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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Closer Look at \'Redistribution\'


Amid the fallout over Mitt Romney's comments that 47 percent of Americans believed they were “victims” and are dependent upon government, the Republican Party is stepping up attacks that President Obama favors redistributing wealth, citing a 1998 audio clip of him saying, “I actually believe in redistribution.”

The Republican National Committee released a video Wednesday that plays a carefully clipped audio segment containing the remark. The Romney campaign also seized on the quote, with its campaign manager, Matt Rhoades, saying Mr. Romney “has a different idea” - “to foster growth and create wealth, not redistribute wealth, if our economy is to grow the way it has in the past.â €

Part of the recording, though, might surprise critics who believe Mr. Obama has an unalloyed love of government largess: He also suggested in his comments that he agreed, at least to some degree, with attacks on “the possibility of government action and its efficacy.”

“I think some of it has been deserved,” Mr. Obama said, citing poor policymaking at the Chicago Housing Authority and Chicago public schools.

Moments later, Mr. Obama, then a state senator speaking at Loyola University in Chicago, uttered the words Republicans are using against him: “I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution, because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot.”

But what still is unclear is precisely how the two candidates' views on redistribution differ. Does Mr. Romney, for example, believe the curren t federal tax system is too redistributive? If yes, does that conflict with his assertion that his own tax proposal will retain the progressivity of the tax code?

An aide to Mr. Romney did not respond to those questions on Wednesday. Instead, the aide repeated attacks on Mr. Obama's economic record and his “vision of a government-centered society” that includes redistributing wealth.

What is paradoxical about the sudden focus on redistribution worries is it seems to ignore data that demonstrates that the nation has seen a significant redistribution of incomes over the past generation â€" from the poor and middle class to the rich, and especially to the very rich â€" all while government policies have also become less redistributive over the same period.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office>, in 1979, for example, 7.4 percent of after-tax income flowed to the wealthiest one percent of the population, but by 2009 that figure had gr own to 11.5 percent. (This rise came despite a stock market crash that decimated portfolios of the wealthy at the tail end of the period surveyed: In 2007, the richest one percent had received 16.7 percent of income.)

Over the three decades the share of income received both by the poor and middle class fell. Only the wealthiest one-fifth of Americans saw their share of after-tax income rise, with gains concentrated among the richest five percent. In a report last year, the C.B.O. found most of the shift was due to trends in salaries, business income, capital gains, pensions and other “market income.”

But the C.B.O. also noted that “government transfers and federal taxes became less redistributive.” Of course, the government continues to redistribute wealth, such as through progressive income taxes: The more you make, the higher your bracket. But on Wednesday, the Romney aide did not say whether Mr. Romney believes the current federal tax system â€" or spe cific policies Mr. Obama has enacted â€" are too redistributive.

\'The Romney Plan\'


Here's something exceedingly rare in presidential campaign ads: A 100 percent positive commercial. No swipes at the president, no grenades lobbed at the other party's policies. This ad is just 30 seconds of Mr. Romney laying out a rosy, albeit vague, vision of what the country would look like under his leadership.

“My plan is to help the middle class,” Mr. Romney says directly to the camera as he ticks off a to-do list: getting tough on China, balancing the budget, cutting the deficit and championing small business.

As Mr. Romney talks about the need to support small business, all of the people shown on the screen - presumably small-business owners - are women.

He says he will be able to create 12 million American jobs over four years. That's 250,000 jobs per month, or higher than the average monthly job growth for the last two years by about 100,000.

But some economists say that figure is not very a mbitious. Macroeconomic Advisers, a forecasting firm, already predicts that the economy will add 11.8 million jobs from 2012 to 2016.

\'Dear Daughter\'


Mr. Romney has a lot of catching up to do among women. The latest New York Times/CBS News poll has Mr. Obama up by 12 percentage points.

In this ad, the Romney campaign highlights economic statistics that, standing on their own, suggest that the economic picture for women is far worse than it is for men.

“That's what Obama's policies have done for women,” an announcer says, in a rebuttal to Mr. Obama's claims that Republicans have waged a “war on women.” As a chubby-cheeked baby girl plays in her mother's arms, the announcer says, “Welcome, daughter.”

