Wealthy 2012 Contributors Use Outside PACs To Give Big To Obama and Romney -- What do you do if you've already maxed out your donations to President Obama and Mitt Romney? Give to their outside political action committees -- and give big.

According to an analysis by ABC News, about half the money given during the first six months of this year to Restore Our Future, a PAC set up to support Romney, came from donors who also gave the federal maximum of $2,500 to his campaign.

And the vast majority of the money flowing into the coffers of Priorities USA Action, a PAC whose goal is to help Obama get re-elected, was given by contributors who also gave the maximum to the Obama campaign directly.

Restore our Future and Priorities USA Action are technically independent entities, but their founders' make no secret that their mission is to help Romney and Obama win in 2012.

Both groups are so-called super PACs that can accept unlimited donations. They were set up by former Romney and Obama advisers and can spend money in support of both candidates, though they are not allowed to directly coordinate with the campaigns.

But the net effect is that they allow donors who support Romney and Obama -- but are limited to $2,500 in direct campaign donations -- to back the front runner for the Republican nomination and the incumbent president with unlimited resources.

Of the $12.2 million raised in the first six months of the year by Romney's allies in Restore Our Future, more than $6 million was given by Romney campaign donors. Of the 90 donations to the PAC, approximately 57 came from Romney donors (in some cases it is difficult to ascertain from the FEC report if identical names represent the same person.)

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Rick Perry’s Religious Event Mired in Controversy 

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(HOUSTON) -- A prayer event initiated by Texas Governor Rick Perry will take place Saturday in Houston, Texas, but the religious revival is mired in controversy concerning exclusion of non-Christian religions, controversial figures, and the question whether a public official is violating the separation of church and state by hosting a religious event.

Perry, a self-described “man of faith” and Methodist who attends an evangelical mega-church in Austin, laid out plans for the event called “The Response,” a gathering of Christians dedicating a day to prayer and fasting for a “nation in crisis,” which will take place in Reliant Stadium, a football arena home to the Houston Texans.

Perry, who many speculate will run for president this election season, has insisted the event holds no ulterior political motives.

“The event’s not political. The event’s not about promoting an organization, it’s not some fancy promotional event. It’s going to be simple. This is simply people coming, calling out to God,” Perry told a Christian radio show hosted by Tony Perkins and Tim Wildmon last month.

Approximately 8,000 people plan on attending the event in a stadium that seats 70,000. Perry extended an invitation to his fellow governors to attend, but none have committed, including Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who once said he would attend but is now stepping back from the event.

Though he conceptualized the event, Perry will play a minor role on Saturday. He is expected to read scripture and lead the group in prayer. Many religious figures from across the country will attend the event, including Sam Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Leadership Conference, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.

But some controversial figures will be leading and participating in the event, including Dr. James Dobson, founder and former president of Focus on the Family. In the past, Dobson has likened embryonic stem cell research to operations performed by the Nazis during WWII and criticized the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community, saying homosexuality could lead to incest and beastiality.

The event is paid for by the American Family Association, whose website describes the group as being on the “frontlines of the culture war.” The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated the American Family Association as an anti-gay group.

Alternative rallies are planned in the Houston area throughout the weekend. The LGBT Political Caucus will hold a rally to “recognize and honor the many contributions made by members of the LGBT community to the quality of life in Houston, Harris County, Texas and the nation, and will also be attended by Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who is openly gay.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama's Failure Reflected in Job Numbers, GOP Candidates Say

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- Though the White House is celebrating the higher-than-expected job numbers released Friday, the word on Republican presidential hopefuls’ lips is “fail.”

“The President has had 2.5 years to turn around the American economy and it is clear he has failed,” Jon Huntsman wrote in a statement.

From Michele Bachmann, “It's time for the President to admit what the markets, the world, and the American people already know - his trillion dollar stimulus was a failure, the government can't create jobs, and massive spending kills them.”

Even "Minnesota Nice" Tim Pawlenty used the ‘f’ word. “President Obama has still failed to deliver a concrete plan to create jobs and promote growth.”

"Today's dismal jobs report is a far cry from the hope and change that President Obama promised on the campaign trail,” the former Minnesota governor wrote in a statement.

Four of the candidates decried the unemployment rate, which dropped by point one percent but still remains above nine percent.

"Today's unemployment report represents the 30th straight month that the jobless rate has been above 8 percent,” former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney wrote in a paper statement. “The administration promised with their $800 billion stimulus that they would keep unemployment below that number. When you see what this president has done to the economy in just three years, you know why America doesn't want to find out what he can do in eight."

