Mitt Romney on Government Reform
Former Republican Governor (MA); presidential nominee-apparent
ROMNEY: Regulation is essential. You can't have a free market work if you don't have regulation. As a businessperson, I need to know the regulations. You couldn't have people opening up banks in their garage and making loans. Every free economy has good regulation. At the same time, regulation can become excessive.
Q: Is it excessive now, do you think?
ROMNEY: In some places, yes. Other places, no.
Q: Like where?
ROMNEY: It can become out of date. And what's happened with some of the legislation that's been passed during the president's term, you've seen regulation become excessive, and it's hurt the economy. Let me give you an example. Dodd-Frank includes within it a number of provisions that I think has some unintended consequences that are harmful to the economy. One is it designates a number of banks as too big to fail, and they're effectively guaranteed by the federal government.
OBAMA: I directed the Office of Science and Technology Policy to ensure that our policies reflect what science tells us without distortion or manipulation. We appointed scientific advisors based on their credentials and experience, not their politics or ideology. Only by ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda, making scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology, and including the public in our decision making process will we harness the power of science to achieve our goals.
ROMNEY: I will ensure that the best available scientific and technical information guides decision-making in my Administration, and avoid the manipulation of science for political gain. And I will establish a regulatory cap, so that agencies spend as much time repealing and streamlining outdated regulations as they spend imposing new ones.
ROMNEY: I would put a ban on earmarks. I think it opens the door to excessive spending on projects that don't need to be done. You voted to the "Bridge to Nowhere." I think these earmarks, we've had it with them. The 6,000 earmarks that were put in place under Speaker Gingrich's term, for instance, were oftentimes tagged on to other bills. We've had thousands of earmarks. They are typically bundled on to other bills.
SANTORUM: You're misrepresenting the facts. What happens in the earmark process was that members of Congress would publicly request these things, put them on paper, and have them allocated, and have them voted on.
ROMNEY: And the president can't veto it?
SANTORUM: He can veto the bill.
ROMNEY: But he can't veto the earmark?
SANTORUM: Well, we tried to do that. I supported a line-item veto.
ROMNEY: That's what I support.
My agenda would make government simpler, smaller, and smarter. As President, I will repeal unnecessary regulations and restore our good credit rating. I will reduce tax rates and simplify the tax code, especially for middle-income Americans. I will streamline regulation, ensure the prompt review of projects, and order agencies to focus on economic growth.
I would pledge to do all that a President can to get America working again. When it comes to the economy, my highest priority would be worrying about your job, not saving my own.
"I personally believe that when campaigns spend the kind of money they're now spending, to get that kind of money you've got to cozy up as an incumbent to all of the special-interest groups who can go out and raise money for you from their members, and that kind of relationship has an influence over the way you're going to vote. And for that reason I would like to have campaign spending limits and to say we're not going to spend more than this in certain campaigns. I also would abolish PACS. I don't like them. I don't like the influence of money--whether it's business, labor, or any other group. I do not like that kind of influence."
As a presidential candidate in 2008, Mitt Romney pivoted drastically, abandoning his old anti-First Amendment stance and taking the harshest position against McCain-Feingold of all the candidates. He has called repeatedly for the legislation's repeal, and even labeled the bill "one of the worst things in my lifetime." Romney then advocated "reforms that promote transparency & disclosure, preserve grassroots activism and protect the ability to criticize or endorse current officeholders and candidates."
We certainly suffered from the absence of dynamic regulation in the 2008 economic collapse, particularly in the area of housing finance. While some outdated regulations had been eliminated, modern replacements had not been put in place. The wholesale failure at the federal level to revise and refine outmoded regulatory structures even as the ever-aggressive private sector sought out new profit centers allowed the risks in the system to overwhelm the collective good. We know the bill we have all paid as a result. What is odd is that some are looking to the same people in Congress as source of wisdom on how to avoid a repeat of a fiasco.
I asked dad whether accepting large contributions encouraged corruption; surely the contributors wanted something in return. He replied that not once during his three terms in office did one of his contributors ask for a favor. They were some of Michigan's most prominent citizens, and instead of favors, they were looking for good government. I'm not defending the old system; I'm sure it had its share of abuses. But so does the current one.
In 1994, Romney advocated a spending limit on congressional elections and abolition of political action committees. In 2002, he supported public financing of campaigns from a 10 percent tax on private fund-raising. In 2008, he attacked the McCain-Feingold law limiting campaign contributions as an attack on free speech.
A: First of all, it’s interesting to see how Washington politicians think about action. For them, it’s reaching across aisles and committee meetings and bills. Action, where I come from, means getting the job done, actually making things better for Americans. That means getting health care for citizens. It means balancing the budget. It means cutting out wasteful spending. It means creating jobs. That’s what I’ve spent my life doing.
