Archive for ‘Newt Gingrich’

May 26, 2011

Jubilant Democrats demanded Republicans abandon their sweeping plans to remake Medicare on …

Dems rejoice over NY; will Medicare redo 2012?
May 26, 2011, 2:59 a.m. EDT
Associated Press
Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,
Hello Reader, What Party Do You Want Running The US Government 2013? Selection Poll B.O.Page!WASHINGTON (AP) — Jubilant Democrats demanded Republicans abandon their sweeping plans to remake Medicare on Wednesday after casting a House race in upstate New York as a referendum on the popular program and emerging victorious.

“The top three reasons for the election of a Democrat in one of the most conservative Republican districts in America are Medicare, Medicare and Medicare,” declared New York Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the party’s congressional campaign committee.

House Republicans made little if any attempt to demonstrate widespread support for their controversial proposal during the day. And the National Republican Congressional Committee offered no explanation for having let hundreds of thousands of dollars in Democratic-funded attacks on the proposed Medicare overhaul go unchallenged in its own television advertising.

GOP officials said the presence of a third-party contender and other factors contributed to their unexpected defeat in New York.

They accused Democrats of campaign scare tactics, while the Medicare plan’s author, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., released a five-minute video defending his work.

Under Ryan’s plan, for anyone younger than 55 the basic Medicare program for medical and hospital care would be replaced by a system in which insurance companies would offer coverage while the government contributed toward the cost of premiums. The program would remain unchanged for anyone 55 or older, including millions who currently receive benefits.

Kathy Hochul’s victory over Republican Jane Corwin in a multi-candidate race was the best political news in months for Democrats, who were voted out of power in the House and lost seats in the Senate last year in what President Barack Obama memorably dubbed a shellacking. She gained 47 percent of the vote, to 43 percent for her rival and 9 percent for Jack Davis, a former Democrat who ran as a tea party contender.

At the same time, Democrats stressed they did not view the race as a reason to walk away from high-profile bipartisan deficit-reduction talks being led by Vice President Joe Biden.

For Republicans, the New York race provided fresh evidence of turbulence for a Medicare remake they tout as a long-term answer to the program’s financing. In the weeks since they unveiled it, the proposal has been less than enthusiastically received by the public, judging from polls.

GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich criticized it, and while he later apologized to Ryan he has not recanted his opposition. A second contender, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, said during the day he will have an alternative that differs in unspecified areas from the one in the party’s budget in the House.

Israel and other Democrats said Hochul’s victory showed that the Medicare-overhaul proposal would prove a political dead weight for Republicans in dozens of races in the 2012 congressional elections.

It also is likely to embolden liberals who are not generally supportive of deficit cuts now under negotiation on the order of trillions of dollars.

Yet public opinion polls show strong support for reining in deficits, particularly among independent voters. And Obama, readying for his own re-election campaign, has dispatched Biden and other top officials to negotiations aimed at reaching a compromise with Republicans.

“Budget talks are proceeding in good faith and will continue,” said Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

The party’s second-in-command in the House, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, has said repeatedly that changes to Medicare should be on the table as part of deficit reduction talks, although he and others in his party remain implacably opposed to the Republicans proposal.

In an interview, Israel said Democrats would work with Republicans to strengthen Medicare “but not to do away with it.”

Republicans want “to end Medicare as we know it,” the president told an audience of invited guests last month, Ryan and other GOP lawmakers among them.

Democratic strategists have privately urged the party’s leaders to criticize the overhaul plan, in part to try and regain the allegiance of older and independent voters who helped Republicans in the 2010 elections.

Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, chair of the Senate Democratic campaign organization, said she, too, intended to make use of the issue in the fall.

“I’m confident that Senate Democrats will be able to play offense in races across the country by remaining focused on the Republican effort to end Medicare in order to” cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans and big corporations, she said.

In the race in New York, Hochul injected the GOP Medicare plan into the campaign weeks ago. Running in a conservative district, she aired ads saying she wanted to reduce government spending while accusing Corwin of favoring Medicare cuts to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.

Corwin quickly counterattacked, accusing Hochul of wanting to cut Social Security as well as Medicare.

Both the Democratic campaign committee and the House Majority PAC, an outside group aligned with the Democrats, also aired ads critical of the GOP Medicare plan.

