Top Ohio Romney Surrogate Says: Mitt, Release MORE Tax Returns

COLUMBUS – Yesterday, the top in-state surrogate for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney agreed with Democrats that Romney should release additional years of his tax returns.

State Representative Jay Hottinger (R-Newark) said,  “I’m glad that Governor Romney’s gone forward and has at least released this [tax return], and hopefully he’ll step forward and be able to release more [years of tax returns].

These comments were made on Ohio Public Radio in response to a conference call organized by the Ohio Democratic Party in which former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland called on Governor Romney to follow the example set by his father George Romney and release 12 years of tax returns.

“We’re glad that the Romney campaign’s most outspoken Ohio supporter agrees with us that Mitt Romney should release additional years of his tax returns,” said Ohio Democratic Party Communications Director Seth Bringman. “From just one year of his tax returns, we have learned that he pays a tax rate that is dramatically lower than middle-class Ohioans, that he holds a Swiss bank account and that he holds investments in the Cayman Islands. State Representative Hottinger is right: Ohioans deserve to know more from a candidate for president who lined his pockets by outsourcing jobs, bankrupting companies and laying off workers.”

Hottinger is the latest in a series of top Romney supporters to call on him to release his tax returns. That list includes: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown.

Today, Romney released tax returns for one year only, showing that he made $21.7 million in profits from investments in 2010. He paid an effective tax rate of 13.9% – much less than tax rate of an average Ohio family. He has thus far failed to follow his father’s lead by releasing 12 years of tax returns and when he was asked in a debate if he would do so, he responded, “maybe.”

The limited information Romney released shows that many of his investments are located in Luxembourg, Ireland and the Cayman Islands, “all famous tax havens,” according to the Washington Post. Romney’s tax returns also show that he has a Swiss bank account.

On yesterday’s conference call, Governor Strickland put the tax returns issue in context:

“Mitt Romney has waged his candidacy on his experience in the private sector. But the truth is that he spent his time in the corporate world bankrupting companies, outsourcing jobs and laying off workers to line his own pockets. He put profits over people during his time as CEO of Bain Capital… And during his campaign for president, he has made clear that if elected, he would stand up for big corporations and the wealthiest among us… What Mitt Romney doesn’t understand is that economic inequality in our country is a real problem.”

Ohio the ‘big prize’ for March primary

Remember that relentless, unstoppable Mitt Romney sprint to the Republican presidential nomination of about a week ago?

Forget about it.

With three candidates winning the first three contests — Rick Santorum in Iowa, Romney in New Hampshire and Newt Gingrich in a stunning, come-from-behind tail-kicking of Romney in South Carolina — the sprint now is a marathon.

Ohio will be at the heart of it all — the big prize in the 11-state Super Tuesday election of March 6.

“Ohio is going to be in the thick of it,” said Ohio Republican Party chairman Kevin DeWine. “I’m not sure either one of the front-runners (Romney and Gingrich) can lock it down until maybe the end of April. It’s a fight.”

Depending on how the intervening primaries and caucuses go, the fight for Ohio will not just be for the 66 delegates up for grabs.

It will be about laying the groundwork for a fall campaign against President Barack Obama, who won the state with 51.5 percent of the vote four years ago and needs desperately to keep it this year.

Early voting for the March 6 primary begins on Jan. 31. That is just about the time that Ohioans will begin being bombarded with TV ads, mail pieces and telephone appeals from the GOP candidates for president.

The biggest impediment to stopping Romney, said Phil Burress, president of Citizens for Community Values and a Santorum backer, is that the social conservatives — “values voters,” as Burress calls them — are split between Gingrich and Santorum, while the more mainstream, moderate Republicans are backing Romney.

“The fact is we’ve had three primaries and caucuses and nobody has gotten 50 percent of the vote yet,” Burress said. “The longer Newt and Santorum divide the anti-Romney vote, the more likely Romney will get the nomination.”

If Romney is going to regain his momentum before the traveling road show that is the GOP presidential nominating process reaches Ohio, it is going to have to be in two places — Florida on Jan. 31, where he leads in the polls, and Michigan, the state where his father, the late George Romney, was governor in the 1960s.

But, as DeWine said, in politics, “money follows momentum” and the surprising Gingrich win Saturday in South Carolina with 41 percent of the vote is likely going to result in more money flowing into his campaign to keep the contest lively.

Alex Triantafilou, the Hamilton County Republican Party chairman, said the Gingrich win Saturday means “Ohio could be back in play.”

“I don’t know that there will be a knock-out blow by anybody before then,” Triantafilou said.

The fact is, it still is very early in a primary and caucus season that runs from now through early June.

Even after all the hoopla of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, only 3 percent of the GOP delegates to the Republican National Convention have been divvied up among the winners.

