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Romney Donors: Buying the White House, Selling Out the American Public

compiled and edited by Michael R. Burch

Follow the trail of money to the Waffle House. How do people without principles (other than making money) buy the presidency? By telling everyone whatever they want to hear. That, of course, explains why Mitt Romney has more flip-flops than Daytona Beach during a spring break wet T-shirt contest. Mitt Romney is the ultimate confidence man, selling a used Yugo by telling gullible voters what they want to hear: that it's "better" than the car they're currently driving.

Willard Mitt Romney is named after hotel magnate J. Willard Marriot, one of the best friends of his father, George W. Romney. At least twelve members of the Marriott clan gave to Mitt Romney's campaign, including the CEO of Marriott International, Bill Marriott.

More troubling is the list of big-money donors to Romney's campaign and associated PACs. According to and other sources, here are some of the main suspects in what might be considered the buying of the White House by the big banks, Wall Street investment companies, and hedge funds:

Goldman Sachs $965,140 (Wall Street)
Bank of America $844,734 (bank)
Morgan Stanley $768,216 (Wall Street)
JPMorgan Chase & Co $749,918 (bank)
Credit Suisse Group $588,841 (bank) 
Wells Fargo $524,601 (bank)
Kohlberg Kravis Roberts $480,000 (private equity/LBO)
Deloitte LLP $477,812 (financial advisory, risk management, tax preparation)
Kirkland & Ellis $470,672 (corporate law, tax planning)
Citigroup Inc $448,408 (bank) 
Barclays $426,800 (bank) 
PricewaterhouseCoopers $386,835 (financial advisory, risk management, tax preparation)
UBS AG $363,160  (Wall Street)
HIG Capital $362,500 (private equity/LBO)
Blackstone Group $354,725 (private equity/LBO)
Elliott Management $281,925 (hedge funds)
EMC Corp $278,450 (data storage)
Bain Capital $277,970 (private equity/LBO)
Rothman Institute $263,700 (medical)
Ernst & Young $254,875  (financial advisory, risk management, tax preparation)
General Electric $247,270 (huge finance division)

With the exception of EMC and the Rothman Institute, "all the above" specialize in what Mitt Romney himself specialized in: finance and/or tax avoidance. Why are these companies investing in Mitt Romney? Probably because they think he will help rig the game he knows so well to favor them.

Even more troubling is the list of billionaires who are contributing even more money to Romney through various PACs.

Sheldon Adelson and his wife recently gave another $10 million to the "Super PAC" backing Mitt Romney. In a campaign year of unprecedented contributions, Adelson and his wife Miriam eclipse all other donors. The 79-year-old billionaire chairman of Las Vegas Sands Corp, Sheldon Adelson emerged as the Republican Party's biggest patron in the 2012 campaign, pouring at least $47 million into Republican coffers. The Adelsons gave $5 million each to the pro-Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future, accounting for about half of the fund's cash raised from October 1 through 17, according to Federal Election Commission filings. The filings are the last disclosures before the November 6 elections, so no one knows how much the Adelsons will give, in full. Ironically, during the Republican primaries, the Adelsons used their massive fortune to attack Romney on behalf of presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, to whom they gave $20 million. Forbes estimates Adelson's fortune to be $20.5 billion. In September, Adelson told Politico he planned to spend up to $100 million, or "whatever it takes," to defeat President Obama. Adelson may have given another $20 million to $30 million to fundraising groups that are not required to report their contributors, according to Politico. Adelson has also used his contributions to push for a stronger U.S. defense of Israel's sovereignty. He is a director of the Republican Jewish Coalition and has called Obama's Israel positions too soft. Adelson is under federal investigation over charges that he violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in connection with his casinos in Macau, a Chinese territory.

David Koch, executive vice president of Koch Industries Inc., is chairman of Americans for Prosperity Foundation, whose sister organization has said it plans to spend at least $125 million in support of Romney and other Republicans this year.

Harold Simmons, pioneer of the leveraged buyout, had contributed $17.2 million, at last count.