But the National Republican Congressional Committee did not mention the issue in running as much as $400,000 worth of television advertising in the district around Buffalo and Rochester. Instead, the group ran a commercial linking Hochul to Pelosi, an echo of the type of ad that proved effective in the 2010 campaigns.

Paul Lindsay, a spokesman, declined to say whether the organization wished it had acted differently. But in the future, he said, “Republicans will take this result as a call to action to challenge Democrats at every turn on their irresponsible plan to bankrupt Medicare.”

American Crossroads, an organization aligned with Republicans, spent more than $600,000 on television ads without seeking to counter the Democratic attacks.

Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman, said polling showed Medicare was the largest policy issue in the campaign “by a superslim and superlow plurality of 21 percent.”

He said one out of five voters said it was the most important issue, yet five out of ten voted for Hochul. “When you look at it that way, it’s really not the big deal that everyone made it out to be.”

Hochul will be sworn in within days, the first Democrat to represent the district in four decades. She replaces Chris Lee, who resigned after shirtless photos he sent to a woman he’d flirted with on Craigslist surfaced online.

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May 20, 2011

Tim Pawlenty: A laid-back Midwestern Republican is running for president and will declare his candidacy on …

APNewsBreak: Aide: Pawlenty running for president
May 20, 2011, 2:49 p.m. EDT
Associated Press

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a laid-back Midwestern Republican who governed a Democratic-leaning state, is running for president and will declare his candidacy on Monday in the leadoff caucus state of Iowa, an adviser told The Associated Press.

The adviser, who disclosed the plans on the condition of anonymity in advance of next week’s announcement, said Pawlenty will formally enter the race during a town hall-style event in Des Moines, Iowa.

He’s choosing to make his long-expected bid official in a critical state in his path to the GOP nomination. Advisers acknowledge that Pawlenty, 50, must win or turn in a strong showing during next winter’s caucuses in the neighboring state of Iowa to have any chance of becoming the Republican who will challenge President Barack Obama, a Democrat, next November.

After Monday’s announcement, he will head to Florida, New Hampshire, New York and Washington, D.C.

The move is no surprise.

Pawlenty been laying the groundwork for a national campaign since John McCain passed him over in 2008 as his vice presidential nominee. He has worked to boost his national profile, assemble a staff, travel the country and build a fundraising network, all while positioning himself as a Republican with a record of resisting increases in taxes and government spending. He left the governor’s post in January and he took the first step toward the presidency two months later by setting up an exploratory committee.

In the early stages of the campaign, he has struggled to raise his standing in polls or attract a niche constituency as Republicans with more star power — former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and celebrity businessman Donald Trump — dangled themselves as possible candidates, only to opt out of bids.

Pawlenty has some big obstacles as he seeks the GOP nomination in a wide-open field.

He is not nearly as well known nationally as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich and even libertarian-leaning Texas Rep. Ron Paul. And others with even bigger names — Sarah Palin — still may enter the fray. So too may a fellow Minnesotan, Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is a darling of the tea party and has indicated she’s likely to launch a campaign soon.

The low-key Pawlenty also is fighting an impression at least within the GOP establishment that he’s too bland to excite voters. He also has no personal wealth and isn’t uniquely aligned with any one Republican faction — like social conservatives or fiscal Republicans — as are other candidates.

But in a GOP field with no clear favorite, Pawlenty hopes that he can cobble together a winning coalition of voters by attracting a wide array of Republicans, from religious conservatives to tea party adherents to establishment figures. As he travels the country, he boasts of reining in state spending and blocking tax hikes during two terms as Minnesota’s governor, as well as stressing his working-class roots and evangelical Christian faith.

“I’m the only candidate in the field who can unite the whole Republican Party, not just one part of it, in a genuine and authentic way, and then go out an appeal to the whole country,” Pawlenty said this week before a fundraiser in Minnesota.

He points to his record in Minnesota as proof that he can have appeal across the ideological spectrum.

Pawlenty, who passed up an opportunity to run for a third term as governor to seek the presidency, won the governors’ office twice without a majority of the vote in races that included third-party candidates. During his tenure, Pawlenty had to contend with a Legislature that was partly or fully controlled by Democrats the eight years he was governor.

Minnesota’s divided government led to repeated legislative battles and a partial government shutdown one year. Pawlenty also frequently vetoed tax and spending bills, earning a reputation in the GOP as a fiscal conservative. He pleased social conservatives as well by signing new abortion restrictions and laws favored by pro-gun groups.

