Mitt Romney on Government Reform

Former Republican Governor (MA)

I didn't inhale while governor; government is too big

I believe government is too big. It's gone from 27% of our economy in the years of JFK to 37% of our economy. We have to rein in the scale of government or we're not going to be a free economy. I love this country. I spent my life in the private sector, not in government. I only spent four years as a governor. I didn't inhale. I'm a business guy. I'm going to get America working again, because I believe in the principles that make America the hope of the Earth.
Source: 2011 GOP Google debate in Orlando FL , Sep 22, 2011

Measure American success by series of cyclical indicators

During the 1930s, economists began compiling a series of figures they hoped would predict the future direction of the American economy. Today, the Composite Index of Leading Indicators is composed of ten components, from weekly jobless claims to building permits to consumer sentiment. I believe that we could identify useful signals what would inform us of conditions that are likely to exist over a much longer time horizon, from 25 to 50 years. We might call it the Index of Leading Leading Indicators. Such an index ought to include the following indicators:
  1. The Prevalence of Freedom
  2. National Security Assessment
  3. Relative Productivity
  4. Relative GDP and Growth Rate
  5. Trade Share of the GDP
  6. Relative Market Shares in Growing, Traded-Product Industries
  7. Innovation Index
  8. National Debt and Liabilities
  9. Tax Bite (percentage of all taxes)
  10. Health-care Funding Gap
  11. Energy Burden
  12. Children Born Out of Wedlock
  13. Relative Educational Attainment
  14. Citizen Engagement
Source: No Apology, by Mitt Romney, p.282-286 , Mar 2, 2010

Dynamic regulations: forward-looking & consistently applied

Excessive regulation slows the creation of new businesses and the expansion of existing businesses. At the same time, in order to provide the structure and predictability that business needs and to protect against abuses, we need dynamic regulations, which are up-to-date, forward-looking, consistently applies, and free of unnecessary burden.

We certainly suffered from the absence of dynamic regulation in the 2008 economic collapse, particularly in the area of housing finance. While some outdated regulations had been eliminated, modern replacements had not been put in place. The wholesale failure at the federal level to revise and refine outmoded regulatory structures even as the ever-aggressive private sector sought out new profit centers allowed the risks in the system to overwhelm the collective good. We know the bill we have all paid as a result. What is odd is that some are looking to the same people in Congress as source of wisdom on how to avoid a repeat of a fiasco.

Source: No Apology, by Mitt Romney, p.138 , Mar 2, 2010

1960s large donors avoided union influence in politics

When I ran for the US Senate in 1994, I worked hard to raise the millions I would need. My father spent six months helping on the campaign. Recall that my dad was one of the most successful politicians of his era. But after seeing how much time I had to spend fund-raising, he was convinced that the system made no sense at all. In his race for governor of Michigan on 1962, he explained, his finance chairman raised all the money they would need in a single night. 15 or 20 people were invited to an event-- each check probably totaling $25,000 or more.

I asked dad whether accepting large contributions encouraged corruption; surely the contributors wanted something in return. He replied that not once during his three terms in office did one of his contributors ask for a favor. They were some of Michigan's most prominent citizens, and instead of favors, they were looking for good government. I'm not defending the old system; I'm sure it had its share of abuses. But so does the current one.

Source: No Apology, by Mitt Romney, p.274-275 , Mar 2, 2010

GovWatch: 1994: advocated spending limit on elections

Top Romney Flip Flops: #4. Campaign Finance:

In 1994, Romney advocated a spending limit on congressional elections and abolition of political action committees. In 2002, he supported public financing of campaigns from a 10 percent tax on private fund-raising. In 2008, he attacked the McCain-Feingold law limiting campaign contributions as an attack on free speech.