President Obama, as evidenced by the 98% of his July donations that were $250 or less, draws from much more modest pockets. In July, of the $186 million cash Romney had on hand, only 14% came from donors of $250 or less. Also illuminating is the fact that, though out-raised by about $26 million in July, Obama had more than 100,000 more donors than Romney.

What seem obvious is that "big money" has unquestionably thrown itself behind Mitt Romney. And big money and corruption seem to always walk hand-in-hand.

Just three days after Paul Ryan got the nod as the Republican candidate for vice president, what did he do? Does he go to townhall meetings with voters in swing states like  Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida? No, he flew to Las Vegas, of all places, to meet with Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate. Why? Because Adelson has vowed to spend at least $100 million to defeat President Obama.

Romney himself held a fundraiser at one of the Koch mansions.

Romney-Ryan is a ticket paid for by right-wing billionaires on behalf of right-wing billionaires. Wealthy donors and corporations are more heavily invested in this presidential election than at any time since the 1972 Watergate scandal led to stricter campaign finance laws. A series of court decisions and regulatory changes in 2010 unraveled federal limits on donations, paving the way for a return of the big players. Now the billionaires are pooling their money in nonprofits, which keep contributor names secret, via "super" political action committees, which amassed $350 million through the end of July. One-quarter of that money comes from just 10 donors, led by Las Vegas casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based group that tracks such spending. Top Republican contributors say they back the party’s presidential candidate Mitt Romney because they agree with his small-government philosophy or oppose President Barack Obama’s new regulations on banks and the health-care industry. Yet Romney is more than just a political kindred spirit; he’s a sound investment.

Here’s how a Romney presidency might pay off—literally—for some of these super-donors. Sheldon Adelson, this election’s biggest spender, could see his casino profits soar if Romney cracks down on China. More than half of Adelson’s gambling-empire profits come from his four casinos in the Chinese territory of Macau. Adelson’s Sands China Ltd. accounted for $2.95 billion of the company’s total $5.34 billion in revenue in the first half of this year, according to its second-quarter earnings report. If the value of the Chinese currency were higher against the dollar—as Romney has demanded—it would give a boost to Adelson’s bottom line. That’s because gamblers from China, who make up the bulk of visitors to Macau’s casinos, would bring the same amount of yuan for betting no matter the exchange rate, said Grant Govertsen, an analyst with Union Gaming Group. So, in dollar terms, they’d be spending more. Sands officials were asked in a 2010 earnings call what would happen if China loosened restrictions on its currency, which may prompt it to rise. “It’ll have a big meaning in Macau, and, of course, we’re all in favor of that,” Adelson said. If the yuan appreciated only 5 percent this year, and just half of Macau gamblers changed their money from yuan, Sands China’s revenue for the first half of this year could rise by as much as $73.8 million. The Adelsons also are avid supporters of Israel, Miriam Adelson’s native country, and the couple joined Romney when he traveled there last month to declare his unwavering commitment to the Jewish state.

Harold Simmons, 81, may see Romney as a way to turn a money-losing company into one that could print cash with a single regulatory change. Simmons’s Contran Corp. owns 90 percent of the publicly traded Valhi Inc. (VHI ) The weakest Valhi entity is Waste Control Specialists, which lost $38 million last year, according to its annual report. It wasn’t a blip: Waste Control Specialists has lost money in each of the last five years, the report shows. Simmons has a net worth of at least $6.5 billion, by Bloomberg estimates. He and his wife have contributed more than $15.7 million to Republican super-PACs, including American Crossroads. That super-PAC is guided by fellow Texan Karl Rove, a onetime political strategist for former President George W. Bush, and has the stated goals of defeating Obama and electing more Republicans to Congress.

