Monday, April 9, 2012

Republican Donor Simmons Seeks Rule to Fill Texas Dump

Is GOP Donor Emptying Pockets to Fill a Dump?
Harold Simmons built a West Texas dump for radioactive waste that is bigger than 1,000 football fields and he can’t fill it.
To turn it into a profitable enterprise, the Texas billionaire hired lobbyists to urge the Obama administration to expand the types of nuclear waste, including depleted uranium, the dump can accept and award his company disposal contracts. If the Nuclear Regulatory Commission changes the rule, it could open access to a market worth billions. The deadline for a decision is in 2014.

  Radioactive Waste
Photographer: David Woodfall/The Image/Bank

  • Friday, April 6, 2012 at 3:34 pm
Not strictly on-topic, as it deals with high-level waste and not low-level waste- but if anyone's interested, here's a neat cube diagram from Wiki that claims to illustrate the total of all of the radioactivity from various sources- high-level waste, nuclear accidents, Hiroshima, etc.
All of the radioactive potential combined fits inside of the largest cube- the total fallout from the 502 atmospheric A-bomb and H-bomb tests performed between 1945 and 1980, when above-ground nuclear bomb testing was finally banned by treaty.
Correction- my earlier comment was misleading.
On examination of the chart, one of the measurements shown- which takes up the greater part of the total cube, as diagrammed- is for one year's production of high-level waste, rather than the grand total I previously implied.

Low-level waste simply isn't that intractable of a problem.
The amount of radioactivity is, by definition, low. Sometimes very low. To the extent that it's dangerous, it's only so when it's mobilized to be taken internally by an organism.
That's a good argument against keeping it away from groundwater supplies. But ordinary warehouse environments can store much of the waste with no problem, and it doesn't present any particular hazard to transport. A tankful of chlorine is much more risky.
The half-life of the isotopes is relatively short, in many cases.
Using a huge dedicated dump site for it is arguably unnecessary. Possibly even a recipe for scamming, if it's required without due cause. 
Republican Donor Simmons Seeks Regulatory Fix to Fill Texas Dump
Waste Control Specialists LCC's concrete-reinforced compact disposal facility in Texas. Source: Waste Control Specialists

Simmons now is spending money in a new way that could improve his business prospects: He’s invested $15.9 million this election cycle in various groups to help elect Republicans, who advocate easing regulations on the nuclear industry.
The largest chunk of Simmons’s campaign cash -- $12 million -- has gone to American Crossroads, a so-called super political action committee that takes unlimited donations and has a stated mission of defeating President Barack Obama. He has given at least $700,000 to Restore Our Future, a super-PAC backing Mitt Romney, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination whose call for a fast-tracked permitting process for new nuclear plants could benefit Simmons’s Waste Control Specialists LLC.
“Whatever federal switch has to be thrown to get uranium into the hole, believe me, it will be thrown; that’s how Harold Simmons works,” said Glenn Lewis, a former Texas environmental employee who retired in protest to Simmons’s influence in the state permitting process for his dump.

Million-Dollar Donors 

Chart: Billionaire Influences Election 

Chart: Billionaire Influences Election

Billionaire Influences Election

Eighteen people have given at least $1 million to Republican super-PACs so far this election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington group that tracks political spending. Before 2010 U.S. Supreme Court rulings and regulatory changes allowing unlimited donations, those individuals would have been confined to contributions of $2,500 to candidates and $5,000 to PACs.
Those wealthy backers have said they give because they share Republican Party policies for a less active federal government or on national security issues.
“What scares me is the continuation of the socialist-style economy we’ve been experiencing for almost four years,” Sheldon Adelson, a casino owner, told Forbes in a Feb. 21 article, explaining why he gives money to Republicans.

Federal Business Interests

The donors also have business and financial interests that could be influenced by who wins the 2012 presidential race.
Adelson, a Las Vegas billionaire whose family has underwritten Newt Gingrich’s presidential bid with $16.5 million, is facing Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission investigations.
William DorĂ© has given $1.5 million through his Louisiana oil and gas exploration company to the Red, White and Blue Fund, which backs former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum in the Republican race. “Drill, baby, drill. Mine, baby, mine,” said Santorum, the grandson of a coal miner, March 21 in Mandeville, Louisiana.
In the elite donor pool, Simmons stands out because of the amounts he’s given, the number of entities he’s backed, and his history of donating large sums to Texas politicians who oversee his businesses.
Simmons, who declined an interview request, was quoted in a March 22 Wall Street Journal article saying he contributes to Republicans who would help “block that crap,” a reference to what he said is the overregulation of business.