But some of his past actions also have drawn tea party skepticism.

Even some Republicans flinched when he used billions in federal stimulus dollars and once agreed to hike state cigarette charges to balance Minnesota’s budget. And Democrats pound him frequently over the $5 billion deficit his Minnesota successor is coping with for the upcoming state budget, although the state will turn a small surplus this summer when the last fiscal year under Pawlenty’s direct control ends.

Pawlenty’s former embrace of energy policies scorned by conservatives — such as a cap-and-trade system to limit emissions of greenhouse gases — have also been problematic. Pawlenty has disavowed his former stance and apologized for the “clunker” in his record.

Even so, it’s not his record that’s likely to be his biggest challenge. It’s being heard in a crowded field.

Part of the reason: unlike others, he typically shies from the caustic comments and headline-grabbing issues. It’s part of a strategy to come off as a serious-minded candidate in sober times. But his approach has also played into the characterization of him as dull.

Advisers hope that Pawlenty’s ability to connect with small crowds in diners and living rooms will help him win over skeptics in the places where he needs to shine — Iowa and New Hampshire, where voters demand their candidates engage in that type of retail politics. He’s somewhat of a natural at it. He’s good with small talk, often makes goofy poses in keepsake photos and sticks around to shake all hands, helping explain why he’s notoriously behind schedule.

In those settings, he discusses not just what he’d do for the country but also much about his personal story: his boyhood in a blue-collar household in a meatpacking town, his mother’s death of cancer in his teen years. As an adult, he went on to a white-collar job as a lawyer and set down a political path took him from a suburban city hall to a seat in the state Legislature to, eventually, the governor’s post.

“He is doing the soft sell and the soft sell works in the long run,” said Andy Brehm, a Republican strategist in Minnesota. “This is an entirely self-made guy. I don’t think you could ask for a better spokesman for the free market ideas. He’s worked himself up really from nothing.”

Pawlenty and his wife, Mary, a former judge, have two teenage daughters, Anna and Mara.

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May 19, 2011

Republicans looking to unseat President Barack Obama charged Thursday that he …

Romney: Obama ‘threw Israel under the bus’
May 19, 2011, 9:35 p.m. EDT
Associated Press

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

Owner and Founder of: http://www.LedSomeBioMetrics.com

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HANOVER, N.H. (AP) — Republicans looking to unseat President Barack Obama charged Thursday that he undermined the sensitive and delicate negotiations for Middle East peace with his outline for resumed talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said Obama, whom he served as U.S. ambassador to China until last month, undercut an opportunity for Israelis and Palestinians to build trust. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Obama “threw Israel under the bus” and handed the Palestinians a victory even before negotiations between the parties could resume. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called it “the most dangerous speech ever made by an American president for the survival of Israel.”

Foreign policy has hardly been the center of the debate among the still-forming GOP presidential field. Instead, the candidates and potential candidates have kept their focus — like the country’s — on domestic issues that are weighing on voters and their pocketbooks. Obama’s speech provided one of the first opportunities for Republicans to assert their foreign policy differences with Obama and his Democratic administration.

Obama endorsed Palestinians’ demands for the borders of its future state based on 1967 borders — before the Six Day War in which Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. That was a significant shift in U.S. foreign policy.

Campaigning here in the state that hosts the first presidential nominating primary, Huntsman also said the United States should respect Israel and work to foster trust between Israelis and Palestinians.

“If we respect and recognize Israel as the ally that it is, we probably ought to listen to what they think is best,” said Huntsman, who served in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush before surprising his party and serving Obama, a Democrat.

He acknowledged he didn’t watch Obama’s speech and was reacting to news coverage — or, as he called it, “the aftermath.”

“It is disrespectful of Israel for America to dictate negotiating terms to our ally,” Romney said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It is not appropriate for the president to dictate the terms.”

Instead, the United States should work with Israel to push for peace without acceding to the Palestinians, he said.

Gingrich said Israel simply cannot go back to the 1967 borders and expect to remain secure, given technological advancements that would allow its enemies to fire rockets deeper into the state.

“Get a map of the region and look at what Hamas does in firing missiles into Israel,” Gingrich told The Associated Press. “The president should have said that Hamas has to abandon its determination to destroy Israel.”