Romney has vowed to protect many of the tax breaks that John W. Childs, a Boston-based private-equity investor, and his company enjoy. J.W. Childs & Associates has invested in more than 40 companies since 1995 in deals totaling more than $14 billion, according to a company press release. Under the tax code, private-equity managers pay only capital-gains taxes on their firm’s investment gains, a rate that’s currently 15 percent. Obama has vowed to change that in two ways, by raising the capital gains rate and by requiring private-equity managers to pay taxes at an individual rate as high as 39.6 percent. Childs’s firm raised $1.75 billion in the last 10 years for its investment funds, according to Preqin, a London-based alternative asset data provider. Private-equity firms routinely take 20 percent of the investment gains, after investors reach an 8 percent return. Childs’s funds, which have taken over companies including Brookstone, Sunny Delight and NutraSweet, regularly exceeded that 8 percent, according to a person with knowledge of the firm’s returns who declined to be identified so as not to jeopardize his professional relationship. It isn’t clear how much of that income goes to Childs himself. The firm lists seven people as partners. Childs, who turns 71 this month, lives in Vero Beach, Florida. He has given more than $2.6 million to super-PACs supporting Romney and Republican congressional candidates.

For Charles and David Koch, owners of closely held energy conglomerate Koch Industries, Romney’s pledge to repeal the Dodd-Frank financial-regulation law could lead to less regulation and more profit at one of their biggest units. Charles Koch, 76, is chairman and chief executive, and his brother, David, 72, is executive vice president. They’re the seventh- and eighth-richest people in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires index, with a combined net worth of at least $70 billion. Their multifaceted conglomerate includes oil and ethanol refiners, pipelines, minerals and even cattle, all of which rely heavily on the use of physical commodities. The brothers are also major players in commodity derivatives through a subsidiary, Koch Supply and Trading LP, one of the world’s largest energy traders, which also deals in swaps for clients including hedge and pension funds. The Koch brothers founded Americans for Prosperity, which has vowed to spend $100 million on television ads and in a voter-contact program designed to motivate people to go to the polls for Romney and other Republican candidates who agree with their free market, small-government philosophy.

Other contributors of one million dollars or more to PACs associated with Mitt Romney:

Edward Conard, 54, a top official at Waters Corp. and Sensata Technologies, was managing director of Bain Capital — the private equity firm founded by Mitt Romney — from 1993 to 2007. He has contributed to PACs backing Romney since 2004, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

Paul B. Edgerley, 55, is managing director of Boston-based Bain Capital, the private equity firm co-founded by Mitt Romney, where he has worked since 1988.

Kenneth Griffin, 43, Founder and CEO of hedge-fund Citadel LLC.

The self-described "man atop the horse," Foster F. Friess, 71, a mutual fund investor.

John Kleinheinz, the owner of Kleinheinz Capital Partners, a global hedge fund.

Robert Mercer, New York hedge fund manager at Renaissance Technologies.

John Paulson, 56, president of Paulson & Co., "became a billionaire in 2007 by betting against the U.S. subprime mortgage market," Bloomberg News noted in February. Forbes said his net worth as of September was $15.5 billion, and that last year's "take-home pay" was $4.9 billion, "a record for the hedge fund industry."

Julian Robertson, one of the first hedge fund managers, Robertson, 79, was founder of Tiger Management Corp.

Paul Singer, 67, CEO of hedge fund Elliott Management. Stephens Inc., an investment firm. Steven Webster, Avista Capital, a Private Equity firm.

WASHINGTON—Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman doubled down on Sunday on his criticism of front-runner Mitt Romney, saying the former Massachusetts governor's "flip-flops" could cost him the GOP nomination. "I think there is an issue on the flip-flops as it relates to trust," said Huntsman, a former Utah governor and ambassador to China, during an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press. "I don't know if he can go on to beat President Obama given his record. When there's a question about whether you're running for the White House or running for the Waffle House, then you've got a big problem with the American people," he added. Huntsman pointed to a few issues on which he said Romney has switched positions, including abortion, health care and gun rights. Romney signed into law a bill that provided universal health care to residents of Massachusetts, but later criticized President Obama for a similar nationwide bill. He has also said he believes abortion "should be safe and legal in this country," a position he has since rescinded, among others. "When you have something as central as life that you flip-flop on, when you have the Second Amendment, when you have health care," he said. "You have a range of issues—on taxes, for example—that he's been on both sides of." Huntsman has repeatedly hit Romney for these position changes, including in two web videos that show Romney stating different positions while a monkey back-flips. Romney has countered by saying he has been "as consistent as a human being can be."

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