No Strings Attached

Chuck McDonald, a spokesman for Waste Control Specialists, said “there really is no connection between Mr. Simmons’s personal political giving, which he has said he is doing because he believes very strongly in pro-business and free enterprise, and anything WCS is doing.”
A native of Golden, Texas, Simmons, 80, built his fortune - - Bloomberg estimates his net worth as at least $6.5 billion -- by investing in struggling companies and making them profitable. Through his Contran Corp. (CTRW) holding company, he is chairman of publicly-traded Valhi Inc. (VHI), which made $2 billion in net sales last year, according to its annual report. Waste Control Specialists is the most unprofitable Valhi entity, registering a $38 million operating loss last year, part of at least five consecutive years of red ink, the report shows.

Government’s Role

Valhi’s report lays bare to stockholders the extent to which the federal government impacts its waste-disposal earnings potential:
“While we attempt to monitor and anticipate regulatory, political and legal developments that affect the industry, we cannot assure you we will be able to do so,” it says. “Nor can we predict the extent to which legislation or regulations that may be enacted, or any failure of legislation or regulations to be enacted, may affect our operations in the future.”
In 1995, Simmons invested in Waste Control Specialists, founded by former Texas U.S. Representative Kent Hance, a Democrat who in 1985 became a Republican. The company got its start accepting hazardous wastes, and in 2003 sought state permission to dispose of radioactive materials. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, whose three commissioners were appointed by Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, issued the permits in 2009.


During the commission’s deliberations, at least three of its employees resigned over what they said was a biased licensing process. Among their chief complaints was the use of an assessment by company-hired university scientists of the location of the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides water for drinking and agriculture for much of the plains, to overcome objections from environmentalists.
Simmons has made an estimated $6.8 million in campaign contributions to Texas politicians, Republicans and Democrats, since 2000, according to Texans for Public Justice, an Austin- based nonprofit that tracks state political donations. That includes more than $1 million for Perry’s three gubernatorial campaigns.
Texas environmental and political-spending watchdogs who have followed the trajectory of Waste Control Specialists said Simmons is trying to replicate on a federal level the success he’s found investing in Texas politics over the past decade.
“The money is so huge, and the political pressure is so strong -- that’s what we’re dealing with here,’ said Karen Hadden, executive director of the Austin-based Texas SEED Coalition that opposes the site. “Harold Simmons wants it to be a nuclear mega-mall.”

Federal Contributions

For the 2012 federal elections, Simmons gave $1.1 million to support Perry’s failed presidential primary bid. Through personal donations and Contran, Simmons has given at least $12 million to American Crossroads. He and his wife, Annette Simmons, donated $1.1 million to Winning Our Future, a pro- Gingrich super-PAC and, in February, $1 million to the super-PAC backing Santorum.
As Romney solidified his front-runner status in the race, the super-PAC backing him, Restore Our Future, began collecting more of the Simmons money. Romney won primary contests Feb. 28 in Michigan and Arizona, and Simmons wrote a $100,000 check, adding to $100,000 he’d given a month earlier. The Wall Street Journal reported March 22 that he’d chipped in another $500,000 that week. A Simmons spokesman couldn’t confirm the sum.
One Democrat, Gene Green, a Texas congressman who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, got $1,000 during the 2012 cycle, records show. No Democratic super-PACs have received Simmons’s donations.

Waste Dump

Simmons’s 1,338-acre dump, located near the West Texas town of Andrews, includes a three-part facility for radioactive byproducts, low-level commercial nuclear waste such as that from power plants, and low-level federal nuclear waste. The commercial side is licensed to take as much as 2.3 million cubic feet of waste and can begin importing it from at least 36 states this year, according to McDonald.
Construction of the federal side -- 10 times as large -- is about a month from completion, he said. Still to be determined is how much government waste will be available for storage in it.

