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Monday, September 17, 2012

Kansas Board Officially Puts End to Obama Ballot Challenge


KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A challenge to President Obama's eligibility to appear on the Kansas ballot officially ended on Monday after a state board adjourned without ruling because the objection had been withdrawn last week.

The challenge was filed by a resident of Manhattan, Kan., raising long-running conspiracy theories that Mr. Obama was not born in the United States. But the resident, Joe Montgomery, the communications director for the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, withdrew his objection on Friday because, he said, he was subjected to a storm of criticism.

Despite the withdrawal, the State Objections Board, which decides whether a candidate is eligible to appear on the ballo t, met on Monday to close the matter officially. After accepting a certified birth certificate from Hawaii that confirms that Mr. Obama was born there in 1961, the board ended its session.

“There was some discussion by an attorney pressing for further investigation of the birth status of President Obama,” Brad Bryant, the Kansas election director, wrote in an e-mail. “But the board ruled that it lacked authority to carry the issue further.”

Mr. Montgomery's petition, if only momentarily, flared up the highly emotional “birther” controversy. Although birthers are widely viewed as fringe forces, the Obama administration forcefully pushed back last year, with it releasing his long-form birth certificate and the president saying the nation's problems would not be solved if we got “distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.”

Polls: Warren Ahead in Massachusetts


Despite criticism of her campaign by some of her Democratic allies, Elizabeth Warren may be gaining ground in her bid to unseat Senator Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts, two new polls suggest.

A poll by Suffolk University and Channel 7 News in Boston released on Monday night found Ms. Warren leading 48 percent to 44 percent among likely voters, a spread that is within the poll's margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.

That follows a poll released on Sunday by Western New England University that showed Ms. Warren leading 50 percent to 44 percent, which also falls within that poll's margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Analysts said tha t Ms. Warren received a bounce from her prominent speaking role at the Democratic National Convention this month and that Democratic voters who may have been flirting with Mr. Brown were returning to the party's fold.

As a Republican in a deeply Democratic state, Mr. Brown is swimming upstream. But Mitt Romney, his party's presidential candidate, is doing significantly worse. The Suffolk poll found that President Obama is trouncing Mr. Romney, a former governor of the state, 64 percent to 31 percent. 

Congressional Republicans Raise Questions About New York Investigations


Congressional Republicans on Monday issued a letter to Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, raising questions about his investigations into private equity firms and politically active tax-exempt groups.

Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, and Representative Dave Camp of Michigan, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, questioned whether Mr. Schneiderman, a Democrat, had properly followed federal procedures in requesting tax information in connection with the two unrelated inquiries. One of the inquiries focuses on tax-exempt groups' election spending; the other is looking at whether strategies used by private equity managers to reduce their taxes violate federal or state law.

“We are particularly concerned by reports that indicate your office has not followed the federally prescribed process for legally obtaining tax returns and other financial information from these organizations and businesses,” wrote Mr. Hatch and Mr. Camp.

The two lawmakers said that legal demands by state law enforcement officials for federal tax information must be made through the Internal Revenue Service. They also hint at fears that Mr. Schneiderman's investigation of tax-exempt groups might reveal which donors have been financing multimillion-dollar advertising barrages by the groups, which overwhelmingly back Republicans and whose right to spend on campaigns without disclosing donors has been fiercely defended by Republicans on Capitol Hill.

“We emphasize strongly that willful unauthorized disclosure of returns or return information is a federal crime subject to fines and/or imprisonment,” the letter says.

So far, Mr. Schneiderman does not appear to have issued subpoenas to any of the groups, known as 501(c)(4)s after the section of the tax code under which they are organized. During the summer, his office requested that groups operating or raising money in New York register with the attorney general's charities bureau and comply with relevant state rules - which require registering organizations to provide the office with copies of their tax returns and audited financial statements each year - or explain why they are not subject to the state regulation.

“State law empowers the Office of the New York State Attorney General to conduct inquiries to protect New Yorkers from, among other things, fraudulent solicitations and state tax evasion,” James Freeland, a spokesman for Mr. Schneiderman, said in a statement. “Senator Hatch and Representative Camp correctly note in their letter that federal law recognizes this as a legitimate basis for states to seek tax returns from the I.R.S. If the Office of the Attorney General should require such records for purposes of carrying out its law enforcement functions on behalf of New Yorkers, it is well aware of the proper procedures for requesting such information.”