Source: GovWatch on 2008 campaign: “Top Ten Flip-Flops” , Feb 5, 2008

Washington thinks “action” means committee meetings & Bills

Q: I’d like your comment on this: McCain said, “I’m proud of my conservative record. It’s one of reaching across the aisle to get things done for Americans, obviously, whether it be McCain-Lieberman, that established the 9/11 Commission and then the legislation that implemented that, or whether it be working across the aisle in the Armed Services Committee, to provide the men and women with what they need to defend this nation.”

A: First of all, it’s interesting to see how Washington politicians think about action. For them, it’s reaching across aisles and committee meetings and bills. Action, where I come from, means getting the job done, actually making things better for Americans. That means getting health care for citizens. It means balancing the budget. It means cutting out wasteful spending. It means creating jobs. That’s what I’ve spent my life doing.

Source: CNN Late Edition: 2008 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer , Feb 3, 2008

Must know how America works, not just how Washington works

Q: Hillary Clinton said, “We [already] have a president who basically ran as the CEO/MBA president. Look what we got. I am not too happy about the results.” How do you respond to her & similar comments from Obama?

A: Does anyone really think that at a time when our economy is struggling, that the right course for America is to choose somebody who’s never had a job in the real economy? Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama--and Senator McCain for that matter--have spoken about all the things they do, but they’ve lived their lives in Washington. [How can] a lifelong Washington politician guide our country & build our economy, without having ever worked in the economy? You see, I think right now, it’s more important to know how America works than to know how Washington works. I think we have enough of the politicians, and it’s time to have somebody from outside Washington--like Ronald Reagan was outside Washington--go there, shake it up, get it back on the right track.

Source: CNN Late Edition: 2008 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer , Feb 3, 2008

Use my own money in a campaign to try and change the US

I’ve been successful in life, enough to be able to save enough money. I’m using that money in a campaign for a presidency to try and change this country. I’m concerned about the US my kids will inherit and their kids will inherit and the kids of the entire nation will inherit, and I want to make sure that we have a strong and vibrant nation. I happen to think that at a time like this, we need someone whose life has been in the private sector, who knows how the US works; not just how Washington works
Source: 2008 GOP debate in Boca Raton Florida , Jan 24, 2008

Not concerned about voters on his campaign self-contribution

Q: Why not tell the voters how much of your own wealth you’re spending so they can factor that into their own decision?

A: I’m not concerned about the voters. I’m much more concerned about the other guys on this stage. It’s competitive information we make sure that we use for our own benefit. I made a substantial contribution. I can’t imagine having gone to my friends and asked them to do what they’ve done, going out and raising money in my behalf, without saying I’m going to put some of my contributions behind this effort as well, because frankly, it’s important. Given the contributions I made in this race, I know I owe no one anything. I don’t have some group there that I have a special obligation to that raised money for me. I’m by far the biggest contributor to my own campaign. People can count on the fact that there’s no nobody that can call me and say, “Hey, look, you owe me,” because they don’t.

Source: 2008 GOP debate in Boca Raton Florida , Jan 24, 2008

Washington is broken due to insider lobbyists & politicians

Q: You got into a dust-up with a reporter this week over your comments that you don’t have lobbyists running your campaign while you’ve been saying that Washington is broken due to “all the politicians with all their connections with all the lobbyists that have been there for years.” You do have a lobbyist as one of your advisers, and another lobbyist is chairman of your policy committee. And lobbyists have reportedly donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to your campaign. So don’t you have close links to this very same Washington establishment that you say you’re going to shake up?

A: There’s no question in a campaign of 200 staff that you’re going to have a number who are registered lobbyists. But my campaign is run by my team from Massachusetts, and this is very definitely an outsider’s campaign. Washington fundamentally is broken, and people in this country want to see change, and that’s not going to happen by somebody who’s been there, for whom Washington is a way of life.

Source: 2008 Fox News interview: “Choosing the President” series , Jan 20, 2008

McCain-Feingold hurt our party and hurt the First Amendment

Q: Back in 2002, when McCain was campaigning for you when you were running for governor of Massachusetts, you said McCain “has always stood for reform and change, and he’s always fought the good battle, no matter what the odds.” Now you’re saying in N.H. that McCain is not an agent of change. Why have you changed your opinion?