Obama urged Israel to accept that it can never have a truly peaceful nation based on “permanent occupation.” That follows what other Republicans have painted as hostility from this administration toward a stalwart ally in the Middle East.

“The current administration needs to come to terms with its confused and dangerous foreign policy soon, as clarity and security are the necessary conditions of any serious and coherent American set of policies,” Santorum said in a statement.

Obama’s speech at the State Department addressed the uprisings sweeping the Arab world. Speaking to audiences abroad and at home, he sought to leave no doubt that the U.S. stands behind the protesters who have swelled from nation to nation across the Middle East and North Africa.

“We know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security; history and faith,” the president said.

But the remarks only muddied things, especially on the dicey issue of Jerusalem, said former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

“The city of Jerusalem must never be re-divided,” Pawlenty said. “At this time of upheaval in the Middle East, it’s never been more important for America to stand strong for Israel and for a united Jerusalem.”

Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a tea party favorite who is leaning toward a run, called the border suggestions “a shocking display of betrayal” to Israel.

“Today President Barack Obama has again indicated that his policy towards Israel is to blame Israel first,” she said in a statement.

On Twitter, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin didn’t directly address the speech but urged Obama to publicly welcome Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instead of ushering him into private meetings away from reporters, as has occurred on Netanyahu’s previous visits. The two leaders will talk Friday at the White House.

“Dear Mr. President, please allow our ally, PM Netanyahu, to respectfully arrive through the front door this time. Thanks, Concerned Americans,” she tweeted.

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May 19, 2011

Newt Gingrich: says in Iowa, stop his campaign is fine …

Gingrich says in Iowa stop his campaign is fine
May 19, 2011, 5:28 p.m. EDT
Associated Press

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

Owner and Founder of: http://www.LedSomeBioMetrics.com

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WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Thursday he’ll use “cheerful persistence” to overcome the bumps that marked the first formal week of his campaign.

Gingrich said he isn’t surprised by the rough start to his campaign, ranging from Republican outrage at his description of a proposed House overhaul of Medicare as “right-wing social engineering” to being showered with glitter by a gay-rights activist in Minneapolis.

“My reaction is if you’re the candidate of very dramatic change, it you’re the candidate of really new ideas, you have to assume there’s a certain amount of clutter and confusion and it takes a while to sort it all out, because you are doing something different,” Gingrich told reporters after he opened an intense three-day campaign swing in Iowa.

Despite speculation that Gingrich might not be able to overcome his first week stumbles, especially the Medicare comment that ended in him apologizing to Rep. Paul Ryan — the force behind the plan — Gingrich told about 150 people in Waterloo that his campaign was fine.

“This campaign is very alive and very well with lots of grass-roots support,” Gingrich told the crowd. “It’s been a little bit of a challenging week.”

Few in the crowd seemed worried about the controversy, and they gave him a warm response with many lingering to have their photographs taken with him.

“We’ve had larger crowds everywhere,” said Gingrich, noting that Thursday’s event had to be moved to a bigger room because of the number of people who turned up. He said his brash talks and bold approach are the hallmarks of his appeal.

Part of his problem, Gingrich said, is the media is accustomed to politicians sticking to talking points and aren’t prepared for his wide-ranging views.

“If you give them the standard three points, they know how to write down the standard three points,” said Gingrich. “If you’re careful and really cautious and repeat robotically everything that you’ve memorized, then fine, but how do you get to real solutions?”

He said reporters covering his campaign must adjust their thinking.

“It’s going to take a while for the news media to realize that you’re covering something that happens once or twice in a century, a genuine grass-roots campaign of very big ideas,” said Gingrich. “I expect it to take a while for it to sink in.”

He said there’s some precedent for other candidates surviving early campaign problems.

Ronald Reagan’s opening week in the 1980 campaign was filled with bumps,” said Gingrich. “It happens if you’re the candidate of ideas.”

Many in the audience seemed willing to give Gingrich the benefit of the doubt and dismiss the Medicare controversy.

On Sunday, Gingrich told NBC’sMeet the Press” that Ryan’s plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system was a radical change that he opposed. On Tuesday, Gingrich called Ryan to apologize for his comments.

“I listen to the commentators, and a lot of what he says and how they interpret it was really wrong,” said Shari Folken, of Cedar Falls. “I’m comfortable with where he is on Medicare.”

