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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Peter Luke: Northern Michigan rules the House for 2013

Published: Tuesday, August 14, 2012, 8:45 AM Updated: Tuesday, August 14, 2012, 8:54 AM
1571401665_ac5a6d6d67.jpeg(courtesy photo -- Bridge Magazine)
Northern Michigan has miles of pristine Great Lakes shoreline, wineries of growing renown, the Porcupine Mountains, M-119, M-22 and the world famous Mystery Spot.
What it doesn’t have much of these days are Democrats filling the region’s seats in the state House of Representatives.
In November 2008, Democrats collected 190,000 votes in securing seven districts stretching from Ironwood to Alpena to Ludington. Two years later, that vote total plunged to less than 96,000 and only one seat remained in Democratic hands.
Any chance the Democrats are to have in picking up the 10 seats required for a House majority next year relies heavily on taking back some of those seats in the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula.
bridge-logo-for-mlive.jpgNews and Analysis from The Center for Michigan
In their favor, the Democrats nominated in the Aug. 7 primary are facing first-term Republican incumbents forced to run their first re-election campaigns in a higher turnout presidential election. While the GOP candidates have plenty of cash on hand, they are also facing a broader group of voters less likely to be familiar with them, and more open to considering criticism of their voting records in Lansing.
Rep. Peter Lund of Shelby Township, who’s heading the GOP House campaign effort, said his party is taking a statewide, not regional approach:
“We are looking at a lot of seats, throughout the state -- seats we are defending, open seats and we’ll go after some Democrats as well. Wherever we see an opportunity, we will go there and play hard,” Lund said this week.
Scott Dandia, the Democratic nominee from Calumet in a 110th District that covers the western UP, said two main issues will make the difference in his rematch with incumbent Republican Rep. Matt Huuki of Atlantic Mine: education funding and taxes.
Both, he asserted, are examples of how Northern Michigan Republicans have failed to represent the interests of their constituents by providing critical deciding votes for an agenda crafted by Gov. Rick Snyder and downstate business interests.
Most school districts in northern Michigan receive the minimum foundation allowance of $6,846 in the current budget year. While Republicans boosted that to $6,966 for 2013, it’s still $350 less than in fiscal 2009.
Adjusting for inflation, the minimum foundation grant of $7,316 in fiscal 2009 would equal $7,825 in 2012.
While a number of factors are responsible for the decline, Democrats will try to blame the Republicans’ $400 million transfer of K-12 funds to community colleges and universities.
Northern Michigan also has plenty of senior homeowners living on fixed incomes, some of it from pensions. Dianda and his fellow Democrats plan to hammer their opponents for voting for Gov. Rick Snyder’s overhaul that applies Michigan's personal income tax to all or part of public and private pension income for retirees born after 1945. The tax package also scaled back the homestead property tax credit for homeowners with more than $21,000 in annual income. For seniors with $30,000 in income or more, the credit declines by some 40 percent. Seniors and others with more than $50,000 in income lose it entirely. The old cutoff was $82,650.
A House Fiscal Agency analysis of eight examples of senior households last year found that the income tax increases for the current tax year would range from $326 to $3,130, depending on age, source and amount of income, and size of property tax bill. Dianda said Republicans are underestimating the political fallout.
“We have a heavy demographic of seniors living in their homes and (Republicans) are raising their taxes,” Dianda said.
Republicans can counter that the tax shift from business to individuals was critical for boosting job creating and making Michigan more economically competitive. Democrats will counter by asking how well it has worked out, given 9 percent unemployment rates across the north. At 10.3 percent in June, the northeast Lower Peninsula region had the highest jobless rate in the state.
The GOP’s Lund declined to go into detail on which seats had his party’s focus for November, though he emphasized that there are vulnerable Democrats on the ballot.
“I’ve always felt we had the advantage, but we’re taking nothing for granted. So much can happen. … The math looks good to me, to everybody, but … we will not be caught off-guard. We are going to fight in every seat,” Lund said.
101st District will Tell the Tale
Any formula that has the Democrats taking back the House runs through the picturesque 101st District that runs along the shore of Lake Michigan from Ludington up to Northport. There probably isn’t a district that better illustrates the debacle the 2010 election really was for Democrats. For Democrats, the 2012 path to a 56-seat majority requires a victory in the 101st.
Rep. Ray Franz, R-Onekama, narrowly won the seat in 2010 with 19,386 votes, about 1,000 fewer than he received in his 2008 losing effort. He’s in the House because Democrat Dan Scripps received an astonishing 12,000 fewer votes in the 2010 rematch than he did in 2008.
“It is a targeted priority,” said Democratic nominee Allen O’Shea, a Copemish distributor of home energy saving products. “I have a lot of support from the caucus.”
After talking to those who write the campaign checks in the next couple of weeks, he’ll soon find out how big of a priority it is.
In its July filing, the Michigan House Democratic Fund reported $782,000 cash on hand, about $70,000 less than what they reported in July 2010. The House Republican Campaign Committee last month reported nearly $1.5 million cash on hand, four times what they reported in July 2010.
The six Republican incumbents who seized Democratic-held seats in 2010 reported $284,000 cash on hand in July. Their six challengers reported $120,000 with five of them reporting less than $20,000 each. With $37,432 in the bank, Franz had twice O’Shea’s total.
Even in the unlikely event Democrats regain all the northern Michigan seats they lost in 2010, they’d still be four seats short, assuming all of the seats they currently hold remain in their hands. So Democratic success also relies on the fortunes of four former Democratic lawmakers: Terry Brown in the 84th, Jim Berryman in the 57th, and Mike Huckleberry in the 70th.
The fourth? That would be Roy Schmidt, the Grand Rapids Democrat turned Republican in the 76th District, who, along with House Speaker Jase Bolger, unsuccessfully sought to rig the November election in the Republicans’ favor.
State of play
The House of Representatives has 110 seats, but due to population patterns and the political nature of redistricting, only a fraction of districts are actually competitive in the fall elections. These 19 districts will determine which major party controls the House starting January 2013.
* Key Northern Michigan contests:
110th: Matt Huuki (R) v. Scott Diandi (D)
108th: Ed McBroom (R) v. Sharon Gray (D)
107th: Frank Foster (R) v. Sharon Shumway (D)
106th: Pete Pettalia (R) v. Kenneth Hubbard (D)
103rd: Bruce Rendon (R) v. Lon Johnson (D)
101st: Ray Franz (R) v. Allen O’Shea (D)
* Three Republican seats being pursued by former Democratic lawmakers:
84th: Don Grimshaw (R) v. Terry Brown (D)
57th: Nancy Jenkins (R) v. Jim Berryman (D)
70th: Rick Outman (R) v. Mike Huckleberry (D)
* Other Republican-held seats to receive attention:
76th: Roy Schmidt (R) v. Winnie Brinks (D)
23rd: Pat Somerville (R) v. Tom Boritzki (D)
91st: Holly Hughes (R) v. Colleen LaMonte (D)
56th: Dale Zorn (R) v. Larry Crider (D)
52nd: Mark Ouimet (R) v. Gretchen Driskell (D)
71st: Deb Shaughnessy (R) v. Theresa Abed (D)
* Key open seats now held by Democrats:
67th: Jeff Oesterle (R) v. Tom Cochran (D)
25th: Sean Clark (R) v. Henry Yanez (D)
* Key incumbent Democratic seats:
21st: Dian Slavens (D) v. Joe Barnabel (R)
50th: Charles Smiley (D) v. Miles Gadola (R)
Peter Luke was a Lansing correspondent for Booth Newspapers for nearly 25 years, writing a weekly column for most of that time with a concentration on budget, tax and economic development policy issues. He is a graduate of Central Michigan University.
© Bridge Magazine, reprinted with permission. Bridge Magazine, a publication of The Center for Michigan, produces independent, nonprofit public affairs journalism and is a partner with MLive.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Ryan Choice