Mr. Schneiderman's investigation of the private equity industry has involved subpoenas to more than a dozen firms in recent months, but it is not clear whether individual tax returns are among the documents that have been requested.

Romney Talks Bluntly on Those Dependent on Government


Mitt Romney described almost half of Americans as “dependent upon government” during a private reception with donors earlier this year and said those voters will likely support President Obama because they believe they are “entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”

The blunt political and cultural assessment by the Republican presidential candidate offers a rare glimpse into Mr. Romney's personal views as the campaign enters its final 50 days. Liberals quickly condemned the remarks as insensitive and Mr. Obama's campaign accused him of having “disdainfully written off half the nation.”

The recordings surfaced even as Mr. Romney sought to relaunch his campaign me ssage amid internal campaign sniping and calls from Republicans outside the campaign for him to be more specific about how his policies will fix the nation's economy.

And the videos raised the possibility that his campaign would once again be sidetracked by Mr. Romney's own words, a problem that has plagued the former Massachusetts governor since his hard-fought battle with Republican rivals during the nominating contests earlier this year.

Video clips of the Republican candidate for president making the comments were posted on the Internet Monday afternoon by Mother Jones, a liberal magazine, which said it had obtained the recording and had confirmed its authenticity. The magazine said it was concealing the identity of the person who took the video and the location and time of the recording.

The New York Times is unable to confirm where or when the clips were taken. The author of the article on the Mother Jones website, David Corn, said the video was taken after Mr. Romney won the Republican nominating contest but he declined to comment further.

In one video segment of the fundraiser, Mr. Romney described how his campaign is writing off “47 percent of the people” who will vote for Mr. Obama “no matter what.” He adds that those people “are people who pay no income tax” and says “so our message of low taxes doesn't connect.”

Mr. Romney said that “my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

The comments by Mr. Romney were much more stark than usual, though he typically talks in public about supporters of Mr. Obama wanting big government to take care of their problems. He often accuses Mr. Obama and his supporters of wanting to bring a European-style socialism to the United States.

In the videos, Mr. Romney says that his campaign is concentrating on the “5 to 10 percent in the center” who he describes as “thoughtful” when it comes to deciding who to vote for.

Jim Messina, Mr. Obama's campaign manager, said in a statement Monday evening that it was “shocking” that Mr. Romney would “go behind closed doors” to describe nearly half of the country in such terms.

“It¹s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you¹ve disdainfully written off half the nation,” Mr. Messina wrote.

Gail Gitcho, the communications director for Mr. Romney, said in a statement that Mr. Romney is “concerned about the growing number of people who are dependent on the federal government, including the record number of people who are on food stamps, nearly one in six Americans in poverty, and the 23 million Americans who are struggling to find work.”

\'Super PAC\' Makes Some Intriguing Bets on Romney


Mitt Romney may have had a bad run in polls in recent weeks, but he still has supporters who are bullish about his chances in some states that President Obama won handily in 2008.

Restore Our Future, the “super PAC” supporting Mr. Romney, is investing $1.5 million on ads in Michigan and Wisconsin, according to a media buyer who monitors spending in battleground states.

The investment suggests that for all the advantages Mr. Obama has had coming out of the nominating conventions, Mr. Romney can rely on one clear advantage he has over Democrats: outside groups with much more money to spend supporting his candidacy and tactically placing their bets in states where they believe he has a chance to win.

Restore Our Future's $720,000 investment in Michigan is particularly remarkable. Mr. Romney's campaign and his other allies seem to have all but given up on the state, even though the candidate grew up there and his father, George Romney, was once governor. The Romney campaign itself, which is running state-specific spots in those states it ostensibly considers to be the most in play, left Michigan off that list.

Other outside groups that back Mr. Romney, including American Crossroads, have also stopped advertising in Michigan.

Despite Mr. Romney's ties to the state, he has struggled to get beyond his opposition to the auto bailout, and election forecasters widely view the state as likely to go for Mr. Obama, who won in Michigan by 16 percentage points in 2008.

A spokeswoman for Restore Our Future declined to comment, saying the super PAC does not address ad purchases that have not been finalized. But the ability of super PACs to raise and spend freely gives them flexibility to invest in some long shots. And it could also provoke the Obama campaign to spend some precious ad dollars on a state it considers relatively safe.

