Listing to Portman

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The Grand Bargain marches ever onward. Lindsey Boerma of CBS News reports:

Republicans would be willing to tender more revenue in a deal to replace the sequester, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said today on “Face the Nation,” if President Obama showed willingness to make “structural changes” to entitlement programs.

Part of Congress’s bipartisan supercommittee tasked with crafting a plan to reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion, Portman said he and his colleagues came “very close” to striking a “balanced” compromise that partnered spending cuts with revenue to replace the blind, across-the-board cuts known as sequestration before they went into effect March 1. “The problem,” he said, was that Democrats’ proposal to generate revenue fell back on tax hikes, two months after the so-called “fiscal cliff” package upped income taxes on families making more than $450,000 a year.

“We had tax reforms [in the failed plan], which helps grow the economy,” Portman said.

Portman’s statement makes the distinction between “tax reforms” — lowering corporate tax rates while removing loopholes are the reforms currently under discussion — and tax increases, and the Obama Administration has more than once signaled its desire for tax reforms as well. And “structural changes” to entitlements frequently refers to cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid effected by altering the cost-of-living formulas, another approach the Administration has said it is willing to agree to. The difficulty both parties face is getting their members and voters to embrace the betrayals of principle the eventual agreement would require.

The one obvious winner in such a deal would be large corporations, whose taxes would be cut and who could subsequently lobby to restore any loopholes temporarily suspended. Perhaps not surprisingly, Portman, a Finance Committee member and former Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under George W. Bush, takes in plenty of campaign contributions from Ohio Republican billionaire investors. Portman’s number one contributor was the Cincinnati insurance and investment company American Financial Group (AFG). Until his death in 2011, Carl Lindner, Jr. owned and ran AFG; he was one of the richest people in the world and a prominent Republican donor, with AFG giving Portman alone over a quarter million dollars. (Lindner’s ice cream company United Dairy Farmers also gave $55,000, ranking 17th.) AFG’s legal representatives, Cincinnati firm Keating Muething & Kleklamp (KMK) ranked 12th. (One of its founding partners, Charles Keating, Jr., later served several years in jail as part of the Keating Five savings and loan scandal.) “Vulture fund” Elliott Management, an investment bank dealing with “distressed debt”, ranked third on Portman’s list, giving $115,000; its founder and CEO Paul Singer is another major Republican contributor. Likewise Mercer Reynolds of investment firm Reynolds, DeWitt & Co. (18th with $54,000) was George W. Bush’s campaign finance chair.

Investment and professional service corporations outside Ohio also look kindly on Portman. These include mutual fund mammoth FMR Corp. (Fidelity) (sixth), “Big Four” banking giants Citigroup (ninth) and JPMorgan Chase (11th), insurance multinational MetLife (tenth), and Edward Jones Investments (15th). Accounting firm Ernst & Young (seventh) and the world’s largest advertising company WPP Group (14th) also made large donations.

Many of his donors come from in-state, however. Cincinnati-based purveyors of pet food and personal care products Procter & Gamble (second) plunked down $179,000 for Portman, while Cincinnati laundry company and KMK client Cintas Corp. (eighth) may well clean up the sheets, towels and uniforms manufactured and distributed by Standard Textile (16th). Cleveland-based legal practice Squire Sanders (fourth), for whom Portman worked after resigning as George W. Bush’s OMB director, gave him over $100,000. Ohio’s main corporate law firm Thomspon Hine (13th), and Ohio-based BakerHostetler (20th).

Other contributors to Portman include the third-largest company in the world, General Electric (fifth) and real estate developers North American Properties (19th).

Calling Collins

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Start shopping for cat food — the austerity crowd in Washington DC is gathering to cut the benefits you’ve already paid for. As Richard Cowan and Steve Holland of Reuters reported yesterday:

Gene Sperling, the White House senior economic official, said on the CNN program “State of the Union” on Sunday that Obama was contacting to lawmakers to talk about compromises that could include reforms to both the tax code and entitlement programs, which include Social Security retirement benefits and Medicare health care for the elderly and disabled.

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An aide to Collins, a moderate, told Reuters that she spoke to Obama on Monday afternoon and they talked about “the need for a bipartisan agreement on several critical issues,” such as how to rein in the $16.7 trillion U.S. debt and the sequestration cuts.

Since Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) is being wooed by the White House in an effort to punish the poor even further, it seems like a good time to examine who her major donors have been. It’s perhaps not surprising that many of them are wealthy investors and corporations.

Collins’s top donor was credit card colossus MBNA, which was acquired by Bank of America in 2006. Other investment banks/financial services firms contributing to the Maine Republican include “vulture fund” Elliott Management (eighth) and Goldman Sachs (11th), as well as accounting mainstay Ernst & Young (20th).

Military aerospace contractors drop plenty of money into the campaigns of the Northeastern Republican, who sits on the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. She’s received money from General Dynamics (second), Raytheon (ninth), and the Hartford, CT, based United Technologies Corporation (14th).

Collins, who was lobbied heavily from all sides on Obamacare, also received lots of attention from medical industry donors. These included health insurance behemoth Blue Cross Blue Shield (fourth); physicians’ group the American Medical Association (15th); Groton, CT, pharmaceutical megabusiness Pfizer (16th); health care trade group the American Hospital Association (17th); and Hartford, CT, managed health care corporation Aetna (19th).

Other major donors to Collins include The Wish List (third), a political action committee devoted to electing pro-choice Republican women in the Senate and House; worldwide hoteliers Marriott (sixth); telecom player Verizon (seventh); international law firm Blank Rome (seventh); massive media conglomerate Time Warner (tenth); the largest pulp and paper company in the world, International Paper (12th); package delivery corporation the United Parcel Service (UPS) (13th); and mailing and shipping company Pitney Bowes (18th).

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Side note: There is no family relation (that I know of) between me and former Maine Representative Tom Allen, Collins’s Democratic opponent for the Senate in 2008.