corridor famous for housing lobbying firms, the K Street Project was aimed at installing a permanent Republican majority in Washington.
Journalist Nicholas Confessore explained Santorum's role in the K Street Project in a 2003 Washington Monthly article: "Santorum's responsibility is to make sure each [top lobbying job] is filled by a loyal Republican a senator's chief of staff, for instance, or a top White House aide, or another lobbyist whose reliability has been demonstrated. After Santorum settles on a candidate, the lobbyists present make sure it is known whom the Republican leadership favors."
This wasn't just backroom chatter. There were real direct effects on policy. When Jack Valenti, the longtime chief of the Motion Picture Association of America, retired, Republicans led by Santorum and DeLay sought to pressure the trade group to hire a Republican. The MPAA ultimately replaced Valenti with former Clinton administration Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, deeply offending leaders of the K Street Project.
Santorum brought up the Glickman hire at a closed-door Republican caucus meeting and was quoted in a 2004 Roll Call article saying, "Yeah, we had a meeting and, yeah, we talked about making sure that we have fair representation on K Street. ... I admit that I pay attention to who is hiring, and I think it's important for leadership to pay attention."
Later in 2004, the Republicans in Congress voted down $1.5 billion in subsidies for the movie industry. Grover Norquist told Roll Call at the time that the movie industry's hire of Glickman was one of the reasons Republicans scuttled the subsidies. "Hollywood has recently expressed contempt for the Republican leadership in the House, Senate and White House," Norquist said.
Santorum's connections with Big Coal lobbyists are part of the story, too. Santorum's "aw, shucks" demeanor when speaking about his coal-mining grandfather, and his decision to come to the aid of "a local coal company from my area." Santorum wasn't so much helping the little guy as going to work for an old friend he'd helped out many times before, as a member of the Senate.
Rick Santorum likes to brag about how he helped a poor local company fight big, bad government regulations on greenhouse gas emissions. "My grandfather was a coal miner," Santorum said at a debate in New Hampshire this week. "So I contacted a local coal company from my area. I said, look, I want to join you in that fight. I want to work together with you."
But Consol Energy, the company for which Santorum was a "consultant," wasn't some bare-bones local outfit-it's one of the largest coal mining companies in the United States, and its largest shareholder is the German utility RWE. And Santorum wasn't doing volunteer work: He was paid quite handsomely for his services, to the tune of $142,500 from 2010 to August 2011. He only ended his role with Consol when he launched his presidential bid last spring.
Santorum's relationship with the coal company began long before his consulting gig; Santorum and Consol had a mutually profitable association during Santorum's tenure in the Senate, too. Consol donated more than $73,800 to Santorum during his time as a legislator while simultaneously spending more than $1 million lobbying Congress on pollution limits, mine reclamation, worker health benefits, and tax policy, according to lobbying disclosure forms filed with the US Senate Office of Public Records.
...It's not entirely clear what Santorum did during his tenure as a Consol consultant, which started in 2007 after he was defeated for reelection. A spokesperson for the company told the New York Times he was hired "to provide strategic counsel on a variety of public policy-related issues." Although he was never registered as a lobbyist, former legislators can still be adept at maximizing their clients' influence without actually having to officially register as lobbyists under the law.
Big Coal's may have been Santorum's favorite lobby, it wasn't the only one corporate interest. Politico also reported on Santorum's seven-year-old attack on the National Weather Service. In 2005, Santorum sponsored legislation that while leaving the agency intact would have severely restricted its ability to distribute information directly to the public. The Political article says opponents criticized the bill as a reflection of an "outdated worldview" that government-sponsored information should flow through private, for-profit entities before reaching citizens.
But former congressman Alan Grayson writes that Santorum's anti-NWS crusade had little to do with conservative principles.
Now you must be thinking, "Wow, that guy Santorum is a REAL conservative." Santorum recognizes that government weather forecasts are meteorological socialism; they are a serious infringement on your constitutional right not to know whether it will rain tomorrow. Santorum sees that weather forecasts are a government takeover of the skies. In fact, Santorum is such an astute and profound conservative thinker that he probably realizes that traffic lights are a government takeover of the roads.
But this note is not about traffic lights. It's about Rick Santorum and government weather forecasts. And why Rick Santorum tried to ban them.
Here's why. It's because AccuWeather is a commercial weather forecasting company, and AccuWeather employees gave Santorum more than $5,000 in campaign contributions. Then he introduced the bill. Which subsequently and consequently led to Santorum being named as one of Congress's "most corrupt politicians." Which is saying a lot.
Mitt Romney was wrong when he said "Americans are the only people on earth" who put their hands over their hearts during the national anthem, but he's right about Santurm's "Washington insider" status and earmarks addiction.
No surprise here. Like I said before, one of the great things about the Republican primary seasons is that America gets to see how much Republicans get right when they attack each other. After Tuesday, it looks like the GOP is in for a prolonged battle, and they'll probably spend most of it confirming the worst about each other — while America watches.
Rick Santorum says his Tuesday victories prove that "conservatives are beginning to get it." As the GOP primaries drag on, more and more Americans are likely to "get it," where the GOP is concerned.
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