In Wisconsin, Restore Our Future's ad purchase of $820,000, according to the buyer, is an amplification of the Romney campaign's efforts. After initially investing in eight states after the convention, the Romney camp bought ad time in a ninth, Wisconsin, to much fanfare. The campaign believes the selection of Representative Paul D. Ryan, from Wisconsin, as Mr. Romney's running mate has improved the ticket's chances there.

Brewing Obama\'s Ale, Step by Step


This month, after word got out that the White House was brewing its own beer, President Obama's staff released its recipe for White House Honey Ale. Diner's Journal asked Garrett Oliver, the brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery, to make a batch that we could sample and assess. And on Friday, Mr. Oliver started the brewing â€" a monthlong process that we'll occasionally drop in on, offering a glimpse of brewing both for those who know the art and for those who don't.

People often ask me whether I still brew beer at home. Although I'm an avid cook, I never brewed at home again after I started doing it professionally back in 1989. So to brew our White House Honey Ale, I went to see our friends at the near by Brooklyn Kitchen, where I and my brewing team have cooked many dinners. I borrowed a brewing pot from our brewery's lab manager, Tom Price, who told me it had never been used. “I bought it and meant to use it more than four years ago,” he said, “but then I ended up coming to work here and it ended up on a shelf at home.”

Beer is an odd food product, in that many people who drink it regularly aren't entirely sure what how it comes to be. To put it briefly, making beer requires breaking down grain starches into sugars, flavoring the resulting sweet liquid with hop flowers, then fermenting it with yeast.

Before I could start brewing, the recipe needed a little interpretation. The White House formula, while promising, is sometimes a bit short on detail. (Our emails to officials seeking clarification got caught up in bureaucratic channels last week, but admittedly the administration had a few bigger matters to deal with.)

The first step in beer-maki ng is to steep some crushed malted grains in the brewing pot to extract flavors. The recipe calls for Biscuit Malt, which gives a nutty, toasty flavor. It also calls for Amber Crystal Malt, but all crystal malt is amber and there are various types. In crystal malt, the starch inside the barley seed is stewed and broken down into sugar, then the grain is roasted until the sugar caramelizes and crystallizes inside the husk. This type of malt lends an amber color and caramel flavor to many types of beer, including my own Brooklyn Lager.

I picked a medium amber grade and steeped our grains in a nylon mesh bag for a half-hour. Then I removed our little satchel, and we had some slightly sweet barley-flavored water. It was now time to create the wort, the sweet liquid that we'll ferment into beer.

In the White House recipe, some of the work has already been done. It calls for canned malt extract, a very heavy syrup made from barley malt , so we won't have to convert the grain into sugars ourselves. There are many manufacturers of malt extract, and the recipe doesn't specify a brand; we went with a Wisconsin producer, Briess, for all of our malt extract.

As I brought the wort to a boil, the kitchen filled with a familiar aroma, not unlike that of baking bread.As per the instructions, I added East Kent Golding hops (a British variety more than 200 years old) and a mineral salt called gypsum. The gypsum hardens the soft Brooklyn water, once prized by the almost 50 breweries that flourished in the borough around the turn of the 20th century. Adding gypsum is sometimes called “Burtonizing,” recalling the mineral-rich waters of Burton-on-Trent, England, a town once famous for its pale ales. While soft water makes nice German-style pilsners, water hardened by gypsum gives pale ales their trademark snappiness.

Our couple of gallons of wort boiled merrily along for 45 minutes, until it was time t o add the pound of honey. Honey has a lot of volatile aromatics, and if we had added it earlier, some of that aroma might have boiled off. So the recipe adds it toward the end of the boil, locking the flavors into the wort. We used the same product we use at the brewery, a raw wildflower honey from Tremblay Apiaries, in the Southern Tier of New York State.

The recipe calls the hops we added earlier the “first flavoring.” That step is largely to add bitterness, which hops don't give up until they're boiled for a while. The “second flavoring” of hops, added right at the end of the boil, is largely for aroma. As with the honey, hop aromatics will boil off if the hops are added early.

Here we found a discrepancy in the recipe (scandal!) - we'll call it “the case of the missing Fuggles.” The ingredients call for 1½ ounces of the Fuggle hop variety, but the directions tell us to add only a ½ ounce. Lacking direction from the White House, we forged ahe ad and added the entire 1½ ounces.