Ryan is not a firebrand. He's not smarmy. He doesn't ooze contempt for opponents or ridicule those who disagree with him. In style and tone, he doesn't even sound like an ideologue -- until you listen to what he has to say.
It's here -- in Ryan's views and policy judgments -- we find the true ideologue. More than any other politician today, Paul Ryan exemplifies the social Darwinism at the core of today's Republican Party: Reward the rich, penalize the poor, let everyone else fend for themselves. Dog eat dog.
Ryan's views are crystallized in the budget he produced for House Republicans last March as chairman of the House Budget committee. That budget would cut $3.3 trillion from low-income programs over the next decade. The biggest cuts would be in Medicaid, which provides healthcare for the nation's poor -- forcing states to drop coverage for an estimated 14 million to 28 million low-income people, according to the non-partisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.
Ryan's budget would also reduce food stamps for poor families by 17 percent ($135 billion) over the decade, leading to a significant increase in hunger -- particularly among children. It would also reduce housing assistance, job training, and Pell grants for college tuition.
In all, 62 percent of the budget cuts proposed by Ryan would come from low-income programs.
The Ryan plan would also turn Medicare into vouchers whose value won't possibly keep up with rising health-care costs -- thereby shifting those costs on to seniors.
At the same time, Ryan would provide a substantial tax cut to the very rich -- who are already taking home an almost unprecedented share of the nation's total income. Today's 400 richest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million of us put together.
Ryan's views are pure social Darwinism. As William Graham Sumner, the progenitor of social Darwinism in America, put it in the 1880s: "Civilization has a simple choice." It's either "liberty, inequality, survival of the fittest" or "not-liberty, equality, survival of the unfittest. The former carries society forward and favors all its best members; the latter carries society downwards and favors all its worst members."
Is this Mitt Romney's view as well?
Some believe Romney chose Ryan solely in order to drum up enthusiasm on the right. Since most Americans have already made up their minds about whom they'll vote for, and the polls show Americans highly polarized -- with an almost equal number supporting Romney as Obama -- the winner will be determined by how many on either side take the trouble to vote. So in picking Ryan, Romney is motivating his rightwing base to get to the polls, and pull everyone else they can along with them.
But there's reason to believe Romney also agrees with Ryan's social Darwinism. Romney accuses President Obama of creating an "entitlement society" and thinks government shouldn't help distressed homeowners but instead let the market "hit the bottom." And although Romney has carefully avoided specifics in his own economic plan, he has said he's "very supportive" of Ryan's budget plan. "It's a bold and exciting effort, an excellent piece of work, very much needed... very consistent with what I put out earlier."
Romney hasn't put out much but the budget he's proposed would, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, throw ten million low-income people off the benefits rolls for food stamps or cut benefits by thousands of dollars a year, or both.
At the same time, Romney wants to permanently extend the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy, reduce corporate income taxes, and eliminate the estate tax. These tax reductions would increase the incomes of people earning more than $1 million a year by an average of $295,874 annually, according to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center.
Oh, did I say that Romney and Ryan also want to repeal President Obama's healthcare law, thereby leaving fifty million Americans without health insurance?
Social Darwinism offered a moral justification for the wild inequities and social cruelties of the late nineteenth century. It allowed John D. Rockefeller, for example, to claim the fortune he accumulated through his giant Standard Oil Trust was "merely a survival of the fittest... the working out of a law of nature and of God."
The social Darwinism of that era also undermined all efforts to build a more broadly based prosperity and rescue our democracy from the tight grip of a very few at the top. It was used by the privileged and powerful to convince everyone else that government shouldn't do much of anything.
Not until the twentieth century did America reject social Darwinism. We created a large middle class that became the engine of our economy and our democracy. We built safety nets to catch Americans who fell downward, often through no fault of their own.
We designed regulations to protect against the inevitable excesses of free-market greed. We taxed the rich and invested in public goods -- public schools, public universities, public transportation, public parks, public health -- that made us all better off.
In short, we rejected the notion that each of us is on our own in a competitive contest for survival.
But choosing Ryan, Romney has raised for the nation the starkest of choices: Do we want to return to that earlier time, or are we willing and able to move forward -- toward a democracy and an economy that works for us all?

