Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Oppo on steroids

November 15, 2011

Welcome to the new era of opposition research — one that is supercharged by SuperPACs and flung far and wide by Twitter. YouTube is soooo 2008.

In his Special Report “The golden age of oppo research”, our correspondent Tim Reid tells us that the combination of abundant money (post-Citizens United decision ) and great technology will take opposition research to a new level in 2012. Karl Rove’s  SuperPAC American Crossroads alone plans to spend $240 million on this election cycle, mostly attacking Democratic candidates.

For all those thinking about new job opportunities in this growth industry, think again. As a 32-year-old retired researcher tells Tim, this is a young person’s game, and “the hours are brutal.”

That said, old opposition research has incredible stamina. A dossier assembled by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy’s campaign when he was challenged by Mitt Romney in 1994 remains a rich source on Romney’s career at Bain Capital, where some of his takeover deals resulted in layoffs and benefit cuts. Count on the Democratic strategists to give new life to that old yarn if Romney wins the GOP nomination.

Here are our top stories from Washington…

The golden age of oppo research
“The hours are brutal,” but the rules are simple: Define your opponent early. Work as many hours as it takes. Get whatever you can on the other guy – as long as it’s legal and won’t come back to haunt you. “This is a golden age” of opposition research, said Jeff Berkowitz, who dug dirt on Democratic candidates for the Republican National committee from 2002 to 2010. The sort of search tools that discovered presidential candidate Joe Biden’s plagiarism in 1987 have become more sophisticated and the outlets to shop damaging information are now virtually unlimited.

For more of this special report by Tim Reid, click here.

Risks may blunt tough U.S. talk on China
President Obama’s sharp words on China may burnish a tough image but they carry risks as both Washington and Beijing face a tricky period of political transition. Obama used the Asia-Pacific summit in Hawaii to pile pressure on China, declaring it must play by global trade rules and act like a “grown up” — words bound to sting in Beijing, where the millennial sweep of Chinese history is a major point of cultural pride. But political analysts said the administration has few tools to bring China quickly to heel, particularly at a moment when the U.S. economy is fragile, the global economic outlook remains bleak and Beijing is America’s number one foreign creditor and third largest export market.

For more of this analysis by Andrew Quinn, read here.

Top court agrees to hear Obama healthcare law
The Supreme Court agreed to decide the fate of President Obama’s healthcare law, with an election-year ruling due by July on the healthcare system’s biggest overhaul in nearly 50 years. The decision had been widely expected since late September, when the Obama administration asked the country’s highest court to uphold the centerpiece insurance provision and 26 states separately asked that the entire law be struck down. At the heart of the legal battle is whether Congress overstepped its powers by requiring Americans to buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty, a provision known as the individual mandate.

For more of this story by James Vicini, read here.

For scenarios on what the ruling could mean for health care, click here.

Obama administration launches $1 bln healthcare drive
The Obama administration said $1 billion of federal funds allocated in last year’s health reform law will go toward innovation programs designed to boost jobs and improve patient care. The announcement is the administration’s latest attempt to show that it is working outside of a deeply divided Congress to create jobs. The administration will award grants in March to people who come up with the best ideas to lift care and save money for those enrolled in the federal healthcare programs Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

For more of this story by Alister Bull and Anna Yukhananov, read here.

U.S. deficit panel could delay on taxes
Lawmakers might opt to postpone tough tax decisions until next year as they struggle to forge a deficit-reduction deal over the coming week, congressional aides said. With time running short, the “super committee” of six Democrats and six Republicans could agree to some spending cuts and instruct their fellow lawmakers to raise more tax revenue by retooling the byzantine tax code next year, aides said.

For more of this story by Richard Cowan and Thomas Ferraro, read here.

From elsewhere…

A decade on, U.S. terrorism tribunals are bogged down
The beige-carpeted room where an al Qaeda chief appeared last week charged with blowing a hole in the side of an American warship looks like any modern court, with pop-up computer screens at lawyers’ tables and a judge in black robes presiding from the bench. But it sits in a warehouse-like building on an abandoned airfield at the Guantanamo Bay base in southeast Cuba, ringed by barbed wire and nestled among rows of khaki tents and trailers in an “expeditionary” compound that was never meant to be permanent. A decade after President Bush authorized military tribunals for terrorism suspects, the Obama administration is plodding forward with new tribunals at a glacial pace, hampered by persistent political and legal arguments over the procedures and principles involved.

For more of this story, read here.

For more stories from our Washington correspondents visit www.reuters.com and stay informed.

Mary Milliken
Washington Bureau Chief

 

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Brian Frank (A magazine signed by presidential candidate Herman Cain)

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