If we added yeast to our piping hot wort, it would die instantly. That wouldn't be good, as it's the yeast that turns wort into beer by consuming sugar and giving off flavor, alcohol and carbon dioxide. So we now diluted the concentrated wort and cooled it down. We had been rehydrating some dried yeast, the same Windsor variety used by the White House. Different yeasts will create different flavors while fermenting, so using the same yeast is important if we want to get similar results.

We set the brewing pot into an ice bath, and after 10 minutes of stirring, we were down to about 80 degrees. We poured the concentrated wort into the cool water in our fermentation vessel, the type of five-gallon glass jug once widely used for bottled water coolers. I added the yeast, thanked my hosts and drove the jug to a lightly chilled room at the brewery. Overnight, the yeast woke up and started its feeding frenzy - and by Monday morning it was bubbling away.

An App to Help You Find Parking On the Spot


Parking Panda, an online service that helps you find and reserve parking spaces, has added the San Francisco market to its inventory and launched a mobile app to help you find parking on the spot.

The app makes it easier to make reservations and pay for them on the fly when you're away from your computer, said Nick Miller, the company's chief executive. “With the app, you can locate a space where you are and book one right near you,” he said. The app is now available for the iPhone, and will be available eventually for Android devices too.

Parking Panda is sort of like a parking version of AirBNB, the site that helps property owners rent out spare bedrooms or vacant apartments to travelers seekin g a bargain. Another similar offering is Parkatmyhouse.com, which started in Britain but is trying to expand in the United States.

Parking Panda lists both commercial lots and garages, as well as privately owned, individual parking spaces. Owners upload a description and often a photo of the lot, as well as a schedule of when it's available. When drivers reserve a space, they enter a description of their car online. Payment is taken care of through the app (or online) by credit card, so there doesn't have to be any interaction between the owner of the space and the driver.

The start-up was already operating in Baltimore, Md., and Washington, D.C.; this week it moves into San Francisco and Oakland, Calif. and should be available soon in Philadelphia as well. The site has about 20,000 spaces that can currently be reserved through the service. (Parking Panda lists parking in other cities, like New York and Chicago, but doesn't offer the ability to reserve spaces in advance and pay for them; you have to go there and pay in person.)

In Baltimore, Mr. Miller notes, many homeowners near the city's football stadium list spaces on Parking Panda. “For events, even if the stadium has parking it sells out, and half the people attending can't find parking,” he said. “So this adds additional inventory, without driving around for 45 minutes.”

But he also expects the app to be useful in areas like San Francisco's Nob Hill neighborhood, where restaurants and bars regularly draw crowds but there is limited parking.

If you try Parking Panda, let us know about your experience.

Filing Trade Suit, Obama Raps Romney on China


CINCINNATI â€" President Obama, under renewed fire from Mitt Romney for not standing up to China on behalf of American workers, used a rally in this battleground state on Monday to announce a new trade case against Beijing. He said it was Mr. Romney who had sent jobs to China through his zealous practice of outsourcing at Bain Capital.

After a week of anti-American violence in the Middle East threw Mr. Romney off stride and left Mr. Obama potentially vulnerable, the shift to China put the presidential campaign and both candidates back on familiar ground, allowing each to try out new lines to showcase their toughness and caricature the fecklessness of their opponent.

â €œMy opponent has been running around Ohio claiming he's going to roll up his sleeves and he's going take the fight to China,” the president said to a crowd of 4,500 at a hillside park here. “Here's the thing: his experience has been owning companies that were called pioneers in the business of outsourcing jobs to countries like China.”

“Ohio,” the president declared, “you can't stand up to China when all you've done is send them our jobs.”

Mr. Obama, deploying the full powers of incumbency, announced that the United States would file a broad lawsuit against China at the World Trade Organization, charging that it subsidizes its auto and auto parts industries to the detriment of American manufacturers.

It is the latest in a string of trade actions against China taken by the Obama administration, and the second announced by the president on the eve of a campaign visit to Ohio, where the auto parts industry employs 52,400 people. In July â€" just before he flew to Toledo, home of a Jeep Wrangler factory â€" the White House filed a complaint against Beijing for levying $3.3 billion in duties on American automobiles.

The White House insisted that the lawsuit announced on Monday was “months in the making,” though it was hardly shy about promoting its campaign benefits.

“It's not as if because we're in the midst of an election that we should wait until next year to take these steps on behalf of American workers,” Josh Earnest, the deputy press secretary, said.