ROBERT B. REICH, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock" and "The Work of Nations." His latest is an e-book, "Beyond Outrage." He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Mitt Romney Set To Pick Paul Ryan As Running Mate

Posted: Updated: 08/11/2012 12:53 am
Paul Ryan Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney campaigns with Paul Ryan.
NORFOLK, Va. -– Mitt Romney will announce Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his running mate on Saturday, according to two sources with knowledge of the decision.
Ryan is a bold pick who will energize the Republican Party, but putting him on the ticket is fraught with risk and instantly puts Ryan's budget plan front and center in the 2012 campaign.
Romney will announce his choice in Norfolk on Saturday morning at the beginning of a four-day bus tour through key battleground states, the campaign said Friday night. The Weekly Standard reported earlier Friday that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has been asked to be ready to make the case for Ryan beginning Saturday.
Romney's alliance with the 42-year old Ryan has become the most dramatic development of the 2012 presidential campaign. Romney had been presumed for much of the last few months to be set on a safe pick, such as Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), or former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
But now, Romney, who is 23 years older than Ryan, will signal that he is willing to roll the dice. President Barack Obama's reelection campaign and Democratic political groups have been eager for Romney to pick Ryan, the architect of plans to slash government spending and overhaul entitlement programs that Democrats believe are political losers.
Both liberals and conservatives will be thrilled with Romney's choice.
Conservatives believe Ryan is one of the brightest, best young faces and minds who can cheerfully articulate a case for limited government while simultaneously arguing that a less expansive bureaucracy and a revamped entitlement system is the best way to preserve government aid and benefits for the poor, indigent and elderly.
Ryan's budget and his proposed changes to programs like Medicare will now be central issues that drive the presidential campaign for the remaining three months. It is one way for Romney to turn a campaign that has turned ugly and personal, often to his detriment, into a heated debate over policy.
The battle to define Ryan and his reform plan will set off a messaging war between Democrats and Republicans, the likes of which has rarely been seen.
If Romney were to win with Ryan on the ticket, he would have a mandate to make sweeping changes not only to the size of government, but to programs like Medicare and Medicaid that are products of former President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society program.
For conservatives, putting Ryan front and center will satisfy their desire to have a full-throated debate about the entire spectrum of issues that they feel are most pressing: the size of the federal government, the government's role in people's lives, the impact of the national debt on the middle class, and how to maintain a social safety net without creating a "culture of dependency" in which too many citizens receive government benefits.
For liberals, Ryan represents a chance to not just defeat Romney, but an opportunity to discredit, on the biggest stage in politics, the most wide-ranging expression of conservatives' governing principles put forward in recent political memory. Liberals will say that Romney and Ryan want to cut government spending in a way that will hurt the economic recovery and cut assistance to those who need it. Obama himself has already attacked Romney for wanting to "turn Medicare into a voucher program," a reference to Ryan's original proposal for Medicare.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Reports of confusion, frustration over voter ID law after Tuesday primary