A: Oh, I still think he’s a battler for change. He’s just been there 27 years and hasn’t been able to get the job done. He has brought some bills in place like McCain-Feingold, which hurt our party & I think hurt the First Amendment. He fought for immigration law, which I think was a terrible course, which said that all the illegal aliens that had come here illegally would be able to stay in this country forever. That was a mistake. Washington is broken. America is saying it loud and clear. You had in Iowa a number of experienced senators going up against folks that were new faces, governors, and the experienced senators lost.

Source: 2008 Fox News interview: “Choosing the President” series , Jan 6, 2008

Signing statements are an important presidential practice

Q: Under what circumstances, if any, would you sign a bill into law but also issue a signing statement reserving a constitutional right to bypass the law?

A: I share the view of many past presidents that signing statements are an important presidential practice.

Source: Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power , Dec 20, 2007

Focus on global Jihad, immigration, tax cut, and healthcare

I want to establish a strategy to help us overwhelm global Jihad and keep the world safe. I want to end illegal immigration. I want to end the expansion of entitlements, rein them in. I want to end the extraordinary growth in federal spending and keep our tax burden down and reduce our tax burden on middle-income families. I want to get us on a track to become energy-independent. I want to get our schools on a track so they can become competitive globally, and get health insurance for every citizen.
Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Republican Debate , Dec 12, 2007

Line-item veto can & should pass constitutional muster

Q: What about the line-item veto?

GIULIANI: The line-item veto is unconstitutional. I took Bill Clinton to the Supreme Court and beat him. It’s unconstitutional. What the heck can you do about that if you’re a strict constructionist?

ROMNEY: I’m in favor of the line-item veto. I had it, used it 844 times. I want to see Libby Dole’s line-item veto put in place. I’d have never gone to the Supreme Court and said it’s unconstitutional.

Q: Do you believe it is?

ROMNEY: I believe the line-item veto, if properly structured, passes constitutional muster. I’m in favor of the line-item veto to make sure that the president is able to help cut out pork and waste.

GIULIANI: You have to be honest with people. The line-item veto is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has ruled on it. I am in favor of a line-item veto, except you have to do it legally. If I had let Pres. Clinton take $250 million away from the people of my city illegally and unconstitutionally, I wouldn’t have been much of a mayor.

Source: 2007 Republican debate in Dearborn, Michigan , Oct 9, 2007

FactCheck: 844 line item vetoes; but over 700 overridden

Romney said, “Mayor Giuliani took the line item veto that the president had all the way to the Supreme Court and took it away from the president. I’m in favor of the line-item veto. I exercised it 844 times.”

Giuliani did challenge President Bill Clinton on the line-item veto after he used it to cut a provision that could have helped NYC’s bottom line. It was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1998. Romney is also correct to say that he exercised his state-level line-item veto power 844 times. But Romney doesn’t note that more than 700 of those vetoes were overridden by the overwhelmingly Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Source: FactCheck.org on 2007 Republican debate in Dearborn MI , Oct 9, 2007

FactCheck: Romney had 700 line-item vetoes, President cannot

Romney’s TV ad claims, “ I’ve vetoed hundreds of spending appropriations as governor.” However, veto overrides, it turns out, greatly outnumber the sustained vetoes.

The overrides total 707 of the more than 800 line-item vetoes that Romney issued. So while Romney did indeed veto “hundreds of spending appropriations,” as he says in the ad, he had little to show for them.

In the ad, Romney concludes, “Frankly, I can’t wait to get my hands on Washington!” If elected, however, he will find that his old job gave him more tools than the presidency. In Massachusetts, the governor can eliminate or reduce on specific line-item provisions in the budget. The so-called line-item veto allows a governor to turn down a single, particular spending measure rather than having to veto an entire bill. This is the power Romney used in his hundreds of budgetary vetoes. The president, however, does not have this authority.