Changing Policy

About the time Simmons’s company began applying for a license in 2003 to take radioactive waste, the U.S. Department of Energy had a robust forecast for what would be available, said a person familiar with the department’s policy deliberations. About nine years later, department policy is to bury waste onsite, or at another federal site. The third option is to sell it to vendors like Waste Control Specialists. That leaves the company with a smaller-than-expected market.
That would change if the Nuclear Regulatory Commission expands its rule on low-level nuclear waste to allow disposal of depleted uranium, leftover from weapons manufacturing during the Cold War and from the production of fuel at nuclear power plants.
The NRC in 2006 began examining whether such non-government entities as Waste Control Specialists could safely dispose of depleted uranium. Public hearings on the topic have been going on since 2009, with a final rule due by mid-2014.
Texas has told Waste Control Specialists that it won’t revise the license to include depleted uranium until the NRC acts, McDonald said.
The market for disposal of that waste “would easily be in the billions of dollars,” said Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, a nonprofit science group based in Takoma Park, Maryland.

One Competitor

Waste Control Specialists has a single competitor, the Salt Lake City-based EnergySolutions Inc. (ES), said Makhijani.
In addition to spending $885,000 to lobby the Obama administration from 2009 to 2011 on waste disposal issues, according to disclosure reports, Simmons’s representatives have been involved in the NRC’s working group on the rule change.
Waste Control officials have spoken at the public meetings, as have executives from EnergySolutions and leaders of interest groups opposed to depleted uranium disposal, such as Heal Utah.
At a March 2 hearing in Phoenix, William Dornsife, an executive with the waste company, asked several times about how quickly the commission would act.
“Well, when are you going to have something on paper?” he said, according to a transcript.

High-Level Waste

There’s an even bigger potential jackpot for Simmons’ waste company: high-level nuclear disposal.
Obama’s Blue Ribbon Commission on nuclear policy recommended that the government start looking for an alternative to Nevada’s Yucca Mountain for long-term storage of spent fuel from nuclear plants and weapons-grade plutonium.
As the commission began studying the issue in 2010, a Waste Control Specialists official invited members to visit the West Texas site, which he said has “ideal” geology for nuclear waste disposal, as well as the support of local and regional leaders.
“You should come explore the values and the opinions of our local leaders as well as the citizens and understand why they embrace nuclear technology and nuclear energy,” Scott Kirk said at a March 26, 2010, commission hearing in Washington.
To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Bykowicz in Washington at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at

  • IT_MAN
  • Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 4:27 pm
Holy nuclear meltdown, Batman!
That's some scary crap, right there. Greed is going to take this country right over the brink. When that aquifer goes nuclear, Simmons and everybody that helped him should go right in there head first!
  • paulpsd7
  • Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 4:49 pm
This concisely explains why I'm opposed to nuclear energy at this point in our history. Due to all the corruption, and at least one of our two political parties being outright employees to the nation's polluters, a nuclear meltdown and/or waste leaking into the groundwater is pretty much assured.
Giving Americans the go-ahead to start building nuke plants is like giving the Lamborghini keys to a 8-year-old.
  • Occupy
  • Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 9:39 pm
I thought the same thing until I watched this documentary. Turns out we've been doing nuclear all wrong. Nuclear energy from a LFTR is a lot safer. The US already did all the research 40 years ago and proved it could work. Now China is trying to build them by 2020.


  • paulpsd7
  • Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 11:13 pm
Oh, I'm with you that nuclear can be much safer now if done correctly and with modern technologies. I just have no faith that Americans can pull such a thing off in this day and age of such rampant corruption and crony capitalism. (And I shudder to think about the Chinese doing it!)

  • wysiwygSalon Core Member
  • Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 5:03 pm
Is Simmons protected from criminal charges and civil liability if the groundwater for several Great Plains states is contaminated? Hell, he's 80 so what does he care?