Craig Gingrich of Cedar Falls, who isn’t related to the former House speaker, said people have mischaracterized the candidate’s comments.

“He is misinterpreted and spun continuously,” Craig Gingrich said. “Half the things are untrue that you see written about him.”

Jerry Hammer said every word that Gingrich utters is scrutinized.

“We all say things we shouldn’t at one time or another,” said Hammer.

Asked how he would handle the issue, Gingrich chuckled.

“Cheerful persistence. We learned that in the 1980s,” he said.

He said the reaction to his campaign speaks for itself

“This is going to be a campaign that constantly changes, that constantly evolves,” said Gingrich.

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May 17, 2011

Donald Trump said Monday he won’t run for president, choosing to …

Trump says no to presidential run
May 16, 2011, 3:26 p.m. EDT
Associated Press

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

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NEW YORK (AP) — After months of flirting with politics, Donald Trump said Monday he won’t run for president, choosing to stick with hosting “The Celebrity Apprentice” over a bid for the Republican nomination.

The reality TV star and real estate mogul made his announcement at a Manhattan hotel as NBC, which airs his show, rolled out its fall lineup.

“I will not be running for president as much as I’d like to,” Trump said.

Trump’s office released a formal statement just as he was taking the stage. In it, a confident Trump said he felt he could win the Republican primary and beat President Barack Obama in the general election but had come to realize a presidential campaign could not be run half-heartedly.

“Ultimately, business is my greatest passion and I am not ready to leave the private sector,” Trump said.

Several Republicans are seeking the nomination in a race that lacks a clear front-runner. Among the top hopefuls are former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. The GOP is still waiting to hear whether Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin or Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann will get in the race.

Trump has floated the idea of a presidential candidacy in both 1988 and 2000 but claimed he was more serious than ever this time, citing the weak economy and the sense that the United States was in decline. Some public opinion polls showed him leading the slow-to-coalesce Republican field.

In the past few months, he delivered speeches to national GOP groups and traveled to early primary states like New Hampshire and Nevada. During that time, he reignited the so-called “birther” controversy by perpetuating falsehoods about Obama’s birth place, insisting that questions were unanswered about whether the president was born in Hawaii. He amassed admiration from many on the far right who have insisted Obama was born overseas and, thus, wasn’t eligible to serve as president.

Obama finally distributed his long-form birth certificate earlier this month, indirectly casting Trump as a carnival barker and the controversy as a sideshow. Trump took credit for the release even though it robbed his candidacy of its signature issue.

Obama retaliated days later in his monologue at the White House Correspondents Association dinner, where he poked fun at the birth certificate controversy and mocked Trump and his television show. A stone-faced Trump heard the barbs from both Obama and comedian Seth Meyers. A day later, NBC interrupted the airing of Trump’s show with word of an Obama announcement — within 45 minutes the president informed the nation and the world that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden had been killed.

Whatever buzz over a Trump candidacy was left fully faded.

Trump would have brought to the race both celebrity and the no-holds-barred criticism of Obama that many Republicans are hungry for in a GOP nominee. But, as it has for months, Trump’s participation also could have made the GOP nomination fight a less serious affair, seeming small by comparison to Obama and his presidency.

Trump is the second Republican in a matter of days to say no to a bid for the GOP nomination. Mike Huckabee announced Saturday that he wouldn’t seek the presidency.

At the Hilton hotel in New York, NBC said that “The Celebrity Apprentice” would be coming back in midseason. But Bob Greenblatt, the head of NBC entertainment, said the only mystery would be whether Trump was host.

Trump said the show has made a lot of money for charity and that he wanted to continue as host.

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May 13, 2011

IOWA conservative group took $3 million in tax funds, which it has since rejected amid charges of hypocrisy.

Iowa conservatives took $3 million in tax funds
May 13, 2011, 4:44 a.m. EDT
Associated Press

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A conservative group that has brought a string of potential presidential candidates to Iowa to lecture about the need to reduce government spending owes some of its past success to generous federal grants, which it has since rejected amid charges of hypocrisy.

The Family Leader has organized multicity forums for Reps. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Sen. Rick Santorum. Each has called for reining in federal spending and talked about family values.

The same group received more than half of its funding from federal grants over a five-year period when it operated under a different structure as The Iowa Family Policy Center.

