Romney’s ’47 percent’ remarks not his first flap involving private words to Palm Beach County donorsby George Bennett | September 18th, 2012
Palm Beach County has been a rich source of campaign cash — and headaches — for Mitt Romney this year. The Republican presidential nominee will be back in the county Thursday to collect more of the former while trying to avoid the latter.
Romney’s campaign is on the defensive today after Monday’s release of a surreptitiously recorded video of the candidate telling high-dollar donors in Boca Raton that the roughly 47 percent of Americans who pay no income tax are “dependent upon government” and “I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
The recording, released Monday by liberal Mother Jones magazine, was made May 17 at the home of investment banker Marc Leder at a dinner for $50,000 donors.
It wasn’t the first time this year that presumably private remarks to big givers in Palm Beach County have created a public kerfuffle for Romney.
In April, Romney attended a $50,000-a-head outdoor event at the Palm Beach home of investor Gerald and Darlene Jordan along the Intracoastal Waterway. The remarks were closed to the public and press, but reporters outside overheard Romney say he’d “probably eliminate for high-income people the second home mortgage deduction” and might also eliminate deductions for state income and property taxes as well.
Romney also told the Palm Beach crowd that he might make big cuts to the Department of Education and Department of Housing and Urban Affairs. HUD, he said, “might not be around later.”
The musings themselves were not specific policy proposals and weren’t particularly shocking for a Republican who campaigned as a conservative. But critics accused Romney of offering more detail to wealthy donors than he has to the general public. Romney still hasn’t offered specifics on his proposal to cut income tax rates 20 percent without draining revenue from federal coffers.
The controversy over the remarks at Leder’s house are “a blip on the screen,” said Brian Ballard, the Tallahassee lobbyist who is one of three Florida finance chairs for Romney.
“I’ve been to about 10 of these or more and he speaks frankly every time. It’s enjoyable. There’s nothing he’s ever said at any of the events I’ve ever been to that the entire world couldn’t hear,” Ballard said.
“I wish, frankly, he would speak more on the campaign stump like he does at these events.”
Romney is scheduled to visit the North Palm Beach home of Chris Cline for a Thursday fundraiser, then go to the nearby home of Al Hoffman for another gathering with contributors.