Some Michigan voters were wrongly turned away from the polls last Tuesday after refusing to affirm their US citizenship.
But some other voters—and an elections watchdog group—say they also encountered problems with misguided enforcement of the state’s voter ID law.
Jennifer Gariepy she walked to her polling place in Warren to vote without photo ID. She said poll workers there told her she couldn’t vote without one—even though state law allows people without ID to vote, if they sign a legal affidavit affirming their identity.
“And [I said], ‘No! That’s not right. You can’t refuse me a ballot,’” Gariepy recalled.
Gariepy said the poll workers relented after awhile, and she did get did to vote--eventually. “I had to insist,” she said. “They weren’t about to volunteer that.”
Hundreds of similar reports came into an election protection hotline last Tuesday, says Jocelyn Benson, head of the Michigan Center for Election Law.
Benson, a former Secretary of State candidate, said there’s no evidence anyone was actually turned away from the polls due to a lack of ID.
But we do know of many voters who were discouraged, frustrated, and dealt with similar frustration back-and-forths with poll workers, because they were trying to assert their rights,” she added.
The voter ID law has been in place since 2007, and no policies or directives have changed since then, according to Fred Woodhams, a spokesman for Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.
“I can tell you that no policies or direction from the Secretary of State’s Office has changed regarding the use photo ID or the affidavit people may sign if they don’t have acceptable photo ID,” wrote Woodhams in an e-mail.
Woodhams said the Secretary of State’s office issued clear directives to local clerks and voters about their rights under the law. And he said the office hasn’t received any formal complaints about any of these incidents involving ID, though he acknowledged that misunderstandings may have occurred on the local level.
“Ruth Johnson fully supports the current law that allows people without a photo ID to vote if they sign the affidavit,” Woodhams wrote.
Benson says the Michigan Center for Election Law is compiling a report of the hundreds of complaints they received from the Tuesday primary. That information is set to be released next week.
State Republicans had pushed for a law that would have made photo ID mandatory in order to vote, but Governor Snyder vetoed it last month.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Mitt Romney Started Bain Capital With Money From Families Tied To Death Squads

