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Political Notebook

GOP’s Johnson begins uphill climb in N.H.

Gary Johnson (right), a former governor of New Mexico, prepared to announce his plans to seek the Republican nomination for president in Concord, N.H., yesterday. Gary Johnson (right), a former governor of New Mexico, prepared to announce his plans to seek the Republican nomination for president in Concord, N.H., yesterday. (Jim Cole/Associated Press)
April 22, 2011

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CONCORD, N.H. — Highlighting his background as a governor and outdoor adventurer, Republican Gary Johnson announced his presidential campaign outside the New Hampshire State House yesterday before heading for Tuckerman Ravine, the mountain known as the birthplace of extreme skiing.

Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico, acknowledged that he is virtually unknown in New Hampshire and other key primary states but said he will not be outworked when it comes to retail politics.

“I have to do, and want to do, really well in New Hampshire,’’ he said. “So I’m going to spend a lot of time in New Hampshire, where you can go from obscurity to prominence overnight with a good showing in New Hampshire.’’

Johnson, who has climbed Mount Everest and is an avid skier and bicyclist, planned to follow up his announcement with some spring skiing tomorrow in Tuckerman Ravine, a large glacial bowl on 6,288-foot Mount Washington, the tallest mountain in the Northeast.

Before serving as governor from 1995 to 2002, Johnson started a one-person fix-it business that grew to become one of the largest construction companies in New Mexico, with 1,000 employees. He said he can fix what he called America’s bankrupt status by asking two simple questions: What are we spending our money on? And what are we getting in return?

“Everything should be a cost-benefit analysis,’’ he said. “My entire life, I’ve watched government spend more money than it takes in, and I’ve just always thought there would be a day of reckoning with regard to that spending. I think that day of reckoning is here. It’s right now, and it needs to be fixed.’’

Johnson mentioned President Obama just once, saying he supports repealing Obama’s health care overhaul legislation. But he also criticized Republicans, saying they also are to blame for out-of-control spending.

“I think Republicans would gain a lot of credibility in this argument if Republicans would offer a repeal of the prescription health care benefit they passed when they controlled both houses of Congress and ran up record deficits,’’ he said.

Johnson said he would bring spending down by raising the retirement age and making other changes to Social Security and reducing spending on defense, Medicare, and Medicaid by 43 percent each. The latter two programs would become block grants controlled by the states, he said.

— Associated Press

Poll finds big jump in pessimism on economy NEW YORK — Americans are more pessimistic about the nation’s economic outlook and overall direction than they have been at any time since President Obama’s first two months in office, when the country was still officially ensnared in the Great Recession, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Amid rising gas prices, stubborn unemployment, and a cacophonous debate in Washington over the federal government’s ability to meet its future obligations, the poll presents stark evidence that the slow, if unsteady, gains in public confidence earlier this year that a recovery was under way are all but gone.

Capturing what appears to be an abrupt change in attitude, the survey shows that the number of Americans who think the economy is getting worse has jumped 13 percentage points in just one month to 39 percent. Though there have been encouraging signs of renewed growth since last fall, many economists are having second thoughts, warning that the pace of expansion might not be fast enough to create significant numbers of new jobs.

Other findings from the poll:

■ 75 percent of respondents disapproved of the way Congress is handling its job.

■ 57 percent disapproved of Obama’s handling of the economy.

■ 59 percent disapproved of how Obama is handling the federal budget deficit, and 63 percent disapproved of the way Republicans in Congress are.

■ 72 percent approved of Obama’s proposal to end tax cuts for those households earning $250,000 a year and more as a way to address the deficit.

■ 55 percent said they would rather have fewer services from a smaller government than more services from a bigger one

The nationwide telephone survey was conducted Friday through Wednesday with 1,224 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

— New York Times

Democrat files suit seeking donor disclosure WASHINGTON — Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, filed a federal court suit yesterday aimed at forcing groups that fund political ads to reveal their donors.

The lawsuit seeks to throw out Federal Election Commission regulations adopted in 2007 that let the groups keep secret the names of donors who pay for preelection ads. Van Hollen is also the author of proposed legislation to accomplish the same goal. A 2002 campaign finance law named for Senate sponsors John McCain and Russell Feingold required that groups report their ad spending to the commission.

“The disclosure of campaign-donor information is essential to our democracy,’’ said Van Hollen, a former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “The requirements in existing law have been significantly loosened by the FEC’s interpretation.’’

FEC spokeswoman Judith Ingram declined to comment.

The commission’s rule required outside groups to disclose only those donors who gave money specifically for political ads.

The challenges are a response to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in January 2010 that reversed decades of precedent and legislation and gave corporations and unions the ability to use their treasuries to run political ads through Election Day.

— Bloomberg News

GOP freshmen in House have not sworn off PACs WASHINGTON — Dozens of the Republican freshmen in the House won election last year while vowing to shake up Washington, yet many of them seem to be playing an old Washington game: raising much of their campaign money from corporate political action committees.

More than 50 members of the class of 87 GOP freshmen took in more than $50,000 from PACs during the first quarter of 2011, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Eighteen of the lawmakers took in more than $100,000.

Representative Steve Stivers of Ohio accepted the most PAC dollars of any of the new Republican lawmakers, $241,000 in the first quarter, or about 60 percent of the money he raised.

Overall, fund-raising among the large GOP freshman class is below the average raised by new Democratic members in the first quarters of 2007 and 2009.

— Washington Post

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