  • PierreSD
  • Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 6:35 pm
All of this is merely a symptom of a much greater problem: nuclear waste.
We've been using nuclear technology for decades worldwide while just putting off dealing with its waste further and further into the future; waste that will be lethally dangerous for literally thousands or tens of thousands of years.
In the meantime, the waste just lies around in countless insecure and dangerous repositories while NIMBY forces prevent an effective long-term strategy from ever being instituted. That leads to less-than-honorable and conflict-of-interest ridden backroom dealings like the sort we're seeing here because everybody agrees the waste has to go SOMEWHERE until a long-term solution can be agreed upon.
In this climate, we want to INCREASE our reliance on nuclear power. It just blows my mind. How about we deal with the issue of the long-term storage of nuclear waste before deciding to increase the yearly production of it?
Excellent investigative journalism. This serves as a critique of modern forms of capitalism as a whole. We produce an energy source that has detrimental by-products that we will have to pay to store for thousands of years, deferring the real cost of the product to future generations. We issue taxpayer bonds to build facilities for a private company. We change the laws to benefit a private company over the citizens. Our government then engages in commerce with a private company. This is not a problem of politics. This is a systemic problem of an economic system that rewards short term gain, and places heavy costs on future generations.
My new economic model: Place the future detrimental costs of a product or service directly at the point of sale. You want to generate nuclear energy and sell it? You pay at the point of sale for 100 thousand years of storage for the waste. It would make nuclear energy untenable until they can produce a sustainable product. A real free market.
  • agore
  • Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 8:56 pm
The article conveniently omits one crucial detail: the definition of low-level nuclear waste. High-level waste is the spent fuel rods from power plants, which all the posters here are assuming that this facility handles. Low-level waste is any article that has ever touched a nuclear process of any kind, other than high-level waste. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission: "protective shoe covers and clothing, wiping rags, mops, filters, reactor water treatment residues, equipments and tools, luminous dials, medical tubes, swabs, injection needles, syringes, and laboratory animal carcasses and tissues."
THIS is the stuff we're talking about here. Power plant fuel rods are never going to be dumped into Texas salt beds, because recycling them captures their full value. Dumping them would be throwing away a source of energy for the future.

The GOP’s nuke-dump donor

Thursday, Apr 5, 2012 3:13 PM Eastern Daylight Time

Harold Simmons has given the most money to Republicans this election. Could his nuclear-waste dump be the reason?

Harold Simmons
Harold Simmons  (Credit: Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)
In the fall of 2004, Dallas-based Waste Control Specialists applied for a license to build a low-level nuclear waste dump in Andrews County, Texas, a dusty oil patch along the New Mexico border. In its filings and press releases, the company argued that the site was ideal because it sat atop “500 feet of impermeable red-bed clay,” meaning there was virtually no chance of radiation leaking out and tainting the water supply.

Still, there were reasons to be wary. Maps from the Texas Water Development Board showed the site sitting directly above the Ogallala Aquifer, a massive but shallow underground reservoir, which sprawls beneath eight Great Plains states and supplies roughly a third of the nation’s irrigation water. If large quantities of radiation were to seep into this water table, the effects could be devastating. After WCS’s application came up for review, however, something curious happened:

The board shifted the official boundaries of the Ogallala, a move WCS claims in its official correspondence was based partly on data the company provided, though Water Board spokeswoman Samantha Pollard argues this isn’t true. “The reevaluation stemmed from work done for the development of groundwater availability models and related projects,” she says. As it turns out, five of the board’s six members had been appointed by Gov. Rick Perry, who’s taken more than $1.2 million in campaign contributions from WCS’s owner, Harold Simmons.

Moving the Ogallala was not enough, however, to keep the project from running into snags. As part of the licensing review, a group of technical staffers from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality spent three years sifting through data from WCS and the roughly 600 boreholes it had drilled. In the end, they found two water tables dangerously close to the site — in fact, one was 14 feet or less from the bottom of the trench where WCS intended to bury the waste. Based on these findings, in August 2007, four of the team’s engineers and geologists sent a memo to the director of TCEQ’s Radioactive Materials Division, warning that groundwater was “likely to intrude” on the proposed facility, possibly causing radiation to seep into the water supply — details that were later reiterated in a meeting with senior management. “It was clear that the problems with the site could not be fixed, and that any radioactive material stored there was probably going to leak,” recalls Glenn Lewis, a technical writer who was part of the team. “It was just a matter of time.”

Nevertheless, two months later TCEQ’s executive director Glenn Shankle recommended that the commissioners who head the agency and have final licensing authority give the project the go-ahead. He then ordered the dumbfounded technical team to begin drafting the license. After laboring over the details, in January 2009 the commission, which is made up entirely of Perry appointees, voted 5-to-1 to approve the license. The same month, WCS hired Shankle as a lobbyist. “What happened in this situation is that politics worked to get an unqualified company a license to operate a low-level nuclear waste facility,” concludes Lewis, who along with two other team members resigned in protest.