A: Does anyone really think that at a time when our economy is struggling, that the right course for America is to choose somebody who’s never had a job in the real economy? Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama--and Senator McCain for that matter--have spoken about all the things they do, but they’ve lived their lives in Washington. [How can] a lifelong Washington politician guide our country & build our economy, without having ever worked in the economy? You see, I think right now, it’s more important to know how America works than to know how Washington works. I think we have enough of the politicians, and it’s time to have somebody from outside Washington--like Ronald Reagan was outside Washington--go there, shake it up, get it back on the right track.
A: I’m not concerned about the voters. I’m much more concerned about the other guys on this stage. It’s competitive information we make sure that we use for our own benefit. I made a substantial contribution. I can’t imagine having gone to my friends and asked them to do what they’ve done, going out and raising money in my behalf, without saying I’m going to put some of my contributions behind this effort as well, because frankly, it’s important. Given the contributions I made in this race, I know I owe no one anything. I don’t have some group there that I have a special obligation to that raised money for me. I’m by far the biggest contributor to my own campaign. People can count on the fact that there’s no nobody that can call me and say, “Hey, look, you owe me,” because they don’t.
A: There’s no question in a campaign of 200 staff that you’re going to have a number who are registered lobbyists. But my campaign is run by my team from Massachusetts, and this is very definitely an outsider’s campaign. Washington fundamentally is broken, and people in this country want to see change, and that’s not going to happen by somebody who’s been there, for whom Washington is a way of life.
A: Oh, I still think he’s a battler for change. He’s just been there 27 years and hasn’t been able to get the job done. He has brought some bills in place like McCain-Feingold, which hurt our party & I think hurt the First Amendment. He fought for immigration law, which I think was a terrible course, which said that all the illegal aliens that had come here illegally would be able to stay in this country forever. That was a mistake. Washington is broken. America is saying it loud and clear. You had in Iowa a number of experienced senators going up against folks that were new faces, governors, and the experienced senators lost.
A: I share the view of many past presidents that signing statements are an important presidential practice.
GIULIANI: The line-item veto is unconstitutional. I took Bill Clinton to the Supreme Court and beat him. It’s unconstitutional. What the heck can you do about that if you’re a strict constructionist?
ROMNEY: I’m in favor of the line-item veto. I had it, used it 844 times. I want to see Libby Dole’s line-item veto put in place. I’d have never gone to the Supreme Court and said it’s unconstitutional.
Q: Do you believe it is?
ROMNEY: I believe the line-item veto, if properly structured, passes constitutional muster. I’m in favor of the line-item veto to make sure that the president is able to help cut out pork and waste.
GIULIANI: You have to be honest with people. The line-item veto is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has ruled on it. I am in favor of a line-item veto, except you have to do it legally. If I had let Pres. Clinton take $250 million away from the people of my city illegally and unconstitutionally, I wouldn’t have been much of a mayor.
Giuliani did challenge President Bill Clinton on the line-item veto after he used it to cut a provision that could have helped NYC’s bottom line. It was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1998. Romney is also correct to say that he exercised his state-level line-item veto power 844 times. But Romney doesn’t note that more than 700 of those vetoes were overridden by the overwhelmingly Democratic-controlled Legislature.
The overrides total 707 of the more than 800 line-item vetoes that Romney issued. So while Romney did indeed veto “hundreds of spending appropriations,” as he says in the ad, he had little to show for them.
In the ad, Romney concludes, “Frankly, I can’t wait to get my hands on Washington!” If elected, however, he will find that his old job gave him more tools than the presidency. In Massachusetts, the governor can eliminate or reduce on specific line-item provisions in the budget. The so-called line-item veto allows a governor to turn down a single, particular spending measure rather than having to veto an entire bill. This is the power Romney used in his hundreds of budgetary vetoes. The president, however, does not have this authority.
A: This is one of those situations where I go back to my record as governor. I didn’t pardon anybody as governor because I didn’t want to overturn a jury. But in this case, you have a prosecutor who clearly abused prosecutorial discretion by going after somebody when he already knew the source of the leak. He went on a political vendetta. I’d keep the option open [for a pardon].
It is fair to say that SLOC was the most transparent organizing committee in Olympic history--perhaps among the most publicly accessible organizations in America. The public were in attendance at every Board meeting. We built a reading room at our own expense where the public could come to examine core documents. For all intents and purposes, we were naked.
I don’t know that I would recommend such transparency for every organization. But given the scandal that had grown out of obfuscation, the only way I believe we could have restored confidence was with disclosure.
Now, I'm concerned that the path that we're on has just been unsuccessful. The president has a view very similar to the view he had when he ran four years, that a bigger government, spending more, taxing more, regulating more--if you will, trickle-down government--would work. That's not the right answer for America. I'll restore the vitality that gets America working again.
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