Tales from the Trail

Ad connecting Romney to company in Medicare fraud case “mostly true”

Last week a public workers union launched a television ad that raised an old question about presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s connection to Damon Corp, a company that defrauded Medicare by the millions while under the watch of Romney’s private equity firm Bain Capital. Thursday, the Super PAC Winning Our Future, which supports Romney’s Republican rival Newt Gingrich released the trailer for a campaign video titled “Blood Money” that echoes the same criticism.

The ad created by AFSCME equates Romney with Florida Governor Rick Scott whose approval rating is one of the lowest in the country. Scott is the former CEO of the hospital chain Columbia/HCA that became embroiled in a Medicare fraud case in the late 1990s.

A narrator speaking over black and white photos of Romney says he was director of Damon Corp, which was later fined $100 million for medicare fraud. Romney’s image morphs into that of Rick Scott as the narrator asks, “Corporate greed … Medicare fraud. Sound familiar?”

PolitiFact, a fact-checking site run by the Tampa Bay Times, called the ad “Mostly True.” Although it is true Romney was head of Damon Corporation, which did defraud Medicare by the millions, Romney was never personally implicated, the site says.

See the video from AFSCME here, from PolitiFact’s site:

See the trailer for Winning Our Future’s campaign video (much more dramatic) here, from their Youtube page:

Candidates run Hispanic media gauntlet in Miami

The leading GOP presidential candidates, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, walked into the lion’s den today when they agreed – after much back and forth – to participate separately in a ‘Meet the Candidates’ event co-hosted by Univision Network, the nation’s largest Spanish-language broadcast news outfit.

Univision is considered Public Enemy No. 1 by many in the GOP for its strong pro-immigrant advocacy on issues such as the DREAM Act and the deportation of undocumented immigrants.

The network is owned by a consortium led by Haim Saban, the billionaire head of New York private equity firm Saban Capital Group, who is reportedly a close friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton and a major Democratic Party donor. GOP strategists describe him as the liberal media’s answer to Wall Street Journal owner and fellow billionaire Rupert Murdoch.

Presidential candidates take on Castro in Florida

Republican White House contenders took the race to win their party’s nomination to Florida this week, where they tried to outdo each other on topics important to Floridians–including what to do about Cuba, the small, Communist, Spanish-speaking island that has long frustrated U.S. foreign policy.

In a debate on Monday in Tampa, the candidates took turns lambasting Castro and current U.S policy toward Cuba, striving to curry favor with conservative Cuban Americans who make up the majority of Florida’s 400,000-some Hispanic Republican voters.

Florida votes next in a primary race that has already had three different winners and is home to the country’s largest Cuban-American community–many of them former refugees who escaped the communist dictatorship under Fidel Castro. A 2011 poll by the University of Florida showed that 80 percent of Cuban Americans believe a decades-long U.S. trade embargo on the country has been ineffective.

Washington Extra – Timed release

Right before Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich tangle in tonight’s debate, we are supposed to get details of Gingrich’s work for troubled mortgage giant Freddie Mac from his former consulting firm.

The disclosure could shed light on what work Gingrich did in exchange for $ 1.6 million in consulting fees. What it for his historical acumen, as he has claimed, or his influence in Washington, as rivals for the Republican presidential nomination charge?

It could be interesting fodder for the debate if it comes out by 9 pm EST. Or it might just disappear in the heavy news flowing from the debate, which suggests the former consulting firm is doing Gingrich a favor by coming out at this strategic time.

Romney presses Gingrich on Freddie Mac fees

Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is turning the tables on Newt Gingrich, putting the squeeze on the former House Speaker to disclose details of his financial relationship with Freddie Mac.

The Romney camp scheduled a conference call Monday morning to talk to reporters about Gingrich’s work as a “historian” (quote marks supplied by the campaign) for the government-owned mortgage finance giant.

Romney campaign surrogates former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Will Weatherford, Speaker Designate of the Florida House of Representatives, will be on the conference call — with the call code name “Definitely Not a Lobbyist.”

Gingrich rejects “open marriage” question, blames media

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich got the Republican candidates debate in Charleston off to a lively start Thursday night with an angry denial of charges a former wife made in an interview that came two days before the South Carolina primary.

Here’s an excerpt from the debate on CNN:



Ex-wife Marianne Gingrich accused the former House Speaker of week of asking her
for an “open marriage” when he was having an affair.

Here’s an excerpt from her interview with ABC’s “Nightline.”

Washington Extra – Home alone

When it comes to fixing the housing market in this election year, it’s a battle between the “ineffective” and the “do-nothing.”

President Obama’s relief measures for homeowners facing foreclosure have fallen far short of objectives. Republican candidates, meanwhile, prefer to let the marketplace work its magic. Prices will then hit bottom and begin to recover.

The hands-off approach might not cause too much damage to Republicans in South Carolina. But when the race moves to foreclosure-heavy states such as Florida and Nevada, Republican candidates could find themselves having to explain why they don’t want to help any homeowners.

Gingrich camp heads off ex-wife interview

The Gingrich campaign launched a preemptive strike  as news spread that ABC plans to broadcast a potentially damaging interview with Newt Gingrich’s second ex-wife  on  Thursday –  just two days before Saturday’s crucial South Carolina primary.

Gingrich’s daughters (from his first marriage) Kathy Lubbers and Jackie Cushman came to their father’s defense in a letter released by his presidential campaign.

“The failure of a marriage is a terrible and emotional experience for everyone involved. Anyone who has had that experience understands it is a personal tragedy filled with regrets, and sometimes differing memories of events,” the daughters said in the letter addressed to ABC News Leadership.

Sarah Palin: I’d vote for Gingrich “to keep things going”

Sarah Palin gave a qualifying endorsement of presidential candidate Newt Gingrich on Tuesday, a week after her husband also endorsed him.

In an interview with Fox television host Sean Hannity on Tuesday, Palin said that if she were a South Carolina voter she would cast her ballot for the former Speaker of the House in Saturday’s primary.

“If I had to vote in South Carolina, in order to keep things going, I’d vote for Newt,” she said. Using a quote from the bible she said she wanted the race to continue because, “iron sharpens iron, steel sharpens steel.”

Gingrich mocks Romney for speaking French

Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich may have backtracked from a recent campaign ad attacking Romney as a job-killer during his tenure at Bain Capital, but he’s still accusing him of another act that may nettle some conservatives: speaking French.

In a web ad titled “The French Connection,” a deep-voiced narrator describes Romney as a liberal governor who authored government-mandated health care and raised taxes in his state of Massachusetts but who now masquerades as a conservative.

The narrator says, “Massachusetts moderate Mitt Romney, he’ll say anything to win — anything. And just like John Kerry, he speaks French.”