It is true, as the ad points out, that the poverty level among women, at 16.3 percent, is the highest in 17 years, according to the Census Bureau. But the unemployment rate for men is 8.3 percent; for women it is 7.8 percent. The ad also notes that more than 5.5 million women are unemployed, about a half-million more than when Mr. Obama took office. B ut the ad does not say that the number of unemployed women started to rise sharply in 2008, before he took office, and has come down from a peak of 6.4 million in 2010.

\'Failing American Families\'


With its matter-of-fact “this or that” cadence, this 30-second ad recalls the famous 1980s “This is your brain on drugs” commercials. “This was household income when President Obama took office; this was the national debt,” an announcer says as a bar chart adjusts accordingly, with the national debt bar growing as the income bar falls.

The image then shifts to Mr. Romney explaining to an audience that he would cut government spending. “We can't keep buying and spending and passing on debts to our kids. And I'll stop it,” he says as a shot of a woman in a cap and gown hugging a child is shown.

By highlighting the drop in average household income - which the ad puts in the context of the Obama presidency, ignoring that incomes began falling when George W. Bush was still in office - Mr. Romney is reinforcing a point he makes repeatedly: that Americans are not better off today than they were four years a go.

Senate Republicans Not Eager to Discuss Romney Video


Republican leaders in the Senate on Wednesday were intent on showing Mitt Romney how it's done: blast President Obama for his lack of leadership, castigate his economic record, then flee.

It is a time-honored ritual, while the Senate is in session, to hold mini-news conferences after the two parties break away from their weekly policy luncheons. Party leaders spout the party line. Reporters ignore their opening statements and ask questions about the issue of the moment. Everyone leaves happy.

But on Wednesday, Republican leaders broke tradition. The party line stuff was well-represented, by Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, John Thune of South Dakota, John Barrasso of Wyoming and Roy Blunt of Missouri. But when the last word was spouted, they turned en masse and fled, no questions taken.

The reason was obvious: While the senators wanted to stay on message, the throng of reporters had one question in mind - the senators' thoughts on Mitt Romney and his 47 percent musings.

Before the lunches, Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, a Republican in a tough election fight, joined other embattled candidates and broke with Mr. Romney.

“I have a very different view of the world having grown up with a father who was an auto mechanic and a mother who was a school cook and five brothers and sisters,” he said.

Senator Scott P. Brown, Republican of Massachusetts, reiterated his feelings about his nominee's notion that nearly half of Americans view themselves as victims entitled to government handouts.

“A lot of those people don't want to be in those situations. They want to work, and I'm going to continue to do the things I think will help them,” he said.

Democrats were gleefully twisting the knife. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, continued to needle Mr. Heller, whom, he has made clear, he would just as soon not return to the Senate next year.

Mr. Heller “recognized how toxic Romney's comments are, but that's interesting coming from someone who just a short time ago compared the unemployed people to hobos, that was his word, hobos,” Mr. Reid said. He was referring to a 2010 comment when Mr. Heller, then a House member, questioned extending unemployment benefits by asking, “Is government now creating hobos?”

“We have a long line of people who are running from Romney as if the Olympics are still on,” Mr. Reid added.

Chased down in flight, Mr. Blunt declined to say how much the Romney comments were roiling the Republican conversation. “I just don't think we ought to talk about what was said at lunch,” he said.

Veterans\' Jobs Bill Blocked in the Senate


Eager to shoot down President Obama's legislative agenda just weeks before the election, Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked a measure that would have provided $1 billion over five years to help veterans find work in their communities.

The measure, which would have potentially created jobs for up to 20,000 veterans, was blocked on a procedural point by Republicans, who argued that the bill was unpaid for. Senator Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat and the bill's main sponsor, said the bill would have covered the costs in part with fees on Medicare providers and suppliers who are delinquent on their tax bills.

The procedural vote was 58 to 40; 60 votes would have been required to waive R epublican objections.

The bill was opposed, by, among others, Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, who said he believed the bill duplicated existing job programs for veterans that are not well run, and Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, who has been seeking amendments on bills that would cut off funding to Egypt and to Pakistan until Pakistan freed Shakil Afridi, the doctor who helped the United States find Osama bin Laden.

“It's both shocking and shameful that Republicans today chose to kill a bill to put America's veterans back to work,” Ms. Murray said in a statement.