Including Ohio’s 66 voting delegates, 24 percent of the delegates will be up for grabs on Super Tuesday.

It takes 1,144 delegates to win the GOP presidential nomination. Romney leads the pack today with 33.

Strickland criticizes Romney, Gingrich; praises Santorum

YOUNGSTOWN

Ex-Gov. Ted Strickland sharply criticized Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, the two leading Republican presidential candidates, but praised Rick Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania who’s also seeking the GOP nomination.

Also, Strickland, a Democrat who lost a re-election bid in 2010 to Republican John Kasich, said he discussed Ohio politics and manufacturing during a private one-on-one lunch last week at the White House with President Barack Obama.

Strickland, who visited at the request of the president, said he told Obama, a Democrat, that he needs to discuss plans to “revitalize manufacturing in America and to create for our country what every one of our competitors has, a specific policy, an industrial policy, to protect American jobs, products and the economy.”

Strickland said he told Obama that Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, would be his “toughest competitor in Ohio.” But the former governor added that Romney has stumbled during the last few days — something he said “surprised” him — and Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House, is surging.

Gingrich “is very skillful and very willing to exploit bigotry and prejudices,” Strickland said.

Strickland talked Monday with Ohio journalists on a conference call.

Strickland criticized Romney for not releasing his personal income taxes. Romney said Sunday he’d make public his 2010 return and an estimate for 2011; something Strickland said isn’t enough.

The former governor said Romney’s income-tax issue reminds him of what Kasich did in the 2010 race.

“Gov. Kasich’s campaign rotated reporters in and out of a room on quick intervals to view only one year of his tax returns,” Strickland said.

He also connected Kasich to Gingrich.

“There’s some commonality there,” Strickland said. “Both are bright people with lots of ideas. Lots of times, these ideas are not thought through. They appear to be a little erratic.”

Rob Nichols, Kasich’s spokesman, declined to comment on Strickland’s remarks except to ask, “Does this mean [Strickland] plans to release all the donors and donations to Innovation Ohio, which are currently kept secret from Ohioans?”

Innovation Ohio is a Democratic think-tank based in Columbus, founded by a former Strickland deputy chief of staff. Strickland doesn’t have an official role with the organization.

During the conference call, Strickland brought up Santorum, saying he doesn’t agree with the former senator on much of anything.

“But I like that Rick Santorum is talking convincingly on manufacturing,” Strickland said. “It’s a topic that appeals to a lot of people.”

Former Ohio Schools Superintendent Nominated for Position of Nation’s Assistant Secretary of Education for Elementary and Secondary Education

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Former Ohio schools superintendent Deb Delisle was nominated Monday to become the nation’s new assistant secretary of education for elementary and secondary education, according to a release from Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office.

Delisle has demonstrated a deep commitment to Ohio’s students, families and teachers over her career, Brown said in the release.

“Deb is a remarkable public servant who will be a tremendous asset to Secretary Arne Duncan and his team at the Department of Education,” Brown said in the release.

Strickland Goes After Romney, Gingrich

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Former Gov. Ted Strickland called on Mitt Romney to match the standard set by his father and release 12 years of income tax returns rather than the more limited scope he announced over the weekend.

The Monday conference call was organized by the Ohio Democratic Party to focus on Romney, but Strickland also offered criticisms of the other leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, as well as of Gov. John Kasich, who unseated Strickland in 2010.

News organizations reporting on the tax records Romney released early this morning said he will pay $6.2 million in taxes on $42.5 million in income for the years 2010 and 2011. According to the reports, Romney and his wife, Ann, paid an effective tax rate of 13.9% in 2010 and expect to pay a tax rate 15.4% when they file their 2011 returns.

Strickland, speaking with reporters Monday, urged Romney to release 12 years of returns, as his father, the late George Romney, did in 1967 when he ran for president. “Why 12? Well, in the words of Mitt’s father at the time, he said, and I quote, ‘One year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show,’ ” the former governor said.

Strickland said it’s important to understand the issue in the “broader context.” Romney has “waged his candidacy” on his private-sector experience. “But the truth is that he has spent much of his time in the corporate world bankrupting companies, outsourcing jobs and laying off workers to line his own pockets,” he said.

“And during his campaign for president, he’s made it clear that if he’s elected he will stand up for the big corporations and the wealthiest among us,” he added.

Romney “has certainly earned the criticism that he has received,” added the Seth Bringman, an Ohio Democratic Party spokesman. Romney is running on the “false notion” that he was a successful job creator in the private sector “when in reality he laid off workers and put profits over people in order to line his pockets,” he said. While Romney touts the 100,000 jobs created by companies he was involved with through Bain Capital, he doesn’t account for the jobs lost when workers were laid off or fired and plants were closed, Bringman said.