Mr. Romney fired back even before Mr. Obama spoke, accusing him of doing “too little, too late” to curb China's unfair trade practices. The latest trade case, Mr. Romney said, was little more than a campaign stunt, failing to compensate for his unwillingness to take other actions, like labeling China a currency manipulator.

“President Obama's credibility on this issue has long since vanished,” Mr. Romney declared in a statem ent. “I will not wait until the last months of my presidency to stand up to China, or do so only when votes are at stake.”

The Obama and Romney campaigns also unveiled tit-for-tat China commercials â€" Mr. Romney's accusing the president of repeatedly passing up chances to get tough on Beijing, and Mr. Obama's accusing his challenger of outsourcing jobs to China, through his work at Bain Capital, and for having investments in Chinese companies.

Bashing China is a tried-and-true campaign strategy for both parties, particularly in swing states like Ohio, where a heavy loss of manufacturing jobs has coincided with a surge of Chinese-made auto parts into the United States.

For Mr. Obama, however, it is a notable shift from 2008, when he modulated his anti-China remarks, in part because the job market was not as central an issue in that election and in part because his foreign policy advisers warned him that if he made China a punching bag, he would spend mo nths as president repairing the damage.

Once in office, Mr. Obama became frustrated by what he views as China's refusal to play by the rules, according to current and former officials. In the fall of 2009, he imposed a tariff on China over its dumping of tires into the American market. This was by far the most conspicuous of a stream of trade actions; before this year, most of the cases were fairly obscure, covering goods like flat-rolled steel and chicken broilers.

“We've brought more trade cases against China in one term than the previous administration did in two â€" and every case we've brought that's been decided, we won,” Mr. Obama said.

Speaking of the latest case, he said, “These are subsidies that directly harm working men and women on the assembly lines in Ohio and Michigan and across the Midwest.” He added, “It's not right. It's against the rules, and we will not let it stand.”

Mr. Obama noted that Mr. Romney had warned that the tire case would be bad for the country and for American workers â€" a charge he made in his book “No Apologies.” Instead, the president claimed, it created more than 1,000 jobs.

Mr. Romney is training a spotlight on another type of enforcement in which he says Mr. Obama is lacking: labeling China as a currency manipulator for keeping its currency, the yuan, artificially undervalued. In his campaign ad, a narrator declares: “Seven times Obama could have stopped China's cheating. Seven times he refused.”

The Treasury Department has consistently declined to designate China for manipulation. Senior officials argue that to do so would only make matters worse, by provoking a nationalist backlash that could force the Chinese authorities to tighten their currency controls again. They note that after quiet but persistent diplomacy by American officials, China began relaxing the controls in 2010, and the currency has risen modestly against the dollar.

Mr. Ro mney, however, has declared that he would label China a manipulator on his first day in office â€" a threat that rattles many free-trade proponents, who note that the George W. Bush administration also declined to go that route. Mr. Romney also says he would be far tougher than Mr. Obama on issues like intellectual property rights.

Mr. Obama repeated his charge that Mr. Romney pioneered outsourcing at Bain Capital â€" even repeating the word “pioneer,” lest anyone miss the point. But independent fact-checking groups have taken issue with that word because it implies that Bain was ahead of the curve in outsourcing, when the trend was already well established.

Keith Bradsher contributed reporting from Hong Kong.

Romney Aide Concedes Campaign Has Been Short on Specifics


A top strategist for Mitt Romney conceded Monday that the campaign has not provided enough specifics about their candidate's vision for the country and pledged a renewed effort in the last 50 days of the race to better communicate with voters.

Ed Gillespie, a veteran Republican operative who is advising Mr. Romney, told reporters that voters are demanding more specifics from the campaign on the economy, foreign policy, and energy concerns. He said the revamped messaging approach will focus on communicating better about the candidate's existing ideas rather than providing new ones.

“We are not rolling out new policy,” Mr. Gillespie said, “so much as we are making sure people understand th at when we say we can do these things, here's how we are going to get them done and these are the specifics.”

For months, Mr. Romney's central strategy has been to attack President Obama‘s leadership and his handling of the economy. Aides have long said they believe the campaign would be a referendum by voters on their dissatisfaction with the current president and the direction of the faltering economy.

But Mr. Gillespie said that recent polling done by the campaign suggests that voters are increasingly tuning into the campaign now and are eager to hear more from Mr. Romney about his own plans.

“What we have found is that people want to hear a little more of that,” Mr. Gillespie said. “We think there's a demand out there.”