Posted: Updated: 08/09/2012 12:21 am
Mitt Romney Death Squads
In 1983, Bill Bain asked Mitt Romney to launch Bain Capital, a private equity offshoot of the successful consulting firm Bain & Company. After some initial reluctance, Romney agreed. The new job came with a stipulation: Romney couldn't raise money from any current clients, Bain said, because if the private equity venture failed, he didn't want it taking the consulting firm down with it.
When Romney struggled to raise funds from other traditional sources, he and his partners started thinking outside the box. Bain executive Harry Strachan suggested that Romney meet with a group of Central American oligarchs who were looking for new investment vehicles as turmoil engulfed their region.
Romney was worried that the oligarchs might be tied to "illegal drug money, right-wing death squads, or left-wing terrorism," Strachan later told a Boston Globe reporter, as quoted in the 2012 book "The Real Romney." But, pressed for capital, Romney pushed his concerns aside and flew to Miami in mid-1984 to meet with the Salvadorans at a local bank.
It was a lucrative trip. The Central Americans provided roughly $9 million -- 40 percent -- of Bain Capital's initial outside funding, the Los Angeles Times reported recently. And they became valued clients.
"Over the years, these Latin American friends have loyally rolled over investments in succeeding funds, actively participated in Bain Capital's May investor meetings, and are still today one of the largest investor groups in Bain Capital," Strachan wrote in his memoir in 2008. Strachan declined to be interviewed for this story.
When Romney launched another venture that needed funding -- his first presidential campaign -- he returned to Miami.
"I owe a great deal to Americans of Latin American descent," he said at a dinner in Miami in 2007. "When I was starting my business, I came to Miami to find partners that would believe in me and that would finance my enterprise. My partners were Ricardo Poma, Miguel Dueñas, Pancho Soler, Frank Kardonski, and Diego Ribadeneira."
Romney could also have thanked investors from two other wealthy and powerful Central American clans -- the de Sola and Salaverria families, who the Los Angeles Times and Boston Globe have reported were founding investors in Bain Capital.
While they were on the lookout for investments in the United States, members of some of these prominent families -- including the Salaverria, Poma, de Sola and Dueñas clans -- were also at the time financing, either directly or through political parties, death squads in El Salvador. The ruling classes were deploying the death squads to beat back left-wing guerrillas and reformers during El Salvador's civil war.
The death squads committed atrocities on such a mass scale for so small a country that their killing spree sparked international condemnation. From 1979 to 1992, some 75,000 people were killed in the Salvadoran civil war, according to the United Nations. In 1982, two years before Romney began raising money from the oligarchs, El Salvador's independent Human Rights Commission reported that, of the 35,000 civilians killed, "most" died at the hands of death squads. A United Nations truth commission concluded in 1993 that 85 percent of the acts of violence were perpetrated by the right, while the left-wing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, which was supported by the Cuban government, was responsible for 5 percent.
When The Huffington Post asked the Romney campaign about Bain Capital accepting funds from families tied to death squads, a spokeswoman forwarded a 1999 Salt Lake Tribune article to explain the campaign's position on the matter. She declined to comment further.
"Romney confirms Bain had investors in El Salvador. But, as was Bain's policy with any big investor, they had the families checked out as diligently as possible," the Tribune wrote. "They uncovered no unsavory links to drugs or other criminal activity."
Nobody with a basic understanding of the region's history could believe that assertion.
By 1984, the media had thoroughly exposed connections between the death squads and the Salvadoran oligarchy, including the families that invested with Romney. The sitting U.S. ambassador to El Salvador charged that several families, including at least one that invested with Bain, were living in Miami and directly funding death squads. Even by 1981, El Salvador's elite, largely relocated to Miami, were so angered by the public perception that they were financing death squads that they reached out to the media to make their case. The two men put forward to represent the oligarchs were both from families that would invest in Bain three years later. The most cursory review of their backgrounds would have turned up the ties.
The connection between the families involved with Bain's founding and those who financed death squads was made by the Boston Globe in 1994 and the Salt Lake Tribune in 1999. This election cycle, Salon first raised the issue in January, and the Los Angeles Times filled out more of the record earlier this month.
There is no shortage of unsavory links. Even the Tribune article referred to by the Romney campaign reports that "about $6.5 million of $37 million that established the company came from wealthy El Salvadoran families linked to right-wing death squads."
The Salaverria family, whose fortune came from producing cotton and coffee, had deep connections to the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), a political party that death-squad leader Roberto D'Aubuisson founded in the fall of 1981. The year before, El Salvador's government had pushed through land reforms and nationalized the coffee trade, moves that threatened a ruling class whose financial and political dominance was built in large part on growing coffee. ARENA controlled and directed death squads during its early years.
On March 24, 1980, Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador and an advocate of the poor, was celebrating Mass at a chapel in a small hospital when he was assassinated on D'Aubuisson's orders, according to a person involved in the murder who later came forward.
The day before, Romero, an immensely popular figure, had called on the country's soldiers to refuse the government's orders to attack fellow Salvadorans.
"Before another killing order is given," he advised in his sermon, "the law of God must prevail: Thou shalt not kill."