The group was among those that benefited from former President George Bush‘s faith-based initiative, which made it easier for social and religious organizations involved in community work to win federal funding.

The organization defends taking the grants, the bulk of which helped provide marriage mentoring for couples, but decided last year to turn down the final $550,000 in grant money and operate free of government involvement. In all, the group had accepted more than $3 million in federal grants since 2004.

“We wanted to be consistent in calling for more efficient, smaller government and came to the conclusion that would best be served by not taking funding from the feds on this,” said group spokesman Chris Nitzschke.

The group in November changed its name to the Family Leader under a reorganization that put former Iowa Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats in charge. Its leaders played a key role in the successful campaign to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices last year over a ruling that legalized gay marriage.

The new group is now trying to flex its political muscle in the lead-up to the Iowa Caucuses in January.

Two more potential GOP nominees, former business executive Herman Cain and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, are on the group’s calendar.

“We begin our pro-family policy agenda by cutting spending, and then we cut taxes,” Bachmann said at one event in April. In March, Paul told the group that society had grown too dependent on the federal government and “we’re at a point now where we can no longer afford it.”

Pawlenty said in February that, to the extent government has to be involved in an issue, it must deliver good value for taxpayers.

Edward Failor Jr., the former president of Iowans for Tax Relief, criticized the group’s credibility on tax and spending issues during last year’s gubernatorial campaign because of the millions in federal aid.

He praised its decision to reject the final year of the grant, saying that marriage mentoring is a service that churches and other groups can provide without government aid.

“I think they did it to be intellectually consistent and honest. Good for them for doing that,” Failor said. ”

As soon as you start taking money out of taxpayers’ pockets, you are beholden to the government in one way or another.”

Records show the policy center was awarded a five-year grant worth $550,000 per year from the Health and Human Services Department in 2006 to promote healthy marriages.

The money went to a program it operates called Marriage Matters, which claims to have saved hundreds of marriages through its mentoring and counseling programs.

The policy center on Sept. 30 received its last $12,600 installment from the grant, which came from $150 million Congress set aside in 2005 to promote healthy marriages and responsible fatherhood.

But as criticism of the group for receiving tax funds was mounting among both liberals and conservatives, Center President Chuck Hurley notified the federal agency in August the group was relinquishing the money and would operate with private funding.

Watchdogs, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, had questioned whether federal tax dollars were being spent to further a conservative religious agenda.

One liberal activist had encouraged same-sex couples to seek counseling through the group to find out whether they would be served. Some conservatives, including members of the tea party, were critical of the group’s leaders for taking the federal money.

Nitzschke said the programming offered by Marriage Matters has been scaled back but some services are still being operated privately.

At the same time, he said the grant money was well spent, with more than 1,200 individuals receiving services every year.

He said that none of the tax dollars went to fund anything religious or political in nature.

A 2008 audit by the Government Accountability Office faulted HHS for a lack of oversight in how the marriage and fatherhood grants that went to dozens of groups were awarded and managed.

The policy center’s tax disclosure for the one-year period through Sept. 30, 2009, the most recent available, shows it received $549,443 in government grants out of revenue just over $1 million.

Nitzschke said the Marriage Matters program was directed by former center vice president Mike Hartwig, who earned part of his salary through the grant even as he was a prominent opponent of gay marriage.

Hartwig called the 2009 ruling that legalized the practice in Iowa sickening.

Nitzschke said the bulk of the money was spent on contracts with individuals across the state to deliver services.

At first he promised to release to The Associated Press annual audits of the grant money that he said found no problems, but he later reversed course and said the group considered that information private.

Randall Wilson, legal director for the ACLU of Iowa in Des Moines, said he wanted a more detailed accounting of how the money was spent and how much went to its administration.

He questioned just how much mentoring the grant helped pay for, saying his group’s limited investigation of Marriage Matters found it gave out money to churches and to host some events for couples.

“The danger always is that federal taxpayer money gets diverted to advocacy causes.

I think one could argue that not all taxpayers agree with Iowa Family Policy Center,” Wilson said. “That, of course, is a big concern of ours. The center was instrumental in removing three Iowa justices.”

In addition to the marriage grant, the policy center accepted $800,000 in 2005 to build its organizational capacity under the Compassion Capital Fund, a key part of Bush’s faith-based initiative.

The group received $50,000 the previous year from a related federal grant program to promote marriage.

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