Tales from the Trail

Reuters Washington Extra – Behind the numbers

January 18, 2012

At last night’s debate, Mitt Romney said he’d be happy to release his tax returns in April. But today he disclosed a crucial piece of information as the clamor grew for him to come out with his returns. The frontrunner to clinch the Republican nomination has a tax rate that “is probably closer to 15 percent than anything.”

That’s a low rate, but it is in line with what is paid by wealthy Americans who earn much of their income from capital gains, which are taxed at 15 percent. So, now the number is out and we will see how American voters (and wage earners) react.

Another interesting number from Romney today concerned speaker fees, which he says he collects “from time to time, but not very much.”  Campaign financial disclosure forms indicate that Romney was paid more than $374,000 in speaker fees from February 2010 to February 2011. Not very much, if you are Mitt Romney.

The final numbers to discuss today come from our look into the PAC attacks. The pro-Romney Restore our Future is the champ PAC with $8.1 million spent in this campaign so far. Much of that went toward attacking Newt Gingrich. Restore our Future and other PACs have spent $7.8 million to try to sink him. Compare that to the $3.2 million spent by PACs against Romney. Watch those numbers change, or rather run up, this week in the final charge in South Carolina.

Here are our top stories from Washington…

Mitt Romney may not release tax returns until April

Republican Mitt Romney acknowledged Tuesday that his income tax rate is “probably closer to 15 percent than anything,” suggesting that one of the wealthiest people to ever run for U.S. president pays a much lower rate than most Americans.  His comment, a day after Romney agreed for the first time to release his tax returns — but not until April when they are generally filed — added fuel to his Republican rivals’ calls for him to be more transparent about his finances.

For more of this story by Sam Youngman, read here.

In presidential race, it’s the attack of the PACs

The election is nearly 10 months away, but the theme of the 2012 campaign seems set: It’s the Year of the PAC Attacks. PACs are pouring money into an ad war in South Carolina, whose primary is the next contest in the battle to face President Obama in November.

For more of this story by Alina Selyukh, read here.

US Republicans lack diplomacy in economy-focused race

Rick Perry’s comment that Turkey is ruled by “Islamic terrorists” is the latest gaffe by a Republican White House hopeful on foreign policy, which has been a minefield for the candidates vying to oppose President Barack Obama’s re-election this year. Whether it was former contender Herman Cain’s making fun of “Ubeki-beki-beki-stan-stan, Newt Gingrich saying Palestinians are an “invented people,” or apocalyptic rhetoric on Iran, the candidates have made a series of inflammatory statements that have drawn fire from allies and major trading partners.

For more of this story by Patricia Zengerle, read here.

Obama jobs panel pushes tax reform, US drilling

President Obama’s jobs council called for a corporate tax overhaul, expanded domestic drilling and new regulatory reforms, a set of proposals unlikely to provide a quick fix for high unemployment or gain much traction in an election year. A panel of business leaders advising Obama – whose re-election chances could hinge on whether he can boost the fragile economy – offered its latest job-creation prescriptions at the White House.

For more of this story by Matt Spetalnick, read here.

US top court rejects prayer, student internet cases

The Supreme Court passed up the chance to hear controversial new cases about prayers before public government meetings and punishing students for Internet parodies or attacks made on computers at home. The high court rejected appeals by local government and school district officials who argued that opening their meetings with prayers did not violate the constitutional requirement on church-state separation.

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

From elsewhere…

What Europe can learn from Alexander Hamilton

He was born out of wedlock, stained his reputation with an extra-marital affair and was mortally wounded in a duel. In between, Alexander Hamilton, the first Treasury Secretary, laid the foundations of a modern financial system by establishing a national bank, securities markets and the mint. In short, some say, the visionary ideas of this architect of fiscal federalism are exactly what a divided euro zone needs to extract itself from a deep debt mess that threatens the very survival of Europe’s single currency.

For more of this story, read here.

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

Photo Credits: REUTERS/Jim Young (Romney greets supporters in South Carolina); (Perry)

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