The Ohio Democrats’ spokesman also restated what has become a familiar party talking point, Romney’s declaration in a New York Times op-ed piece that the American auto industry should have been left to go bankrupt.

A spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party declined to comment on Democrats’ comments, and the Romney campaign did not respond to an email request for comment.

During the call, the former Ohio governor offered his thoughts on Gingrich and Kasich, both of whom he served alongside as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. When Romney made his “half-hearted promise” to release his 2010 tax return and 2011 estimate, it reminded him of when Kasich’s gubernatorial campaign, on Good Friday 2010, “rotated reporters in and out of a room on quick intervals,” and permitted only to view a single year’s tax return

Strickland further reflected on similarities between Kasich and Gingrich, who he described as “bright people with lots of ideas,” though sometimes the ideas are “not well thought through,” and “sometimes they appear to be a little erratic.”

Gingrich is a “hungry politician” who the former governor also described as “tenacious” and “strategic.” The former House speaker “has the ability to frame issues in a way that deflects criticism away from himself and is devastating to his opponents,” Strickland said. Still, he said, those skills will be “less helpful” to Gingrich in Ohio than in South Carolina, where he won Saturday’s primary, because Ohioans are more fair-minded and tolerant that the average South Carolina Republican voter.

The former Ohio governor also reported that he had a private, one-on-one lunch last week with President Obama at the White House, where they discussed Ohio and the upcoming election.

They also discussed the State of the Union Address, which Obama is slated to deliver this evening. H urged the president to discuss the need to revitalize American manufacturing, an issue he said he expects the president to address tonight. That could “really light a fire under people,” he remarked.

Strickland calls for tax returns

Ex-governor says Romney needs to be open with Ohioans

Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland on Monday called on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to release 12 years of tax returns before the March 6 primary.

Mr. Strickland, a Democrat who lost his re-election bid in 2010, used his own experience and that of Mr. Romney’s father as examples.

George Romney, a former governor of Michigan, released 12 years of his returns in 1967 because voters might think, “One year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show.” Mr. Strickland said he released four years of returns when he ran in 2010 and six years of returns in 2006.

He said Mr. Romney has made it clear that “if elected, he would stand up for big corporations and the wealthiest among us. He has also put forward a tax plan that benefits the ultra-wealthy.”

“What Mitt Romney doesn’t understand is that economic inequality in our country is a real problem. And middle-class Ohioans won’t think it’s fair if they find out they have to pay a much higher tax rate than what Mitt Romney pays. And they won’t think it is fair if they find out Mitt Romney is gaming the tax system by hiding large portions of his profits in off-shore accounts like those in the Cayman Islands and other countries to avoid paying his fair share,” Mr. Strickland said.

Mr. Romney’s campaign is promising to release his 2010 tax returns and an estimate for 2011 on Tuesday. Mr. Romney has said he “probably” paid a rate of about 15 percent for 2010.

While Democrats are asking Mr. Romney to disclose his taxes before the March 6 primary, Barack Obama did not release his tax returns in 2008 until three weeks after the Ohio Democratic primary. Hillary Clinton, for whom Mr. Strickland campaigned hard in the 2008 primary, released her tax returns a week after Mr. Obama’s.

Seth Bringman, director of communications for the Ohio Democratic Party, said one difference is that Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton were both senators who had filed yearly financial disclosures.

Dems: Meyer raised funds for GOP by speaking at Century Club

While Republican leaders maintain it’s appropriate for Ohio Inspector General Randall Meyer to speak at a local GOP fundraiser this month, Ohio Democrats insist that if he wanted to serve as a keynote speaker in Wilmington, he should have selected the Kiwanis Club.

Meyer’s participation with the Clinton County Republican Party’s Century Club dinner has since become the focus of a statewide controversy, resulting in some Democrats calling for his resignation.

House Minority Leader Armond Budish (D-Beechwood) said there is no room for confusion as to whether it was appropriate for Meyer to speak at the Jan. 9 event.

“He spoke at a GOP fundraiser — not the Kiwanis, or the 4-H or the Salvation Army,” Budish said. “His presence was designed, as with any fundraiser, to attract contributors to the Republican Party.”

But Senate President Tom Niehaus (R-14th District) disagrees.

“When somebody can come back home and talk about the work he’s doing, that’s not political. That’s basically what he was doing. He’s just sharing information on what he does. He could just have easily delivered that message to Democrats or any group,” he said.

“I think it’s a shame. I think they’re trying to manufacture something that doesn’t exist,” Niehaus said. “He was there speaking as inspector general. That’s not a political message.”

As inspector general, Meyer has the responsibility of serving as the state’s watchdog. His office is non-partisan and investigates fraud, waste, abuse and corruption within the executive branch of state government, which includes the governor, his staff, state agencies, departments, boards, commissions and any other entities appointed, employed, controlled, directed, or subject to the authority of the governor.