“At a time when one in four young veterans are unemployed,” she said, “Republicans should have been able, for just this once, to put aside the politics of obstruction and to help these men and women provide for their families.”

She added that the vote was “stark reminder” that Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader from Ken tucky, and Senate Republicans “are willing to do absolutely anything to fulfill the pledge he made nearly two years ago to defeat President Obama. It doesn't matter who gets in their way or which Americans they have to sacrifice in that pursuit, even if it's our nation's veterans.”

Some Republicans, five of whom voted for the bill, also seemed disappointed about the failure of legislation that had the veneer of bipartisan support. “These men and women have worn our uniform, shouldered the burden and faced unthinkable dangers in forward areas during a very dangerous time,” Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said.

The vote was met with a strong rebuke from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “Once again, this Congress let partisan bickering stand in the way of putting thousands of America's heroes back to work,“ said Paul Rieckhoff, the organization's founder. “Lowering veteran unemployment is something both parties should be able to agree on â€" even in an election year.”

Supreme Court Denies Request to Block Electoral Maps in Texas


WASHINGTON â€" The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed November's elections in Texas to proceed under interim electoral maps approved by a federal court San Antonio.

That court drew new maps after a unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court in January that said earlier court-drawn maps had paid insufficient deference to ones that had been drawn by the Texas legislature but had not yet been approved, as required by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, by the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington.

This month, after a ruling from the federal court in Washington rejecting the legislature's maps, the League of United Latin American Citizens urged the Supreme Court to block the court-drawn interim maps . The group said the maps diluted the voting strength of minorities.

Governor Rick Perry has filed an appeal of the federal court's ruling to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court order on Wednesday rejecting the group's stay application was brief and unsigned.

The Online Life of the Secret Romney Recordings


An anonymous Twitter user who claims to have produced the secret recordings in May of Mitt Romney speaking at a private meeting of wealthy donors in Florida alerted the Romney campaign on Twitter last month, as well as members of the news media and prominent Democrats, about parts of the video.

In posts on Twitter, the account called @AnneOnymous tried to get the Romney campaign's attention on Aug. 31 by including a link to a short clip from the secret recordings about how the campaign uses his wife as a spokeswoman and his response to a question about troops in Iraq.

The Twitter user also alerted Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat from Florida, and David Corn, the Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones. It was Mr. Corn, who with reporting help from James E. Carter IV, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, persuaded the tipster to give Mother Jones access to the complete recordings.

At least three months before Mother Jones published its report and the complete video recording this week, the person who surreptitiously captured the video during the May 17 fund-raising event in Boca Raton, Fla., had made numerous efforts online to get attention for it.

But most of the audio clips posted online since May did not focus on Mr. Romney's remarks that 47 percent of Americans are too dependent on government, which is what grabbed the headlines and created a political furor for the his campaign after the Mother Jones report.

The first of four audio snippets from the recordings were posted May 31 and June 1 on YouTube by an anonymous person who described himself or herself as 62 years old and called the account Romney Exposed.

In t his clip, Mr. Romney describes a visit to a Chinese factory while he was at Bain Capital. The clip received 432 views on that first day.

In late May and in June, a Huffington Post commenter called RomneyExposed also posted multiple comments and links to parts of the video, which led to more views of the clips, but not widespread attention or distribution.

In a post detailing the online life of the video recording, Ben Smith, editor in chief of BuzzFeed, noted that the person behind the video also tried to get the attention of a BuzzFeed contributor on Twitter, including a link to part of the video.

A YouTube account was set up in August under the name of Rachel Maddow, the MSNBC television host, with her photo and a link to a single clip from the fund-raiser. It was the 2-minute-8-second clip of the video about Mr. Romney's trip to the factory titled “Mitt Romney admits to using Chinese slave labor at Bain” that had been previously posted on the RomneyE xposed YouTube channel.

In response, members of Ms. Maddow's staff asked YouTube to take the video down and shut down the channel, which YouTube did.

But before it was removed, Ms. Maddow's official Twitter account posted a link to the video, which generated more views of it and led to other bloggers writing about it.

Twitchy.com gathered the conversation on Twitter about the video, including questions about its authenticity.