Congresswoman Bachmann continued to condemn the debt deal passed earlier this week and criticized Obama for fundraising, even as she holds two campaign events on Friday.

“The President created twice as many donors for his campaign as he created jobs in the second quarter. This week the President was handed a $2.4 trillion blank check and in return the American people got a mere $21 billion in promised spending cuts, the erosion of their personal savings in the worst stock market drop since 2008, and the promise of higher taxes before the ink had dried on the budget deal,“ Bachmann said in a statement.

While the White House has called the increase in jobs “welcome news,” outgoing Chair of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers Austan Goolsbee said the U.S. needs faster growth to fully recover.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Countdown to Ames: Key Iowa Event Fast Approaching

Comstock/Thinkstock(AMES, Iowa) -- A week from Friday the year's biggest event in Iowa will kick off when the state fair opens its doors to more than a million visitors. But just up the road from the state capital, a far more serious contest -- and one that doesn't involve a butter sculpting contest -- will unfold only days later when many of the top Republican presidential candidates descend on a college town for an event that could set the tone for the crucial campaign battles ahead: the Ames straw poll.

Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum have all been touring the Hawkeye State in recent weeks in an attempt to build support for the straw poll, set for next Saturday.

While other contenders -- frontrunner Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman -- are not officially competing in Ames, they will be keeping a close eye on what happens there. After all, they are on the ballot too.

Four years ago Romney won the straw poll, but it was Mike Huckabee's surprising second-place finish that sent the former Arkansas governor surging to victory in the Iowa caucuses that winter.

This time around Bachmann, Pawlenty and others are hoping to tear out a page from the Huckabee playbook. The secret to success in Ames, pundits say, is the right mix of strong organization, a passionate base, and low expectations. In 2007, Huckabee hardly boasted the organization or war chest of Romney, but his second-place finish -- fervent supporters flocked to Ames -- far exceeded expectations. As Huckabee said at the time, the runner-up result was really "a victory."

Various candidates in this year's field appear to possess ingredients needed to win in Ames. Rep. Bachmann, for instance, enjoys passionate support that has sent her surging up polls in recent months.

In addition, her popularity among evangelicals is similar to Huckabee's four years ago. At events across Iowa, Bachmann's staff typed furiously on iPads to sign up voters for the straw poll. But the flip side to her rise in the polls is that it raises expectations: the Minnesota congresswoman is now viewed as the favorite to win in Ames.

Fellow Minnesota native Tim Pawlenty is in almost the exact opposite position. The former governor has been languishing in the polls. A slew of "pre-obituaries" for his campaign have appeared in the national media.

Even if Ames might not crown an eventual winner, it can spell doom for a candidate who has a dismal performance. The poll has serious financial ramifications: if donors decide on the basis of the Ames results that a candidate cannot win it all, they could stop filling that hopeful's campaign coffers with money.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


White House: Jobs Report 'Welcome News,' Faster Growth Needed

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- The White House said Friday that the day’s better-than-expected jobs report is “welcome news” but that the unemployment rate remains “unacceptably high.”

“Faster growth is needed to replace the jobs lost in the downturn,” outgoing Chair of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers Austan Goolsbee said in the administration’s first response to news that unemployment ticked down to 9.1 percent last month.

Goolsbee pointed to the same stalled “bipartisan” measures in Congress that the president has been pushing to spur job growth, including middle class tax cuts, free trade agreements, patent reforms, and an Obama administration favorite, investments in infrastructure.

“We will continue to work with Congress to build on these efforts to achieve a broader balanced deficit reduction agreement that instills confidence and allows us to live within our means without shortchanging future growth,” Goolsbee said in a written statement.

The White House stressed that “it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Celebrates Birthday in Private, Star-Studded Party

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- White House officials offered no details about the Rose Garden barbecue and birthday party thrown for President Obama on Thursday night.  No menu, no guest list, the event did not appear on his official schedule.

ABC’s Ann Compton reports that the Obama family paid for the celebration out of its own pocket.

“Just left the Presidents birthday party at the White House. Herbie Hancock played, Stevie Wonder sang and yes they did the electric slide. A great night,” comedian Chris Rock tweeted.

Other tidbits of the fete have trickled out from the blog ObamaFoodorama and Politico’s Jennifer Epstein.

Rock joined other celebrities such as Tom Hanks, Jay-Z, Charles Barkley, Steve Harvey and Grant Hill, as well as the Rev. Al Sharpton, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, White House chief of staff Bill Daley, senior adviser David Plouffe, political advisers David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, and more.

