Saturday, March 3, 2012

Mitt Romney's "Super" Friends Take Aim Through the "Restore Our Future" Super PAC

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By Lisa Graves

In the Iowa caucus race, the pro-Mitt Romney Super PAC called "Restore Our Future" massively outspent the candidate's official presidential campaign on advertising. The Restore Our Future PAC spent over $3 million in ads, primarily negative ads against Newt Gingrich, who was the target of more than 1,200 negative ad spots from this PAC and others in the span of about a month.

With so-called "independent" groups poised to outraise and outspend the electoral candidates themselves, the question is who is really behind this Super PAC and others unleashed by the U.S. Supreme Court's "Citizens United" revision of the First Amendment to allow individuals and corporations to give unlimited amounts of money to influence U.S. elections.

The PAC Is Run by Romney's Former Campaign Strategist Carl Forti

The pro-Romney Super PAC that carpet-bombed Iowa with ads against Gingrich is led by Carl Forti. Forti is the man who ran Romney's campaign for president in 2008. He was perhaps Romney's closest advisor and strategist when Romney placed second in Iowa four years ago.

Forti was previously Romney's "political director." To put this special role in context, Karl Rove was George W. Bush's political director and Rahm Emanuel was Bill Clinton's political director. The political director of a presidential campaign is the candidate's strategist and alter ego. And, now, Romney's former right-hand man is orchestrating the attacks on his biggest threats via the Restore Our Future PAC.
Carl Forti, Fried of Mitt RomneyCarl Forti, like Karl Rove but with a "C"Forti has also been described as "Karl Rove's Karl Rove." He has been a key player with Rove in creating American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, which intend to raise and spend over $100 million to help defeat Obama's re-election effort.

He has also aided two other anti-Obama, anti-progressive policy special interest groups. One is the right-wing alternative to the moderate to conservative AARP, known as the "60-Plus Association." The 60-Plus group, which reportedly is funded in part by global corporations, has repeatedly attacked Democrats with spurious claims about Medicare. He has also advised the so-called "Americans for Job Security," a group created from an effort of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to attack the rights of union workers. The watchdog group Public Citizen has said this group should be called "Corporations Influencing Elections," based on their primary membership and funders.

Forti also founded the "Black Rock Group," a PR and strategy firm that aids political candidates and corporate interests. His co-founder is Michael Dubke, who leads "Crossroads Media," which has been involved in some of the ads being aired this election cycle. Forti is also the former leader of "Freedom's Watch," a group that pushed Dick Cheney's miltary agenda.

The Super PAC's Treasurer Is Romney's Former General Counsel

Romney's former lawyer, Charles Spies, is also working for the PAC as its treasurer. Spies worked as Romney's General Counsel, basically his chief legal advisor, his consigliere, during his 2008 presidential campaign.

Romney's Former Chief Fundraiser now Raises Funds for the Super PAC

Steve Roche was the chief fundraiser for Romney's White House bid in 2008. He held that same position leading up to the 2012 race until last summer. Basically, Roche left his post raising money directly for Romney to raise money directly for the PAC supporting Romney. He made the jump after the Federal Election Commission (FEC) lost its bid to limit contributions to PACs making supposedly "independent expenditures" that advocate for or against a candidate in political campaigns in the wake of the far-reaching Citizens United decision.

The Restore Our Future PAC, along with other PACs, filed a boiler-plate statement last summer with the FEC stating that its activities would not be coordinated with the campaign and because its activities were "independent" of the campaign, the federal contribution limits did not apply under recent judicial dictates.

So, Roche moved over to the pro-Romney Super PAC where he can now raise unlimited money to be spent helping Romney win the election. Based on his leading role helping Romney raise money, Roche knows well who to ask for the unlimited pro-Romney donations the PAC can rake in now. According to MSNBC's investigative reporter Michael Isikoff, Romney also appeared at a fundraiser for "Restore Our Future," last summer.

(Romney recently expressed "concern" about PAC spending, but his solution is for political candidates to be able to accept unlimited cash directly, a view echoed by the Wall Street Journal editorial page).

How Much Unlimited Money Has Gushed in to "Restore Our Future?"

The total haul of Romney's former fundraiser, Roche, in his new gig seeking unlimited funds for the pro-Romney Super PAC will not be clear until reports are filed later this month. But, earlier disclosures filed with the FEC show that the Super PAC led by Romney's friends raised big bucks from a veritable millionaire's club of corporations and individuals. For example,

Restore Our Future received a million dollar donation from billionaire John Paulson, who reportedly got richer betting that the U.S housing market would collapse.

It also received a $500,000 donation from J.W. Marriott, Jr., the chairman of Marriott International, and another half million from Richard Marriott, the chairman of Host Hotels and Resorts. And, there were numerous $100,000 donations as well.

Additionally, there was a particularly controversial million dollar donation from Edward Conard (which was originally disclosed as coming from "W. Spann, LLC," a company that appeared to exist only to donate that million dollars, until calls for an investigation led to a "correction"). Conard is a former executive with Romney's old firm Bain Capital, the firm that specialized in "leveraged buyouts" of companies.

Restore Our Future also raised major money from for-profit corporations, such as Eli Publishing ($1 million), F8, LLC ($1 million), The Villages of Lake Sumter, Inc., in Florida ($250,000), 2GIG Technologies ($100,000), the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies ($100,000), Unit 8N ($40,000), and B/E Aerospace Inc. ($50,000).

The total raised by the pro-Romney PAC in the first half of 2011 was over $12 million.
Under current law, ads run by Super PACs and other groups are not required to disclose the main donors as part of the advertising, just the invented feel-good name of the group placing the ads.

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