In 1984, Robert White, the former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, named two Salaverria brothers -- Julio and Juan Ricardo -- as two of six Salvadoran exiles in Miami who had directly funded death squads, repeating in sworn congressional testimony a claim he'd made earlier as ambassador. The group became known as the "Miami Six." White testified that a source close to the Miami Six had notified the U.S. embassy of their activities in January 1981.
White was pushed out of his job by the incoming Reagan administration in 1981; he was considered insufficiently supportive of the Salvadoran ruling class. (D'Aubuisson endorsed Ronald Reagan in 1984.) When contacted by phone recently, White reiterated his claim about the Salaverria brothers, but said he couldn't reveal his source's identity in order to protect the source.
"The Salaverria family were very well-known as backers of D'Aubuisson," White told The Huffington Post. "These guys were big-money contributors. ... They were total backers of D'Aubuisson and the extremist solution, including death squads."
Alfonso Salaverria was a close associate of Orlando de Sola, a leading death-squad figure, and, like him, supported D'Aubuisson.
The Salaverria family also violently resisted land reform efforts. When the Salvadoran government seized about 140 of the country's largest farms in March 1980, 73-year-old Raul Salaverria was the only landowner to openly resist, the Washington Post reported at the time. A brief exchange of gunfire between government forces and Salaverria's people resulted in two injuries, and 1,500 weapons were allegedly found on the property.
Eight years later, workers in an agrarian reform co-operative whose land once belonged to the Salaverrias barely escaped an assassination attempt. "Members of the co-op suspect the former owners, the Salaverria family, were behind the violence," a 1988 Human Rights Watch report said. The family denied involvement.
Francisco de Sola and his cousin, Herbert Arturo de Sola, also invested early in Bain, according to the Los Angeles Times. Two other members of the de Sola family were "limited partners," according to the Boston Globe, but the Romney campaign declined to provide The Huffington Post with their names. The de Sola family was one of El Salvador's most powerful coffee growers and a financier of the ARENA party.
Herbert's brother was the notorious Orlando de Sola, who resisted the peace negotiations toward the end of the civil war. The Romney campaign acknowledges Orlando de Sola's connection to death squads but insists he is not representative of the de Sola family investors. While Romney told the Tribune in 1999 that the backgrounds of the families had been checked diligently, he had explained to the Boston Globe in 1994 that Bain's due diligence included only the backgrounds of the individual investors, not their family members. "We investigated the individuals' integrity and looked for any obvious signs of illegal activity and problems in their background, and found none. We did not investigate in-laws and relatives." Deflecting the association with Orlando, Strachan, whom Romney had charged with vetting the investors, described him that same year to the Globe as "the black sheep of the family. ... He was kicked out of the family business."
Yet there is strong evidence that Orlando was anything but a black sheep in the de Sola family. Indeed, he was a leading public face of the Salvadoran elites in Miami, speaking, for example, on behalf of the El Salvador Freedom Foundation, the organization which arranged a U.S. press conference for D'Aubuisson as part of its public relations activities on behalf of the oligarchs and ARENA. An Associated Press story from April 1981 includes Orlando de Sola and Alfonso Salaverria speaking on behalf of the oligarchs in exile. The story also makes reference to White's charges regarding the funding of death squads, indicating that the charges were already well known by that point.
But the ties run deeper still. In 1990, Orlando de Sola, D'Aubuisson and founding Bain investor Francisco de Sola allegedly assassinated two left-wing activists then in Guatemala, according to a report by that country's government, which cited its intelligence sources. The activists had just held a meeting with then-Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who was attempting to broker a Salvadoran peace deal.
Francisco de Sola later pleaded his and his cousin Orlando's innocence to the U.S. ambassador. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights looked further into the killings and concluded that elements of the Salvadoran right were indeed the mostly likely assassins, but said that it couldn't confirm the guilt of the de Solas or D'Aubuisson. It deemed the investigation incomplete and called for a deeper look. The three men were never charged.
Francisco de Sola is now president of the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development. His assistant, Ada Chang, said that he was traveling and unavailable to comment, but she confirmed to HuffPost that he had been accused of murdering the two leftists in 1990. Whether he committed the crime or not, the fact that Guatemalan intelligence would associate him with Orlando de Sola and D'Aubuisson, and place them in Guatemala together, casts further doubt on Strachan's claim that Orlando de Sola was merely a "black sheep" who had been "kicked out of the family business."
Orlando de Sola, who is serving an unrelated prison sentence for fraud, told the Los Angeles Times that he did not personally benefit from the Bain investments. "I would say their relationship with Bain Capital was a step to diversify into foreign investments," he said of his family.
Ricardo Poma was the first investor Romney thanked when he traveled to Miami in 2007. The head of the Poma Group, he became one of the three members of the Bain Capital investment committee, according to Strachan's memoir. The Poma family were financiers of D'Aubuisson's ARENA party.
The Regalado-Dueñas family, like many of El Salvador's other powerful clans, amassed much of their wealth and political power through the coffee industry. Along with the Alvarez family, they also helped to found Banco Comercial, one of the biggest banks in El Salvador.
The Regalado-Dueñas and Alvarez families were leading supporters of ARENA. Arturo Dueñas "regularly supplied" the head of an ARENA-affiliated "paramilitary unit ... with a variety of official Salvadoran documents," according to a redacted 1984 CIA document, which uses the euphemism for death squad. (Salvadoran government documents were used by death squads to assemble lists of people to kill.)
Miguel Dueñas and Ricardo Poma did not respond to requests for comment. The Salaverria brothers are dead, according to Ambassador White.
Jeffery Paige, author of "Coffee and Power: Revolution and the Rise of Democracy in Central America" and a professor at the University of Michigan, has studied the political economy of Central American oligarchies. Romney's claim to have checked out the backgrounds of the families and come away satisfied befuddles Paige.
"These people benefited from one of the most exploitative and repressive agricultural systems in Latin America. That's why they had a revolution," Paige said. "This money, certainly there wasn't much concern where it came from and what these people had done to make that money."
Sergio Bendixen, who now does polling for President Barack Obama, spent a significant amount of time in El Salvador in the early '80s, doing political polling for Univision. He said that he met D'Aubuisson on many occasions and found him to be one of the warmest, most charming and charismatic people he has ever met. But he said D'Aubuisson was also very upfront about what he saw as the justifiable use of death squads.
"There were 10 or 30 bodies in the street every morning," Bendixen recalled of his time there. "D'Aubuisson said it was necessary. The message needed to be sent [that] if you were associated with the communists or socialists, you had to be killed. He said it was an instrument in keeping the violence down, because others would see the consequences."
Bendixen suggested that a cursory look would have shown Romney what those families were involved with. "If anybody tries to tell you there was a line, a Chinese wall, between ARENA and the death squads, that's just not the way it was," he said.
The Salvadoran elite in Miami talked openly at the time, he said, of supporting the death squads battling the rebels. It wasn't a source of shame, Bendixen recalled, but a source of pride. "They were proud of the fact that they were supporting their country against the communists," he said.
As Romney now seeks support from the Latino community in his campaign for president, his knowledge of Bain's all-too-few degrees of separation from Salvadoran death squads may become a topic of interest.
"Under Ronald Reagan, the U.S. sent billions of dollars to the murderous regime, which utilized that aid to fund the military and death squads in an effort to preserve the unjust privileges of the Salvadoran oligarchy," said Arturo J. Viscarra, an immigration lawyer, who, like many other Salvadorans, emigrated to the United States in order to escape the civil war. He said his family left the country in 1980 after his father began receiving death threats.
"To now learn that a man that may become president of the U.S. deserves some of his success due to the incredible inequality that the U.S. helped to preserve in El Salvador is ironic," Viscarra said. "It's morbidly funny.”
The U.S. involvement in the bloodshed is now seen as a black mark on the nation's record. When President Obama visited Central America in March 2011, he made a symbolic stop at Romero's grave, lighting a candle for the archbishop.
Romney, however, has shown no public remorse for signing up such investors, although the concept of culpability is not foreign to him. When he returned to Miami in 2007, he condemned those who had financed torture and other human rights abuses during the Salvadoran civil war -- just not those he was connected to.
"These friends didn't just help me; they taught me," Romney said. "Ricardo's brother had been tortured and murdered by rebel terrorists in El Salvador. Miguel himself had been chained to a floor in Guatemala for weeks and tortured. And their torturers were financed by Fidel Castro. I learned from these friends about the human cost when Castro has money."