The shift in approach comes amid increasing criticism from Republicans outside the campaign and polls showing Mr. Romney slipping in key swing states. An article in Politico Sunday night de tailed carping among Mr. Romney's campaign advisers about who is to blame, with much of the finger-pointing aimed at Stuart Stevens, the top strategist for the campaign.

Conservative supporters of Mr. Romney's campaign have increasingly voiced concern that the campaign has been too vague in its promises to voters and risks offering a bland alternative that will not succeed in November.

William Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, wrote last week that Mr. Romney must “speak up” on the specifics that would animate his presidency or risk losing.

“When a challenger merely appeals to disappointment with the incumbent and tries to reassure voters he's not too bad an alternative, that isn't generally a formula for victory,” Mr. Kristol wrote. “Mike Dukakis lost.”

John Podhoretz, a conservative commentator, wrote in the New York Post that: “Romney & Co. are wrong if they think negative feelings toward Obama are sufficient to motivate thei r voters. These people would like very much to believe in their candidate. That's not happening now.”

Mr. Gillespie did not directly address Mr. Stevens or the late-in-the-game campaign squabbling inside and outside of the Boston headquarters. And he said the timing of the change in strategy was partly a natural evolution now that the election is drawing near and more voters are paying attention.

But he made clear that the campaign views the upcoming period as a “new emphasis and renewed emphasis” on Mr. Romney's approach to governing.

As examples, Mr. Gillespie said that in a speech in California Monday, Mr. Romney will highlight previous proposals to limit the growth in federal programs and reduce the federal workforce that will reduce spending by $500 billion in four years. The speech will be before the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles.

Asked for examples of other specifics, Mr. Gillespie noted that the campaign will underscor e its promise to be energy independent by the year 2020 by repeating Mr. Romney's pledge to approve the Keystone oil pipeline, allow drilling off the coast of Virginia and lift the moratorium on oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The timing is right at this moment to reinforce the specifics,” Mr. Gillespie said.

The new approach will involve new stump speeches by Mr. Romney and his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, Mr. Gillespie said. He said it will also involve background papers and new ads, some of which began running on Monday.

In one new ad the campaign released Monday morning, Mr. Romney promises a stronger middle class by improving foreign trade with a “crackdown on cheaters like China” and cutting the federal deficit.

“You've got to stop spending more money than we take in,” Mr. Romney says in the ad, which does not mention or directly criticize President Obama. In the ad, called “The Romney Plan,” Mr . Romney also pledges to create 12 million new jobs with a focus on small business.

That ad, and another emphasizing the growth in the nation's debt, are intended to make the positive case for Mr. Romney taking over in the White House.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Obama's campaign said the ads will not convince voters that Mr. Romney's prescriptions for the country are better than the ones that Mr. Obama has been following for the past several years.

“The American people have no reason to believe Mitt Romney would reduce the deficit or strengthen the middle class â€" it's not what he did as Governor and it's not what he's proposing to do as president,” said Lis Smith, a spokeswoman for the Obama campaign.

After his speech in Los Angeles Monday afternoon, Mr. Romney's campaign schedule remains light for the rest of the week. There is a planned fundraiser in Los Angeles Monday night and Mr. Romney has no public events on Tuesday. He is scheduled to have on ly a single public event on each day later in the week, though the campaign could still add events.

On Sunday, Mr. Romney had planned an event in Colorado, a critical swing state where Republicans had hoped to deny the president a repeat victory. But a small plane crash at the airport where Mr. Romney was scheduled to land forced the event to be canceled.

Tips For Managing Your Increasingly Lumpy Income


Carl Richards is a certified financial planner in Park City, Utah, and is the director of investor education at BAM Advisor Services. His book, “The Behavior Gap,” was published this year. His sketches are archived on the Bucks blog.

Graduate from college, get a job with a stable paycheck that grows each year by a little, work for 30 or 40 years and retire with a pension.

While it may have been common among Tom Brokaw's “Greatest Generation” and even many Baby Boomers, the idea of working at the same place your whole life, having a stable paycheck and getting a pension check afterwards seems like a fairytale now. It's hard to pin down the numbers, but increasingly it seems like we're fac ing the new reality of living in Dan Pink's Free Agent Nation.

It's a place where many of the structures we used to rely on have either gone away or are predicted to go away. Retirement accounts we manage ourselves have replaced company pensions, and in many cases our income has become more variable.