The menu included barbecue chicken, ribs, hamburgers and hot dogs, pasta, and salad. The president loves pie, so last night he had a choice of apple, cherry, huckleberry and/or peach.

After the first lady and daughters Sasha and Malia gave the president a cake, the festivities moved into the East Room where Hancock and Stevie Wonder performed, and a DJ spun tunes.

This was at least the fourth celebration of the president turning 50. In addition to the Rose Garden barbecue, his reelection campaign threw both small and large-ticket parties/fundraisers for the president in Chicago on the eve of his birthday. Aides feted him in the Blue Room at noon on his birthday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Defense Chief Panetta Warns of Pentagon Spending Cuts 

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon is hoping that reducing the national deficit won't reduce its mission to provide national security.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday that the Pentagon will be severely hampered if Washington exceeds the $400 billion in budget cuts mandated by the deficit-cutting package signed into law this week.

Specifically, Panetta said these austerity measures will weaken the military, thus making it more difficult to handle possible future threats from Iran, North Korea and China.

The former CIA chief warned that discretionary cuts alone won't balance budget. Panetta stressed that the government needs to seriously curtail mandated programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

He also asserted that the government needs to raise more revenue, suggesting tacit support for ending Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.

Panetta knew that he when he took the job, he would have to cut fat from defense spending. However, his latest warnings confirm his fears that the cuts are too deep.


Nearly $30 Million Being Spent to Influence Recall Elections in Wisconsin

Scott Olson/Getty Images(MILWAUKEE) -- Months have passed since protests snarled the Wisconsin state capital and a collective bargaining argument shut down the state government. But the anger has not died away, and legislators from both parties face recall elections.

Though it sounds like a local Wisconsin issue, both sides say this is a major bellwether for 2012. The real ringer is that a staggering amount of money -- nearly $30 million -- is being spent by outside interest groups to influence the recall elections.

This month, voters will go to the polls to either keep or replace their state senators. On Tuesday, six incumbent Republicans are facing recall and the possibility that the chamber flips control from the Republicans to Democrats. The following week, two Democrats are also facing recall.

It all began with a sweeping change in state government. Republican Gov. Scott Walker assumed office in January and Republicans gained control of the state legislature, putting forward a budget aimed limiting the rising costs of public employee benefits, ending collective bargaining for all public workers except police and firefighters.

Democrats in the state legislature fled the state to avoid voting on the measure, while thousands of protestors on both sides of the issue gathered at the state capitol to protest or support Walker's move.
After Walker signed the legislation, Democrats began gathering signatures on petitions to recall the senators involved who were eligible had been in office more than a year.

Republicans responded by accusing Democrats of shirking their elected duties by literally running away from the vote.

Thanks to the well-funded recall efforts, enough signatures were gathered to target six Republicans and two Democrats.

If the Senate does change hands, Democrats could overturn Walker's legislation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Governor Perry Urged Not to Attend Christian Prayer Rally -- Governor Rick Perry is being urged by dozens of religious leaders in Houston not to attend a Christian prayer rally August 5th.

Perry, who is believed to be considering a run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, is hosting "The Response" in Houston, in which he "calls on Americans to pray and fast like Jesus did, and the Israelites did in the book of Job."

According to Perry, the prayers will provide a solution to the nation's economic and moral dilemmas.

Sponsored by the American Family Association, a Conservative Christian advocacy nonprofit, "The Response"  is part of the group's mission statement that the Christian Bible is "the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God."

However, 50 religious leaders say that Perry should skip the event because it "is not open to all faiths, and its statement of beliefs does not represent religious diversity."

In a letter sent to the governor, the leaders said, "We believe our religious freedom is threatened when a government official promotes religion, especially one religion over all others.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Is Huntsman Campaign in Disarray?

ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- There are reports that Jon Huntsman's campaign is in trouble, plagued by infighting and fundraising problems.

Things came to a head recently when former top Huntsman aide David Fischer complained publicly that campaign strategist John Weaver is making life miserable for staffers, leading to the exit of campaign manger Susie Wiles, among others.

Allegations have also surfaced that the campaign is struggling to raise money and that Huntsman is reluctant to tap into his own vast personal fortune because much of it is tied up in trusts.

The former Utah governor-turned former U.S. Ambassador to China insisted Thursday that all is well, and expressed confidence in Weaver, who was bounced from John McCain's camp in 2007 when the Arizona senator was finding it hard to gain traction in his quest for the 2008 GOP nod.

Still, Huntsman trails far behind in all polls of Republican White House hopefuls, and his message that frontrunner Mitt Romney is a weak candidate has failed to resonate with voters.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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