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Obama & Hubbard Yard Signs

If you want an Obama or Hubbard yard sign in the Alcona area you can contact Roger Love at 989-736-6516.

 Thanks Roger for all you do !


Democrats: Winnie Brinks will be on November ballot in 76th District

Published: Tuesday, August 07, 2012, 11:20 PM Updated: Tuesday, August 07, 2012, 11:58 PM
Nate Reens |
WINNIE BRINKS.jpgWinnie Brinks
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The only mystery left for Winnie Brinks – whose Democratic write-in effort for the 76th District state House seat succeeded Tuesday night – will be who she will face in November between Republican incumbent Roy Schmidt and write-in challenger Bing Goei.
Brinks said she amassed over 2,500 votes all but guaranteeing her name will appear on the general election ballot. Brinks said the party’s goal was to reach a 1,000 vote threshold.
“We blew that out of the water and we feel very good about it,” Brinks said Tuesday. “It’s been fantastic and I’m very optimistic about the general election.
“This tells me people are ready for something new and that they’re tired of the politics of the past.”
The Grand Rapids woman and political novice was thrust in to the race after Schmidt jumped to the Republican Party at the election filing deadline and Democrats were left without a candidate.
Brinks said she is humbled by the support gained in one month of campaigning.
“I think this is an affirmation of what we stand for,” Brinks said. “Whoever my opponent is, my reason for running remains the same – supporting education, creating jobs and upholding middle class values.”
“This is more than just a vote against Roy Schmidt.”
Schmidt, the two-time incumbent, appears to be fighting for his political life against Goei, who decided to take on Schmidt after the Kent County prosecutor said he and House Speaker Jase Bolger conspired to undermine an election.
Brinks had to get 5 percent of whomever gets more votes: Debbie Stabenow or the total cast in the Steve Pestka and Trevor Thomas race for the Third Congressional District.
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Gary Peters wins incumbent battle with Hansen Clarke in Michigan's 14th Congressional District

Published: Tuesday, August 07, 2012, 11:28 PM Updated: Tuesday, August 07, 2012, 11:32 PM
Democratic U.S. Rep. Gary Peters is poised to return to Washington for a third term after defeating fellow Rep. Hansen Clarke in one of Michigan's most competitive primaries.
Population loss cost the state a seat in the U.S. House, and Republican-led redistricting prompted a game of musical chairs that left both incumbents sitting at the same table in the new-look 14th District.
Peters, a Bloomfield Hills resident who generated early momentum with a series of substantive endorsements in Detroit, has captured 47 percent of the vote with 309 of 349 precincts reporting, prompting the Associated Press to call the race.
Clarke, a Detroiter who defeated sitting Rep. Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick in 2010, has pulled in 35 percent, followed by Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence (13 percent), former state Rep. Mary Waters (3 percent) and retired Magistrate Bob Costello (1 percent).
Peters will go on to face Republican challenger John Hauler in the general election, but remapping designed to keep other GOP seats safe all but ensures a Democratic victory in November.
Cited as one of the ugliest examples of gerrymandering in the nation, the district includes part of Detroit, the Pointes, Hamtramck, Royal Oak Township, Oak Park, Southfield, Lathrup Village, Farmington Hills, West Bloomfield, Orchard Lake Village, Keego Harbor, Sylvan Lake and Pontiac.
It is one of two majority-minority districts in Michigan, as required by Voting Rights Act of 1965, and Clarke's loss means the state will lose one of its two black representatives.
"The question is who African American voters want to represent them, not what race the winning candidate is," said Jocelyn Benson, a law professor at Wayne State University and former Democratic nominee for Secretary of State.
Benson, who was highly critical of last year's redistricting process, found a silver lining in the fact that Peters and other candidates were forced to woo both suburban and city voters.
"I remain highly critical of the gerrymandering that went into these districts," she said, "But the interesting thing is we've seen the 14th District candidates talking about the region and building bridges across 8 Mile. There could be, with the right leadership, a new approach to regionalism."