The issues that come with variable or lumpy incomes are not new. Think of farmers, small business owners and artists. Add to that list all the real estate agents, trial attorneys and other jobs that rely heavily on commissions or bonuses. These jobs come with fat years followed by very lean ones.

But most of the personal financial literature focuses mainly on the non-lumpy, on people with steady incomes and a paycheck every two weeks.

For this group, it's logical to think of saving a percentage of your income each year and allocating that savings to different buckets, like college and retirement. It's a strategy that works fin e if your income is steady and steadily growing over time.

This approach gets confusing when you fall into the lumpy category though. In one year you may have X amount, then the next year you may may earn 10 times X or one-tenth of X. The variation can be incredibly difficult to predict, making it a challenge to plan for your financial future.

For example, think of artists who have a big art show and make two to three times their annual income from that one show. They may not make any income during the next two years while preparing for a new show.

You may not be an artist, but it's hard to miss the dramatic changes in the job market. How many people still work for the same employer for 30 years? I predict that over time more of us will face the challenge of lumpy incomes even if we don't right now.

People with lumpy incomes need to think about financial planning a bit differently. Many of the standards will hold true, but if you find yourself looking at a lot of ups and downs in your income, you want to be aware of a few things.

1) SPENDING When you have that first big year, where your income is two, three, or even 10 times as big as your previous high mark, there's a tendency to think of it as the new normal. It's easy to assume that you'll always earn that new income. It's also very easy to start and continue spending at that level.

A friend told me the story of a trial attorney she knew who won a big trial many years ago. He made upgrades to his lifestyle that he still follows today, even though he hasn't had another big win since the original one. It's starting to catch up with him, but he appears unwilling to modify his lifestyle. So with your first big year, be careful that you don't reset your expectations to a markedly higher level and then years later realize you're in trouble.

2) SAVINGS Depending on your situation, saving a percentage of your income may still make sense, but it can also help to think in terms of setting a spending threshold. With a spending threshold, you spend a certain amount and then everything over that amount gets saved. From that savings, you'll allocate some to retirement, education or other goals you're working towards.

3) TAXES Often people with lumpy incomes are in for a big surprise the following April. You'll want to work with a certified public accountant to set aside enough to cover you, particularly if you've done really well that year. There are few things worse than having a big year, something that's cause for celebration, and then being shocked by the tax bill.

When I think of the lumpiest incomes, it's hard not to think of farmers and their time-tested rules. For instance, when you have a fat year, set some aside for lean years, or live on far less than you make. The problems come when you try to manage a  lumpy income using a set salary mindset. If you have lumpy income, you should act like a farmer, not a sala ried employee.

We need to start rethinking some of the rules of traditional financial advice and adapting them to better fit incomes that go up and down, often without warning. It's easy to forget that most people lived this way for years before we got used to the idea of company pensions and working at the same place for 30 years.

If you earn a lumpy income, what have you done to better align your spending and saving with your income?


Monday Reading: Budget Airlines Fly South of Border


A variety of consumer-focused articles appears daily in The New York Times and on our blogs. Each weekday morning, we gather them together here so you can quickly scan the news that could hit you in your wallet.

The Early Word: Fraud Fighters


In Today's Times:

  • Rallying under a story of voter fraud they can't prove, True the Vote and similar groups are fighting what they believe is an effort to subvert elections by scrutinizing registration rolls and the voters who show up at the polls, Stephanie Saul reports.
  • After Chicago officials and union leaders reached a tentative agreement on Friday, the Chicago Teachers Union extended its strike on Sunday, forcing one of the country's largest school systems to go a second week without classes, Monica Davey and Steven Yaccino report.
  • As the death toll continues to rise in Syria, addressing the civil war is becoming a top priority for the Obama administration. But the violent protests last week have intensified the question of whether intervention is the solution, Robert F. Worth and Helene Cooper report.
  • Amid discord among his campaign staff members, Mitt Romney will take a new approach this week, playing up his five-point economic plan in ads, speeches and events in an effort to answer questions about what he would do if elected president, Jim Rutenberg and Jeff Zeleny report.

Washington Happenings:

  • President Obama will attend campaign events in Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, on Monday.
  • Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will attend a campaign event in Burlington, Iowa.

For Romney Campaign, an Unpleasant Week


LOS ANGELES - In presidential campaigns, as in life, there are unlucky and unpleasant weeks.