On the fake Maddow YouTube account, the tipster promised in the comments that they would eventually make available the entire recording.

Meanwhile, Mr. Corn and Mr. Carter, working for Mother Jones and reporters at The Huffington Post, were trying to work behind the scenes to coax the tipster int o giving them full access to the video.

At the same time, a Twitter account, @AnneAnonymus, was created in late August to help draw attention to the posts. And someone with the same user name posted short clips on The Daily Kos, the liberal blogging platform, but was unable to get attention for them and instead faced questions about whether they were authentic. .

As my colleague Christine Haughney pointed out in an article about how Mother Jones got the story, Markos Moulitsas, the Daily Kos founder, pointed out “they were short clips, some as short as eight seconds, without context or identifying information.”

Mr. Moulitsas said the Mother Jones's coup was getting the source to release the entire video.

Mr. Carter, who had seen the video online and then began to pursue the creator, said in an interview with NBC News that his grandfather, the former president, sent him an e-mail congratulating him for helping to bring the video to light.

Aft er it was made public, the anonymous Twitter user, @AnneOnymous, posted a note to Mr. Carter.

The identity of the person who captured the video remains unknown. But Marc Leder, the hedge fund manager who hosted the May fund-raiser at his home in Florida, has apologized to Mr. Romney and is considering bringing charges against the person who shot the hidden video.

The Missing Two Minutes in the Romney Video? Everyone Has a Theory


The video of Mitt Romney's speech at a fund-raiser in Boca Raton, Fla., released by Mother Jones magazine this week has been discussed broadly across the political spectrum. It has even apparently darkened the mood of Mr. Romney's campaign team. There seemed to be little Mr. Romney could do but clarify that his remarks “were not elegantly stated” and fully embrace the ideas that drove them.

But not everyone agrees with the approach of the Romney campaign.

Late on Tuesday, some observers questioned why approximately two minutes were missing from the videos posted by Mother Jones. On The Blaze, Benny Johnson posted an edit of the video clips that highlighted a gap in the recordings, and argued that “the ‘uncut' videos leave out a critical portion of the speech.” The editor-in-chief of Breitbart.com, Joel B. Pollak, took the point a step further and warned that “there is new reason to suspect manipulation” of Mother Jones's video.

The response to this provocation gathered swiftly on Wednesday morning as users of Twitter created a viral hashtag, #Missing2Min, that speculated and cracked wise about what occurred during the moments missing from the recording posted by Mother Jones.

Some left-leaning observers shared their wit on the subject:

But they weren't alone. Twitter users connected to some conservative causes and organizations also had their own satirical remarks about missing footage:

Some Twitter users embraced the hashtag to highlight controversies that have bedeviled President Obama over the years:

But turnabout was fair play when it came to lingering controversies for Mr. Romney:

A bevy of jokes that were not particularly political were also offered, and these were some of the highlights:

And comparisons of Mr. Romney with Springfield's own Montgomery Burns were also common:

But of all the speculation about what happened in the missing two minutes, this Twitter user's theory seemed the most reasonable:

The Caucus Click: A Gift From Romney


Romney Says He Can Help the Poor


ATLANTA â€" Mitt Romney on Wednesday confronted the most damaging perception from a secretly taped video: that he has written off those who rely on government assistance.

“The question of this campaign is not who cares about the poor and the middle class,” Mr. Romney told campaign donors here during a fundraiser.

“I do,” Mr. Romney said. “He does,” he added, referring to the president.

“The question is who can help the poor and the middle class? I can! He can't!” Mr. Romney said.

His remarks appeared intended to blunt his word choice during a fundraiser in May, when the Republican candidate declared that 47 percent of Americans believe they are “victims,” and are too beholden to the government to ever vote for him.

Since video of that fundraiser has become public, Mr. Romney has said that he spoke inelegantly, but stood by his words.

At the fundraiser, Mr. Romney kept up his assault on President Obama for seeming to say in 1998 interview that he believed in the concept of wealth redistribution.

America, he said “does not work by a government saying, become dependent on government. Become dependent upon redistribution. That will kill the American entrepreneurship that's lifted our economy over the years.”

Delta Cracks Down on Mileage Tracking Sites


Delta Air Lines is the latest big carrier to crack down on start-up Web sites that aim to help travelers manage their frequent flier miles from multiple airlines.