Source: FactCheck.org: AdWatch of 2007 campaign ad, “I Like Vetoes” , Jun 28, 2007

Never pardoned anyone as governor, but might pardon Libby

Q: Should Pres. Bush pardon Scooter Libby, who was sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in the CIA leak case?

A: This is one of those situations where I go back to my record as governor. I didn’t pardon anybody as governor because I didn’t want to overturn a jury. But in this case, you have a prosecutor who clearly abused prosecutorial discretion by going after somebody when he already knew the source of the leak. He went on a political vendetta. I’d keep the option open [for a pardon].

Source: 2007 GOP debate at Saint Anselm College , Jun 3, 2007

McCain-Feingold law prevents free speech in campaigns

Serving as a governor, I found that while the courts were making decisions that affected abortion, it’s really upon the legislature and the governor to have an impact as well. You can fight to make sure that there’s opportunities for people to express their views on this topic openly. You can fight for the opportunity to go out and campaign for the rights of those who care about this issue to be heard before Election Day, and the McCain-Feingold law prevents that from happening.
Source: 2007 GOP primary debate, at Reagan library, hosted by MSNBC , May 3, 2007

Open document policy overcame SLOC obfuscation & scandal

Our open documents policy [in response to the Olympics bid scandal] led to an avalanche of requests. There were some documents we would not share--personnel documents, and those contracts that were protected by confidentiality clauses. We also had to be careful not to undermine the ongoing investigation by the Department of Justice and the FBI. But apart from those few exceptions, we handed over everything that was requested.

It is fair to say that SLOC was the most transparent organizing committee in Olympic history--perhaps among the most publicly accessible organizations in America. The public were in attendance at every Board meeting. We built a reading room at our own expense where the public could come to examine core documents. For all intents and purposes, we were naked.

I don’t know that I would recommend such transparency for every organization. But given the scandal that had grown out of obfuscation, the only way I believe we could have restored confidence was with disclosure.

Source: Turnaround, by Mitt Romney, p.173-174 , Aug 25, 2004

Balanced budget amendment and line-item veto

Source: Boston Globe review of 1994 canpaign issues , Mar 21, 2002

Other governors on Government Reform: Mitt Romney on other issues:
MA Gubernatorial:
Deval Patrick
MA Senatorial:
John Kerry
Scott Brown

Newly seated 2010:
NJ Chris Christie
VA Bob McDonnell

Term-limited as of Jan. 2011:
AL Bob Riley
CA Arnold Schwarzenegger
GA Sonny Perdue
HI Linda Lingle
ME John Baldacci
MI Jennifer Granholm
NM Bill Richardson
OK Brad Henry
OR Ted Kulongoski
PA Ed Rendell
RI Donald Carcieri
SC Mark Sanford
SD Mike Rounds
TN Phil Bredesen
WY Dave Freudenthal
Newly Elected Nov. 2010:
AL: Robert Bentley (R)
CA: Jerry Brown (D)
CO: John Hickenlooper (D)
CT: Dan Malloy (D)
FL: Rick Scott (R)
GA: Nathan Deal (R)
HI: Neil Abercrombie (D)
IA: Terry Branstad (R)
KS: Sam Brownback (R)
ME: Paul LePage (R)
MI: Rick Snyder (R)
MN: Mark Dayton (D)
ND: Jack Dalrymple (R)
NM: Susana Martinez (R)
NV: Brian Sandoval (R)
NY: Andrew Cuomo (D)
OH: John Kasich (R)
OK: Mary Fallin (R)
PA: Tom Corbett (R)
RI: Lincoln Chafee (I)
SC: Nikki Haley (R)
SD: Dennis Daugaard (R)
TN: Bill Haslam (R)
VT: Peter Shumlin (D)
WI: Scott Walker (R)
WY: Matt Mead (R)
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Page last updated: Nov 23, 2011