Why bring this up now? Because the WCS saga offers a window into the often murky political motivations of its owner, Harold Simmons, a man with the power to sway this year’s presidential race. An 80-year-old billionaire who grew up in an east Texas shack with no running water, Simmons amassed his fortune largely by staging aggressive corporate takeovers and running polluting businesses, many of them in heavily regulated industries. And he has spent his money liberally on conservative causes. This election season alone, Simmons has donated more than $18 million to conservative super PACs, making him the deepest of the deep-pocket super PAC donors who are upending electoral politics.

Unlike fellow mega-donors Foster Friess and Sheldon Adelson, Simmons isn’t partial to any single candidate or political cause. He’s given generously to the super PACs backing all the top Republican presidential contenders. And he’s the No. 1 donor to Karl Rove’s super PAC, American Crossroads, which is supporting Republicans across the board. Simmons says it’s his loathing for Barack Obama that’s driving him to spread his money around. “Any of these Republicans would make a better president than that socialist, Obama,” he told the Wall Street Journal recently. “Obama is the most dangerous American alive.”

But there may be another motive at work. Simmons has a history of giving far and wide to grease the wheels for his business ventures — particularly his nuclear waste repository. And a raft of changes in the pipeline at federal agencies could determine whether the site is eligible for billions of dollars in new contracts.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, for example, is considering allowing depleted uranium (more than a half-million tons of which are languishing at sites around the country) to be discarded in shallow land burial sites, like WCS, even though the National Research Council and some independent scientists suggest it’s better suited to more secure repositories. Similarly, the Department of Energy is weighing options for disposing of what is known as “greater-than-class-C” waste, the most radioactive low-level nuclear debris. In the past, it was generally considered too dangerous to dump in shallow land sites, but that route is now on the table.

These deliberations, which began under the Bush administration, aren’t meant to be political. But progress under Obama has been halting, particularly on the NRC front. In fact, in January the NRC voted to abandon the depleted uranium rulemaking track it had been on since 2008 — a track favorable to WCS — and go back to the drawing board.

Then there are the lucrative nuclear-waste disposal contracts the DOE parcels out to private companies. Typically, they’re negotiated piecemeal and cover about a million cubic feet per year, but right now there’s a much larger prize for the taking: a five-year contract for up to 27 million cubic feet of debris scattered among our national labs. WCS lobbyists are pounding the halls of Congress and the DOE in a bid to sway the outcome. Simmons may be betting that having Republicans in office — particularly ones whose victory he bankrolled — could tilt the odds in his favor, as it has in the past.

- – – – – – - – – – – – – -
Waste Control Specialists started out as a run-of-the-mill hazardous waste dump. The company’s original owner, Ken Bigham, had designs of breaking into the nuclear waste market to cash in on the dismantling of the nation’s Cold War stockpile, but he lacked the money and political clout to push the project through. Then in 1995, a lobbyist Bigham worked with in Austin suggested he join forces with Simmons and tap his deep political connections. The pair eventually struck a deal, under which Simmons paid Bigham $25 million for a controlling stake in the company. In 1996, WCS applied with the Texas Department of Health for a license to build a processing and storage facility for radioactive waste that was awaiting permanent disposal and approached TCEQ for permission to dispose of waste from federal programs. Initially, the answer from both agencies was a resounding no. In fact, the Health Department called WCS’s proposal “severely deficient.” That December, Roy Coffee, a top aide to then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who has benefited from more than $4.2 million in Simmons family donations, met with the TCEQ’S director. One week later, the agency changed course, saying it was open to WCS’s Texas facility accepting federal waste, pending approval by the TCEQ commissioners. The license for the processing plant was granted the following year.

But this was just a steppingstone toward WCS’s real goal of remaking itself as a permanent nuclear waste repository, with a view toward landing lucrative government contracts. According to Texans for Public Justice, a nonpartisan group that tracks money in Lone Star politics, in 1999 WCS published a study of “emerging market opportunities.” It found the company could earn nearly $40 billion by handling waste for three federally funded programs. The problem with this plan was that, under Texas law, private companies were barred from operating nuclear waste dumps. WCS tried to get around this hitch by lobbying Congress and the DOE to override the ban and contract directly with the company. According to a 1998 investigation by the Dallas Morning News, Simmons and his associates even managed to persuade their allies in Congress — all of whom had taken large sums from Simmons — to block the promotions of a key DOE staffer who opposed the plan. When the DOE refused to give in to these tactics, WCS sued the agency.