A spokesman, on behalf of Meyer, declined comment on the issue.

A Wilmington resident, Meyer was appointed inspector general in December 2010 by Ohio Gov. John Kasich. At the Century Club event, he called being inspector general “the best job” he has ever had. He is also a former corrections officer and former Wilmington Police officer.

Ohio Sen. David Daniels (R-17), who represents Clinton County, said the hype made out of Meyer’s speech is a shame. Daniels attended the event.

“Anytime a hometown boy will speak to a group is a matter of hometown pride,” he said. “I think the political hype is completely overblown. I think this is just an example as to how partisanship can truly take an innocent thing and blow it up and imply that there’s an impropriety. It’s just simply wrong.”

Geoffrey Phillips, chair of the Clinton County Republican Party, said inviting Meyer to speak here “was an attempt to allow him to share with his neighbors and friends his new position in state government.”

“Many residents from throughout Ohio and Clinton County have little understanding as to what an inspector general does,” Phillips said Monday night. “Randy and his wife paid for their meal. Our gift to him at the end of his speech was in keeping with the Ohio Ethics Law — we gave him a round of applause.”

But whether Meyer paid for his own dinner is not relevant, Budish said.

“What’s relevant is the fact that he made himself available as a speaker at a partisan fundraiser,” Budish said. “You can’t get any more partisan than a political fundraiser.”

Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, called for Meyer’s resignation due to the “unique position he’s been appointed to” in that, unlike senators, being non-partisan is an integral aspect of his job responsibilities.

“I’ve tried to look past the fact that he’s been a registered Republican for 12 years, looked past the fact that his friend, the GOP chairman, invited him, but one cannot look past the fact that, if the tickets were $100 a piece, he helped raise more than $10,000 for the Clinton County Republican Party,” Redfern said. “But, for those who would want to excuse his behavior, they show their hypocrisy in their defense of this kind of partisanship.

“The inspector general’s office has become an organization that is assisting the Republican Party and raising money to defeat Democrats. It’s as simple as that,” Redfern said. “He should be suspended, there should be an investigation, and the governor should take responsibility for this appointment.”

Redfern points to a News Journal photo taken at the event showing Meyer standing with Phillips and Sharon Kennedy, a GOP Butler County judge running for a seat on the Ohio Supreme Court.

“Meyers is standing with a GOP chairman and smiling next to a candidate in the race to defeat an incumbent Democrat judge. That photo tells readers all they need to know,” Redfern said.

The issue is not about whether Meyer loves Clinton County and Wilmington, Redfern said, adding that he’s not questioning whether Meyer is an honorable citizen of the city.

“The question is whether he should be charged for raising money,” Redfern said. “If it’s not a fundraiser, the Clinton County chairman should send the money back for every single check and apologize for the confusion. They’re making excuses for bad behavior.

“It calls into question his integrity and objectivity. I’m not questioning whether or not he’s a proud citizen or loves his hometown. I have no doubt about those, but I have many (questions) about the first two.”

Lordstown GM Worker to be Guest of Brown’s in DC

A Lordstown General Motors complex worker will be U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s only invited guest for today’s State of the Union address on the House floor.

“I’m very nervous, but what other time will you get to see the State of the Union address in person and get to visit the White House?” said Elizabeth Williams of North Jackson, who’s worked at the Lordstown GM plant for 17 years. “It’s going to be very exciting. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I couldn’t pass it up.”

Running an Empty Suit Proving to be a Challenge for Republicans

How voters apparently see Josh Mandel: The Man Who Isn’t There.

By late December before election year even began, third-party (non-candidate) rightwing groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Karl Rove’s outfit American Crossroads, the odious Concerned Women of America, and the 60 Plus Association had already spent almost three million dollars in Ohio attacking Senator Sherrod Brown.  The Chamber alone had spent $1.5 million.

Democrats Call for Broader Investigation Into Banks’ Foreclosure Processes

Congressional Democrats are urging the Obama administration and a House panel to conduct a more thorough investigation into big banks’ foreclosure practices.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) along with several other advocates on Monday said a proposed settlement of upward of $25 billion between federal and state governments and the nation’s five largest banks is wholly inadequate and ambiguous as to which homeowners it will help.

The banks have a “longstanding ugly pattern of homeowner abuse,” Brown said during a conference call with reporters.

“We’re urging the Obama administration to stand with homeowners to fight for meaningful settlement,” he said. “No one is above the law.”

Paid for and authorized by the Ohio Democratic Party, not authorized by any federal candidate or campaign committee. David Pepper, Chairman, 340 East Fulton St, Columbus, Ohio 43215.