Travelers provide their user names and passwords for their airline mileage programs (and other loyalty programs, like those offered by hotels). The Web sites use them to obtain balances and mileage expiration dates, so the travelers can see all this information in one place. The sites can also help users figure out when to pay cash for a ticket, and when it makes sense to use miles.

Back in April, the Your Money columnist Ron Lieber wrote about American Airlines and Southwest's efforts to block several such sites, including MileWise, from g aining access to information from the airlines' Web sites.

Now, MileWise executives say their site has stopped offering access to information to users' accounts at Delta, after the airline last month sent the site a “cease and desist” letter.

Another site, AwardWallet, has also stopped serving Delta fliers after it got a letter from Delta's lawyers. AwardWallet's co-founder and chief technology officer, Alexi Vereschaga, said the site could address Delta's concerns by using different methods to get access to customer information, but it has not been able to talk to the airline - even though some 70,000 Delta frequent fliers, including 10,000 elite Medallion members, used the site. An online petition has been started to ask Delta to reconsider its decision.

Sanjay Kothari, MileWise's chief executive, said the site complied with Delta's demand because it did not have the financial resources for a legal fight, and because the site held out hope of working out an arrangement with Delta. MileWise would like to talk with Delta officials so it can address the airline's concerns, he said, but so far it has not been able to do so.

“We have complied with their request,” he said, “but we're hoping to speak with them and have a business conversation.”

A Delta spokesman, Paul Skrbec, said in an e-mail, “While we understand some customers have become accustomed to using tools like AwardWallet, we do not have a contractual relationship with them.” He added, “The use of information from delta.com was unauthorized and employed automated screen scraping techniques that we don't allow.”

He said that the Fly Delta app “has been consistently rated highly by our customers and we plan to continue offering highly usable information for their travel experience.”

Mr. Kothari said airlines had said they were concerned that “screen scraping” - in which access to customer in formation on the airlines' Web sites is obtained automatically - might impair the performance of the airlines' own Web sites.  That could potentially be true, he said, if the volume of accounts to which access was being gained was large - say, in the millions.  But he said technology was available that the airlines could employ to counteract any slowdown that might occur.

Have you used one of the mileage tracking Web sites? Do you find that they offer information you cannot find on the airlines' sites?

Another G.O.P. Lawmaker Says He Disagrees With Romney\'s Comments


Add Senator Dean Heller of Nevada to the ranks of Republican political candidates distancing themselves from Mitt Romney and his comments that 47 percent of Americans  are dependent on the government and view themselves as victims.

“I have a very different view of the world, having grown up with a father who was an auto mechanic and a mother who was a school cook and five brothers and sisters,” said Mr. Heller, who is locked in a difficult campaign to be elected to the Senate seat he was appointed to.

Mr. Heller told a story of his father, who he said had been laid up after back surgery and dependent on assistance for the six to eight weeks he was out of work.

“I think the governme nt has a responsibility,” he said. “One of the responsibilities of the federal government is a safety net.”

Mr. Heller joined Senator Scott P.  Brown, Republican of Massachusetts, and Linda McMahon, a wrestling executive running for the Senate in Connecticut, who have out of their way to distance themselves from Mr. Romney's comments, captured in a leaked cellphone video from a fund-raiser in May.

Reaction to the tape has been divided between conservatives and lawmakers in safe Republican districts, who have generally applauded Mr. Romney's sentiments, and Republican candidates in swing states who have run from them.

Wisconsin Senate Race a Tossup


MILWAUKEE - The contest to fill the seat of retiring Senator Herb Kohl, Democrat of Wisconsin, is now a Tossup, according to the latest assessment of the race by The New York Times. (Full Senate map)

Representative Tammy Baldwin, the Democratic candidate, is running strong against Tommy Thompson, a former Republican governor, who has struggled to gain ground and replenish his coffers after winning a competitive primary last month.

With seven weeks remaining until the election, Republicans in the state expressed worry in interviews here this week that Mr. Thompson, one of the state's most well known Republicans, was not performing better against Ms. Baldwin, a congresswoman from Madison.