At the same time, the company assembled a powerhouse lobbying team in Austin and began pushing to rewrite Texas law. Between 1995 and 2003, WCS spent more than $2 million lobbying the Texas Legislature — part of a shock-and-awe campaign that rattled the Lone Star State. “They rolled over us like a steamroller,” says Tom Smith, who directs the Texas office of Public Citizen, an advocacy group that fought the legislative changes. “I’ve been lobbying for 20 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it.” Simmons and his employees also gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to Texas politicians. In 2003, the Texas Legislature voted overwhelmingly to allow privately owned nuclear waste dumps.

Simmons, meanwhile, began wading into presidential politics. In the run-up to the 2004 election, he gave nearly $84,000 to Republican candidates, committees and PACS. He also sank $4 million into the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth smear campaign, which torpedoed John Kerry’s presidential prospects. Perhaps Simmons was put off by Kerry’s tough talk; the otherwise mild-mannered candidate turned into a fire-breathing crusader when the subject turned to nuclear waste. He promised to block the Yucca Mountain repository, which he called a symbol of “recklessness,” on the grounds that it sat above a freshwater aquifer and proposed warehousing radioactive debris where it was generated rather than trucking it to far-flung sites for disposal.
Once Bush had beaten Kerry at the polls, Simmons chipped in $100,000 toward his inaugural ball. The Bush DOE, meanwhile, granted WCS a $15 million contract to store residue from a plant in Fernald, Ohio, that had processed uranium for nuclear weapons. The DOE maintains the decision was not politically motivated. “The subcontract for storage and disposal of the Fernald silo residues was awarded competitively by the Energy Department’s site contractor when it became clear that the initial plan to dispose of the waste at another DOE facility was not feasible,” the agency said in a statement. Nevertheless, it was a curious choice, given that the plant had been owned by another of Simmons’ companies, NL Industries, before being taken over by the federal government for Superfund cleanup in 1992 — a process that has cost taxpayers $4.4 billion.

It was also during this era that WCS applied for the license to operate its nuclear waste dump, which was later approved over the objections of Lewis and other technical staff. In its P.R. materials, WCS has cast the detractors as a “small group” of rabble-rousers who opposed the project and “launched a public misinformation campaign in an effort to slow the company’s progress.” As for the safety concerns TCEQ staffers raised, WCS spokesman Chuck McDonald insists they have no merit. “We’ve sunk nine years and $500 million into this project. We had 600 core samples taken at every conceivable depth,” he says. “There is no threat to any water supply.” McDonald adds that the only water found anywhere near the site was brackish and sealed off from major aquifers: “They could age date the water and it was 16,000 years old. That moisture had been sitting there since the last ice age.”

The license WCS finally received in 2009 covered two facilities: one for commercial waste from Texas and Vermont (the two states have a joint-disposal agreement), and one for waste from federal agencies. It also allowed WCS to accept the more dangerous B and C classes of low-level radioactive debris — something no other facility in the country can do.
For Simmons, the license was a godsend. Within months of it coming through, Forbes ran its annual ranking of the richest people in America. The blurb on Simmons, who clocked in a few slots above Ross Perot and George Lucas, noted that he had lost $1.4 billion in the previous year, but that he was “planning to make it back with [his company’s] recently approved low-level radioactive waste disposal license.” As part of its deal with the state of Texas, WCS got to operate the dump for 35 years or more, assuming it met periodic licensing obligations, and keep the bulk of the profits. (Andrews County also got 5 percent.) The state and federal government would then take over and manage the site in perpetuity. While WCS has to put up roughly $140 million in “financial assurance” to cover closure, “corrective actions” and post-closure maintenance, it has managed to persuade the state to accept mostly stock from another Simmons-owned company in lieu of cash for the first five years. And critics argue $140 million is not nearly enough to cover ongoing costs. “WCS is going to walk away and the state will be left holding the bag for thousands of years,” says Lon Burnam, a Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives and a stalwart opponent of the dump. WCS also prevailed upon the generous folks of Andrews County to put up $75 million in bonds to help finance construction.

