I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody. — Barack Obama

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Bloomberg Businessweek:

GOP Candidates Demand Energy Overhaul As Obama Policies Push Up Gas Prices

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February 23, 2012


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GOP Candidates Demand Energy Overhaul As Obama Policies Push Up Gas Prices

Will last night’s debate determine November’s winner? Or will gas prices, unemployment and Obamacare be the real difference next fall?  

The price at the pump is now the highest ever for this time of year. If summer gas heads above $4 and even toward $5 a gallon, will voters be pondering President Obama’s renewable energy policies or will they remember how he caved to environmentalists by stopping the Keystone XL pipeline?

“The juxtaposition of the high gas prices and Keystone has (the White House) understandably nervous … they create a political narrative that Republicans could be successful in using to paint Obama as anti-energy and pro-high gas prices,” a Democratic strategist told Reuters news service.

The president is expected to outline an energy policy this afternoon in Florida at the University of Miami, where he’ll tour the Industrial Assessment Center that teaches students about reducing energy costs for small and mid- sized manufacturers.

It’s likely to be too little too late as the president tries to diffuse a potential political disaster as gas prices soar across the nation, including key battleground states such as Michigan, which holds its GOP primary, along with Arizona, next Tuesday. It’s also an issue in Ohio, one of 10 states scheduled to hold primaries on Super Tuesday March 6.  

The energy pronouncement is much like a string of recent election-year policy statements from the Obama administration. Earlier this week, they announced plans to try and cut the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 35 percent. The administration also wants to eliminate some tax breaks for the oil and gas industries while retaining incentives for renewable energy.

It’s all part of the “blueprint for an economy built to last” that the White House has been pushing this month, including his signing Wednesday of Congress’s extension of the payroll-tax cut through year’s end.

The administration has said the tax cut should provide an extra $1,000 this year for a typical family to compensate for rising energy bills. But that extra cash may not even cover higher gasoline prices, much less the higher electric utility bills that are expected because of more costly environmental regulations – politically damaging points that Republicans are pounding away at.  

At last night’s debate, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and others talked about revamping the nation’s energy policy far beyond what Obama is expected to discuss today.

The former House Speaker said America could pay down its massive debt by reaping $16 Trillion or more in royalties over many years by pursuing considerably more drilling for oil and gas – both offshore and on federal lands. Such an approach would make the constant threats to oil supplies from the Mideast much less relevant to American interests by the end of the decade, Gingrich said.

He also said energy policy should include substantial changes at the Environmental Protection Agency. Gingrich even asked the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday to investigate if the Justice Department “is deliberately abusing its authority to harass” oil and gas companies.

Rick Santorum echoed some of those same sentiments before the debate at a rally in Tucson, Arizona. The former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania said the president’s policies have helped create higher energy prices by raising environmental concerns for political purposes, a theme he has been repeating on the campaign trail.

“Folks are just starting to be able to breathe a little as the economy starts to come back a little bit, unemployment starts to go down. All of a sudden they are going to be hit with the same force of wind that hit us in 2008 in the summer that caused us to go into a recession. All because of the radical environmentalist policies of this president,” Santorum said last week.  

While no one will know for certain what Obama will say about energy until this afternoon, it’s a sure thing that he’ll raise plenty of money in Florida today.

Bloomberg News said there will be three fundraisers, two in the Miami area and one in the Orlando area at the home of Dallas Mavericks basketball star Vince Carter.

  • Some 450 people will mostly pay $1,000 to $5,000 each at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.
  • Lawyer and real estate developer Chris Korge will host a fundraiser with tickets ranging from $15,000- $30,000 for about 100 supporters.
  • Some 70 supporters paying $30,000 each are expected at Carter’s home in Windermere.

The take from these Florida fundraisers will certainly be better than the January income reported earlier this week by Priorities USA Action, a super Political Action Committee operated by former top aides to President Obama.

Priorities USA only raised $59,000 last month, according to filings Monday with the Federal Election Commission. The Washington Times reported that such a poor financial performance probably prompted Obama campaign manager Jim Messina to announce Feb. 6 that some Cabinet secretaries would appear at fundraising events for the super PAC, explaining that “we will not play by two sets of rules.”  

That’s drawn severe criticism of hypocrisy by Obama who often has spoken of the ills of “big money” in politics, especially the little-regulated super PACs, even to the point of dressing down the Supreme Court justices present for his State of the Union speech over the Citizens United decision that made super PACs possible.

To draw a comparison, the amount going to a fund with no limits allied with a sitting president drew roughly the same amount of money in January as the inactive presidential campaign of former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who dropped out of the Republican presidential race in August, and which, like all candidate committees, is beholden to strict contribution caps, the Times reported.

Perhaps another sign of potential problems with fundraising is the depth of anti-Obama sentiment.

Fox News reported last week that in the president’s first visit to Orange County, California since 2009 his motorcade saw several blocks of protesters.

One sign read: “Breakfast with Obama: $38,000. 4 Years Of Political Favors: Priceless.”  

Tickets to the fundraiser ranged from $2,500 to $38,500.

Some other signs read:

  • “Catholics Say No To Obamacare”
  • “Get Out Of My Way — I am a Business Owner”
  • “End of an Error”


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