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Michigan U.S. Senate seat: Pete Hoekstra wins Republican primary; Stabenow up next

Published: Tuesday, August 07, 2012, 10:11 PM Updated: Tuesday, August 07, 2012, 11:14 PM
Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra talks to media at his campaign party in Pontiac.
Clark Durant loses 2nd bid for U.S. Senate
Randy Hekman concedes to Pete Hoekstra
PONTIAC, MI - Former U.S. congressman Pete Hoekstra was easily holding off a challenge Tuesday, winning Michigan’s Republican U.S. Senate primary and setting up a November showdown with incumbent Democrat Debbie Stabenow.

Hoekstra was collecting 54 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s Republican primary with 67 percent of precincts reporting, according to The Associated Press. Cornerstone Schools co-founder Clark Durant was at 34 percent, while Randy Hekman was at 7 percent. Gary Glenn had 5 percent of the vote, although he had suspended his campaign to support Durant.

Hoekstra supporters gathered late Tuesday at the Centerpoint Marriott in Pontiac to celebrate his victory.
"We will hold Debbie Stabenow accountable and say 'we can do better,' Hoekstra told supporters. "This campaign will continue to talk about solutions."
Hoekstra, of Holland, served in Congress from 1993 through 2010. He ran for governor in 2010 but lost the Republican primary to Rick Snyder, who then beat Democrat Virg Bernero in the general election.

Hoekstra, 58, has been considered the frontrunner on the Republican side of the U.S. Senate race, leading Durant and Randy Hekman in recent polls by wide margins. Until recently, his campaign was focused almost exclusively on Stabenow.
That included a controversial anti-Stabenow ad that aired during the Super Bowl early this year. It featured a young Asian woman speaking in broken English and thanking Sen. “Spenditnow" for sending American jobs overseas. Critics of the ad described it as racially insensitive.
Republican rivals also questioned Hoekstra’s conservative credentials, including his vote for the Wall Street bailout while serving in Congress.
Much of Hoekstra’s opposition came from candidates backed by Tea Party groups. But Hoekstra described himself as a “fiscal conservative” and snared some endorsements to help his credentials. Among those backing Hoekstra in the Michigan race were former presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann. He also had endorsements from Snyder and others.
Hoekstra supporters said they expect their candidate to survive attacks from his Republican opponents.

“He’s got a lot of experience. He can hit the ground running,” said John Chouinard, a Hoekstra supporter from Grosse Pointe Park. “I like his conservatism. I think he’s been painted wrongly as a big spender. He’s not.”
Hoekstra has emphasized his opposition to the federal Affordable Care Act, which critics call Obamacare.
Hoekstra will face a tough challenge in Stabenow, who is seeking her third term in the U.S. Senate. Her campaign is well-funded, and she has led Hoekstra in polls with hypothetical head-to-head matchups.
An EPIC-MRA poll from late July, for example, had Stabenow with a 49 percent to 35 percent lead over Hoekstra. About 16 percent were undecided in the poll of 600 likely voters, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
But now the matchup is real, and other factors will be in play. A key one will be the presidential election between President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Hoekstra would be aided if Romney, a Michigan native, does well in the Great Lakes State in November. But a solid Obama win in Michigan would help Stabenow.
Durant, 63, was making his second bid for U.S. Senate. He lost the 1990 Republican primary to Bill Schuette, who in turn lost to U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, a Democrat, in the general election.
Durant is a co-founder of Cornerstone Schools in Detroit and a former member of the State Board of Education. The Grosse Pointe Farms resident promoted himself as a Washington outsider, and his campaign had gained some late momentum when conservative Gary Glenn dropped out of the race and shifted his support to Durant. But Glenn’s decision came so late his name had remained on the ballot, limiting the effectiveness of the move for Durant.
Durant had been endorsed by former Republican presidential candidates Fred Thompson and Steve Forbes, among others. He also was backed in a late endorsement from the national Tea Party Express.
Hekman had served as executive director of CBH Ministries and pastor at Crossroads Bible Church. He previously had been a probate judge and assistant prosecutor in Kent County.
Mark Brewer, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, said any of the Republican candidates would struggle against Stabenow. He said each has pushed an agenda that would hurt the middle class while favoring wealthy business interests.
“After making promises to the extreme elements of their party during the primary, these guys are going to have a hard time explaining their out-of-the-mainstream agenda to Michigan voters,” Brewer said recently.
Email Tim Martin at Follow him on Twitter: @TimMartinMI