(Two Andrews residents later sued, saying the bond referendum, which passed by a meager three-vote margin, was riddled with irregularities. But the lower courts sided with WCS, and the Texas Supreme Court, whose justices have received more than $90,000 in Simmons donations, declined to hear their appeal.)

Still, WCS was not satisfied. Under the terms of WCS’s license, the commercial waste facility was capped at just over 2 million cubic feet, only enough to meet about a third of Texas and Vermont’s needs. Nevertheless, the company began lobbying the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission to let it truck in commercial waste from the 36 other states that have no place to dump their radioactive debris. In late 2010, the commission proposed amending its bylaws to make this possible, but not everybody was on board. Two of the commission’s eight members openly opposed the plan, and two Republican appointees who supported it were about to be replaced by the incoming Democratic governor of Vermont. (As part of the joint-disposal agreement, Vermont gets two commission seats.)

 According to Reuters, after it became clear that the commission might deadlock, Gov. Perry’s office offered one of the detractors, Austin resident Bob Gregory, a coveted appointment as a university regent. Naturally, this would mean relinquishing his commission post. Gregory declined. So in January 2011, shortly before the Vermont Republicans’ terms expired, the commission — the bulk of whose members were Perry appointees — called a vote. Gregory pleaded with his fellow commissioners, saying it was “beyond preposterous” to ram the proposal through without even reading the 5,000 public comments. Nevertheless, the measure passed by a 5-to-2 margin.

Simmons, meanwhile, began currying favor with state-level politicians around the country. According to data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics and Texans for Public Justice, he has poured more than $400,000 into state-level races outside Texas since 2005, almost all of them in states that have commercial nuclear power plants and no waste repository. “When you look at how he’s moving his money around to other states, there’s a very clear pattern,” says Texans for Public Justice research director Andrew Wheat. “He’s targeting politicians who can serve his financial interests.” The same is true in Washington, where Simmons has been dumping tens of thousands of dollars into congressional campaigns. He’s also promised to sink another $18 million into conservative super PACs between now and Election Day, meaning his giving this campaign season will outstrip the rest of his career combined.

Simmons is coy about the motives behind this outpouring. As he told the Wall Street Journal, “You never talk about what you want when giving money.” But he’s been in the game long enough to know that, in politics as in business, timing matters. And for WCS this is a deciding moment.

Last November, the Andrews plant celebrated its grand opening with an elaborate ribbon-cutting ceremony, featuring cameos by several politicians. In his remarks, delivered from the edge of a gaping pit, WCS president Rod Baltzer trumpeted the fact that it was the first new radioactive waste dump in the United States since the 1980s. “This has never been done before, and in my opinion I don’t think it will be ever done again,” he said. “There’s just a unique set of characteristics that this facility, and the community — and the ownership — has provided.”

Later this month, trucks packed with radioactive debris will begin rumbling into the facility, and the true test of Simmons’ grand scheme will begin.