Mitt Romney seems to be experiencing both of those right now.

It may be fleeting and it may not mean much in the grand scheme of the election, but for the moment, it has given his campaign an air of anxiety, not what it wants to exude on the heels of a national convention, with fewer than 50 days before Election Day.

On Sunday, just when it seemed that the rough patch might be over, there was this: a small plane crashed at the remote airport where Mr. Romney needed to land for a campaign rally in Colorado.

It was his sole public event of the weekend. It was in a swing state. It was canceled.< br />
A few hours later, as Mr. Romney was aboard a flight to Los Angeles, a story was published in Politico outlining growing tensions within his campaign, much of it surrounding the organization's chief political strategist, Stuart Stevens.

Dirty laundry was aired. Aides groaned, just about audibly.

So it went for Mr. Romney over the past few days.

New polls showed him losing his edge on the economy, once thought to be his unassailable competitive advantage in the race against President Obama, and lagging behind in crucial swing states.

Campaign finance filings revealed that his fierce fund-raising operation, which has bested Mr. Obama for several months in a row, lost out to him in August, by just enough to sting.

The political class, not to mention a number of Republicans, hammered Mr. Romney over a statement he issued calling the president's handling of the attacks on the Libyan consulate a “disgrace.” (With unpredictable events unfolding in the Middle East, it may yet boomerang and hurt Mr. Obama as well.)

On Sunday, in perhaps a fitting coda to a very long week, the Mitt Romney for President Web site put its campaign paraphernalia on sale. The discount: 20 percent.

Nobody judges a presidential campaign by what happens in a single week, and for that, the Romney campaign is no doubt grateful.

A Shift in Strategy in Romney\'s Latest Ads


New ads by Mitt Romney‘s presidential campaign began running Monday as part of a shift in strategy to focus more on the his specific ideas to revive the economy, create jobs and reduce the nation's long-term debt.

In one ad, Mr. Romney promises a stronger middle class by improving foreign trade with a “crackdown on cheaters like China” and cutting the federal deficit.

“You've got to stop spending more money than we take in,” Mr. Romney says in the ad, which does not mention or directly criticize President Obama. In the ad, called “The Romney Plan,” Mr. Romney also pledges to create 12 million new jobs with a focus on small business.

A second ad is tougher on Mr. Obama, accus ing his administration of failing American families by allowing the nation's debt to skyrocket. In the ad, Mr. Romney says that the country has “a moral responsibility not to spend more than we take in.”

Both ads are part of a new effort by Mr. Romney's campaign to refocus their message in the wake of slumping poll numbers, criticism from Republican party officials and discord inside the campaign's headquarters in Boston.

The ads emphasize making the positive case for Mr. Romney's presidency. For much of the campaign, the Republican candidate has focused more on attacking Mr. Obama's record in office. But strategists now believe the campaign must offer voters more explanation about how things will change if Mr. Romney wins the White House.

Mr. Romney plans to continue his focus on that message during a speech on Monday to the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, in Los Angeles. According to excerpts released by the campaign, Mr. Romney plans to e cho his new ads by pledging to balance the federal budget, shift spending responsibility to the states and reduce federal employment by 10 percent through attrition.

“These things combined will reduce spending by $500 billion a year by the end of my first term,” Mr. Romney is expected to say, according to the excerpts.

The speech to the Hispanic group is an attempt by Mr. Romney's campaign to reach out to a demographic group that has traditionally favored Democrats. In his speech, however, Mr. Romney plans to focus more on his overall plans for the economy than on the specific issues of concern to Latinos.

He will, however, note that the unemployment rate among Hispanics is higher than the overall national rate. And he will note the need to “permanently fix our immigration system,” without offering specific suggestions for how he would break the ideological logjam in Washington over the contentious issue.

“I believe we can all agree that wha t we need are fair and enforceable immigration laws that will stem the flow of illegal immigration, while strengthening legal immigration,” he is expected to say, according to the excerpts.

Mr. Obama's campaign offered a sarcastic video Monday in anticipation of Mr. Romney's speech to the Hispanic group. The video, titled “Mitt Romney: Extreme Makeover Latino Edition,” suggests that the Republican candidate is trying to paper over his “extreme” views about immigration with more moderate rhetoric.

“Mitt Romney is faced with one of his most implausible makeovers yet,” the video says. “Making his extreme policies seem appealing to Latino voters.”