A n ew Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News survey of likely Wisconsin voters found that Ms. Baldwin and Mr. Thompson each received support from 47 percent of voters, with 6 percent undecided. One month ago, the poll found that Mr. Thompson had a six-point advantage over Ms. Baldwin.

The race remains one of the closest in the country and could help determine whether Democrats maintain control of their majority in the United States Senate. The outcome may be influenced by the degree to which the state becomes a top battleground in the presidential race.

Romney Targets Working Class Men in Latest Ads

Mitt Romney trails President Obama significantly in several key demographics - women and Hispanics being chief among them. But one area where he remains far more competitive with the president is among men. And he holds healthy leads

Library of Congress Overhauls Online Offerings


The Library of Congress released a beta Web site on Wednesday that it says will replace its existing online catalogs in about a year.

With beta.congress.gov, the Library will merge THOMAS, its main federal government page, with a resource repository called the Legislative Information System, once available only to members of Congress and their staffs. The revamped Web site incorporates user-friendly features like permanent Web addresses, Boolean search and a mobile platform to make finding and using legislative information “more intuitive, comprehensive and accessible than the existing system,” an e-mail announcement from the library said.

James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congre ss, said the changes “reflect the Library's commitment to Congress's goal to open the legislative process to the American people and promote an informed democracy.”

THOMAS, which is named for President Thomas Jefferson, was started in 1995 and offers digital versions of most of the library's holdings on the government, like the Congressional Record, official schedules and calendars, committee reports, nominations and treaties. The online offerings go back to the 93rd Congress. The site receives an average of 10 million visits a year.

Though THOMAS has been updated since its creation, “the foundation can no longer support the capabilities that today's Internet users have come to expect, including access on mobile devices,” the library said in a statement announcing the changes.

The revamped Congress.gov allows users to narrow and refine search results and to search all content across all available years, provides an easi er way to determine a current bill's status, and includes profiles and legislative records for members of Congress.

In a joint statement, Republican and Democratic lawmakers overseeing the overhaul called it a step into the 21st century.

The new site “heralds a new era in presenting Congressional information online, with tools and infrastructure unimaginable 17 years ago,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee and the Joint Committee on the Library. The site will allow users to “follow legislative developments, access and compare policy proposals, and connect with their senators and representatives.”

Representative Dan Lungren of California, the Republican chairman of the Committee on House Administration, said that the overhaul “will enhance transparency, increase savings for the library, and provide Congress and the nation the vital legislative information we need to deliberate about our collective public policies.”

The new site will remain in beta mode for about a year to give the Library time to add content, collect feedback from users and fine-tune the site. THOMAS and the Legislative Information System will function normally while the Library tests the online overhaul.

Romney Makes Appeal to Working-Class Men in Latest Ads

Mitt Romney's campaign released two ads criticizing the administration's policies on coal mining.

Romney Makes Appeal to Working-Class Men in Latest Ads

Mitt Romney's campaign released two ads criticizing the administration's policies on coal mining.

Free A.T.M.\'s at the New Barclays Center


A start-up that provides fee-free A.T.M.'s supported by advertising is expanding in the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Bucks first wrote about the 20-something Clinton Townsend and his company, now called Free ATM Inc., last fall after he installed a machine at Brooklyn's Knitting Factory nightclub. His approach is to put A.T.M.'s in underserved locations and offer cash without charging a fee. The catch is that patrons watch and listen to advertising displayed on the screen while their cash is being dispensed.

Now, Mr. Townsend said he has signed a five-year deal to put seven of his cash-dispensing machines inside the Barclays Center, the soon-to-open 19,000-seat arena that will be home to the Net s basketball team and serve as a venue for big-name music acts. (The rapper Jay-Z is a part-owner of the arena). The opportunity was available, he said, because Barclays doesn't have a big retail banking presence in the United States. So he won't be competing with the bank's own A.T.M.'s.

Mr. Townsend says he sees a big opportunity for his machines in the arena. One of the machines will be accessible to the general public whether they're attending an event or not. The rest will be available to ticket-carrying patrons. “This is a huge platform,” he said.

Mr. Townsend said the machines will feature ads from the cellular provider Metro PCS and the online review site Yelp.com (The machines themselves don't charge any access fees, but patrons' own bank may charge them a fee for using an out-of-network A.T.M.)

