Thursday, May 31, 2012

Romney joins Trump’s reality show

Posted By on Thu, May 31, 2012 at 11:25 AM

Nearly everyone predicted that the silly season that engulfed the Republican primary would end once it was clear that Mitt Romney would be the GOP nominee for president. But Romney's duet with real estate celebrity Donald Trump tells us otherwise.

Trump has returned with another episode of birther babble. He has been saying on television shows recently that millions of people still believe that President Obama is not an American citizen because major questions about his birth records have gone unanswered.

I guess we shouldn't be surprised. Many people once believed that President Kennedy was living in a Dallas hospital in a vegetative state.

Regardless of what people believe about Kennedy or Obama, Romney's hookup with Trump is troubling. Trump is a Romney surrogate who has thrown lavish fundraising events for Romney, and his voice is heard on political robo-calls on Romney's behalf. Their relationship is a reflection of the kind of businessmen the two are, and it offers some insight into what kind of president Romney might be.

Either Romney knows that the birther stuff is nonsense or he believes it, too. He could gracefully distance himself from the party's more radical fringe, or he could denounce it. Instead he has become a silent partner, a co-producer of crazy rumors intended to bring down a US president.

Ordinarily, I would sing the praises of persistence. Persistence can often outweigh talent, and I have to hand it to Romney. He has been after this job for the better half of the last decade. But he's already shown that he'll say almost anything to win the election, prompting Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson to describe him as a "liar."

The association with Trump shows Romney will do almost anything, too.

And as the silly season continues, it's giving the American public a good look at what a Romney White House would look like, and who would be in there influencing policy.

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The high cost of national elections

Posted By on Thu, May 31, 2012 at 8:45 AM

The 2008 presidential election was the most expensive in US history. The candidates spent approximately $1.4 billion on their campaigns, with outside groups dumping in another $215 million, says data from the Center for Responsive Politics (

This year's contest will probably break that record. And the cash is going to flow for Congressional races, too. Outside spending will be one of the major factors.

A Politico article says that right-leaning independent groups plan to spend $1 billion on the 2012 elections. To be clear, the groups are looking at the Congressional and Senate races, too, not just the presidential contest; the article doesn't say how that many may get divvied up. Still, that's substantially higher than the $301.7 million worth of outside spending in the 2008 presidential and Congressional races.

In general, each presidential election costs more than the one before it. But outside spending grew at a higher rate during the 2004 and 2008 contests. And those elections predated the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. The ruling allowed corporations - and unions by extension - to fund ads and campaigns supporting or opposing specific candidates; direct contributions to candidates are still forbidden.

The decision's effects have already been felt in Congressional elections. Consider these figures from

  • Outside spending for the 2012 contests has already hit $134.4 million.
  • In 2010, where there were Congressional midterms and no presidential race, total outside spending topped $304.9 million.
  • To repeat, outside spending in 2008, which saw Congressional and presidential elections, was $301.7 million.
  • Total outside spending in the 2006 elections - the last time there were Congressional midterms - was $68.9 million.


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NEWS BLOG: Do we need a new train station?

Posted By on Thu, May 31, 2012 at 7:53 AM

I'm having trouble getting excited about the intermodal station.

The idea is to tear down the train station on Central Avenue, which was supposed to be temporary when it was built in 1978, and replace it with a new station that would also house intercity buses like Greyhound and Trailways.

The proposed design looks nice: it evokes the old Bragdon station and would certainly be an improvement over what's there now.

But the fact is, our train service stinks. Does it make sense to build a beautiful new station when we have so few trains running? Or when it takes you nine hours to get to New York City?

Because the train service is so bad, it's been tough to convince these intercity bus operators to locate in the new station, says Rochester Mayor Tom Richards. The bus guys see the trains as competition, he says, and not as a complementary use.

The hope, Richards says, is that the train service will improve to the point that the station becomes a draw. But the big plan to improve the service by building a high-speed rail system is going nowhere fast.

And I shouldn't neglect to mention that construction of the new station is not yet funded.

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