The question when Mr. Townsend introduced his machines was whether most customers would tolerate ads in exchange for an ab sence of fees. He said that up to 20 percent of the A.T.M. users at the Knitting Factory location are repeat users, suggesting that they don't mind the ads. “I think we've proven that,” he said. “This is really a consumer win.”

Let us know what you think about Free ATM's machines.

Democratic Ad Hits Romney on 47 Percent Remarks


It was only a matter of time, but the first Democratic advertisement has been released highlighting Mitt Romney's comments about the 47 percent of Americans he said believed they were “victims” and are dependent upon government.

Priorities USA Action released a spot Wednesday morning juxtaposing what Mr. Romney said at a private fund-raiser at an elegant Florida home and a middle-class family's struggles behind the closed doors of their modest suburban house (with a mother washing her baby in the kitchen sink.)

The group says the advertisement will roll into its current rotation already running in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Wednesday Reading: How to Avoid a Smartphone\'s Bite While Abroad


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: Holding On


Today's Times

  • Mitt Romney fully embraced the substance of his comments about lower-income people in a secretly recorded fund-raiser video, attempting to find some benefit in the political furor, Jim Rutenberg and Ashley Parker report. While his campaign tried to keep the episode from becoming a campaign turning point, the developments gave Democrats new ammunition for their case that Mr. Romney is out of touch with the needs of the middle class.
  • If he is elected president, Mr. Romney's comments over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the secret video could undermine his effectiveness in bringing the two sides together, David Sanger reports. Any dealings with the mullahs of Iran co uld also be in jeopardy, as he described them as “crazy people.”
  • By standing by the remarks, Mr. Romney fully joined the battle on entitlements, wading into an ideological clash pitting two strands of conservative thinking against one another, Annie Lowrey and Michael Cooper report. The longstanding goal of reducing the burden on the poor with tax credits is up against the growing anxiety that the nation's “takers” are now overrunning its “makers.”
  • Though Mr. Romney's aides were hoping that a statewide Republican resurgence in Wisconsin would rub off on their candidate, a new poll showed that President Obama holds a 51-45 lead among likely voters there, Jeff Zeleny and Marjorie Connelly report.
  • A judge in Pennsylvania who upheld a new voter identification requirement will get two weeks to determine whether the state is doing enough to provide voters who lack the required photo IDs with alternative forms of identi fication, Ethan Bronner reports. If not, the law will be barred from taking effect.
  • Averting a government shutdown is considered an actual accomplishment for the 112th Congress as it is set to enter the record books as the least productive body in a generation, Jennifer Steinhauer writes. Lawmakers will leave town at the end of the week and not return until after the election, leaving behind many bills of pressing importance to voters.

Around the Web

  • Politico says that the secret recording of Mitt Romney at the Florida fund-raiser may be illegal.

Happenings in Washington

  • President Obama will participate in an ambassador credentialing ceremony for several ambassadors in the Oval Office.
  • Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will deliver remarks at the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace laureate and democracy advocate, at the United States Capitol.
  • The Foreign Relations Committee will hold hearings on the nomination of Robert Stephen Beecroft to be ambassador to Iraq.

A Tight Race in Wisconsin


MILWAUKEE - In the battle for control of the United States Senate, the Democratic Party's quest to hold its majority relies in large part on protecting two of its open seats in Wisconsin and Virginia.

The contest to succeed Senator Herb Kohl, the Wisconsin Democrat who is retiring, is deadlocked, according to a new Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll. The survey of likely Wisconsin voters found that Representative Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, and former Gov. Tommy G. Thompson, a Republican, each received support from 47 percent of voters, with 6 percent undecided.

One month ago, the poll found that Mr. Thompson had a six-point advantage over Ms. Baldwin. The race remains among the close st in the country, the outcome of which may be influenced by the degree to which the state becomes a top battleground in the presidential race.

In Virginia, the poll found that Democrats hold the upper hand in the race to fill the seat of Senator Jim Webb, a Democrat who is also retiring.

Tim Kaine, a former governor and past chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is leading George Allen, a former governor and senator, by 51 percent to 44 percent among likely Virginia voters. The seven-point lead for Mr. Kaine in the poll is up from two percentage points in August.

The Wisconsin and Virginia polls each have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points for each candidate.