Meet Harold Simmons


Getty Images
Meet Harold Simmons, a very generous GOP billionaire.
When those of us following the 2012 election cycle closely think of wealthy donors investing heavily in their preferred candidates, a couple of names immediately come to mind. Under the "Every Republican Gets A Gazillionaire" framework, we know, for example, that Sheldon Adelson has helped bankroll Newt Gingrich, while Foster Friess backs Rick Santorum.
But there's another name that's not as well known, but who's arguably more interesting: Harold Simmons. Though estimates vary slightly, the Texas billionaire has reportedly donated upwards of $18 million in this election -- and counting -- with most of the money going to Karl Rove's attack operation, American Crossroads, and Mitt Romney's super PAC.
By all accounts, Simmons is one of the most generous, if not the most generous, Republican billionaire in 2012. But even more interesting is why, exactly, he's investing so heavily in the elections, and what he hopes to receive in return.
Mariah Blake has an interesting report this week on the 80-year-old Simmons' nuclear waste dump in Texas, which may be a key motivation behind his generosity.
Simmons has a history of giving far and wide to grease the wheels for his business ventures -- particularly his nuclear waste repository. And a raft of changes in the pipeline at federal agencies could determine whether the site is eligible for billions of dollars in new contracts.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, for example, is considering allowing depleted uranium (more than a half-million tons of which are languishing at sites around the country) to be discarded in shallow land burial sites, like [Simmons' Waste Control Specialists'], even though the National Research Council and some independent scientists suggest it's better suited to more secure repositories. Similarly, the Department of Energy is weighing options for disposing of what is known as "greater-than-class-C" waste, the most radioactive low-level nuclear debris. In the past, it was generally considered too dangerous to dump in shallow land sites, but that route is now on the table.
These deliberations, which began under the Bush administration, aren't meant to be political. But progress under Obama has been halting, particularly on the NRC front. In fact, in January the NRC voted to abandon the depleted uranium rulemaking track it had been on since 2008 -- a track favorable to WCS -- and go back to the drawing board.
There are also nuclear-waste disposal contracts available through the Department of Energy, and as Blake noted, Simmons "may be betting that having Republicans in office -- particularly ones whose victory he bankrolled -- could tilt the odds in his favor, as it has in the past."
This isn't to say Simmons is apolitical, donating simply with his business interests in mind. The far-right Texan makes no secret of his disgust for President Obama, whom Simmon recently described as "the most dangerous American alive" -- and no doubt backs Republicans because he agrees with them.
But as Bloomberg's Julie Bykowicz reported, Simmons has also "a West Texas dump for radioactive waste that is bigger than 1,000 football fields and he can't fill it," so he's "spending money in a new way that could improve his business prospects," investing in Republicans who "advocate easing regulations on the nuclear industry."

Japan Nuclear Plant May Be Worse Off Than Thought

March 29, 2012

TEPCO, via European Pressphoto Agency
A handout image supplied Thursday by Tokyo Electric Power Company shows conditions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

TOKYO — The damage to one of three stricken reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant could be worse than previously thought, a recent internal investigation has shown, raising new concerns over the plant’s stability and complicating the post-disaster cleanup. 

The government has said that the plant’s three badly damaged reactors have been in a relatively stable state, called a cold shutdown, for months, and officials say that continues. But new tests suggest that the plant — which was ravaged last March when a powerful earthquake and tsunami hit the area — might not be as stable as the government or the operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, had hoped. 

The key to keeping the reactors stable is keeping their fuel rods cool with water. 

The company announced this week that an examination of one reactor, No. 2, showed that the water level in an outer containment vessel was far lower than estimated, which could indicate that the already badly damaged uranium fuel might not be completely submerged and, therefore, is in danger of heating up. 

Cooling water in that vessel, called the drywell, was just two feet deep, rather than the 33-foot level estimated by Tepco officials when the government declared the plant stable in December. That is probably not a problem for the fuel that the company says has leaked into the drywell from an inner containment vessel because Tepco says that melted fuel is unlikely to be higher than two feet. 

But Tepco officials said the low water in the drywell left open the possibility that the water level in the leaking inner containment vessel, where most of the fuel is thought to be, was also low. Experts say that could leave the fuel there exposed and lead to more damage. The fuel would likely then leach more radioactive materials into the water that is flowing through the reactor to cool it. 

That scenario would be particularly problematic since the company has long feared that some of the tons of water it is using to cool the reactors is escaping into the ground or into the ocean at the seaside plant. 

Throughout the nuclear crisis, both Tepco and the government were accused of playing down the dangers posed by the meltdowns at the plant. Subsequent disclosures that the event was indeed far more severe than they let on have badly damaged their credibility. 

Fukushima Daiichi’s vital cooling systems were knocked out in the early stages of the crisis last year. The cooling systems there now were put in place months after the accident. Although they are designed to be closed loops, circulating water in and out of the reactors, the reactors themselves were damaged when operators lost control of the plant and are likely leaking. 

The internal investigation also found current radiation levels of 72.0 sieverts inside the drywell, enough to kill a person in a matter of minutes, as well as for electronic equipment to malfunction. The high readings could be a reflection of the low water level, since the water acts as a shield against radiation. 

The high levels of radiation would complicate work to locate and remove the damaged fuel and decommission the plant’s six reactors — a process that is expected to take decades. 

Cleanup will probably require flooding the inner reactor vessel and lowering tools into it to scoop up parts of the radioactive rubble. That strategy worked well at Three Mile Island after the 1979 accident there. But at Fukushima, the reactor vessels are known to have cracked, because they were overpressurized. Filling them with water would be difficult, unless the surrounding drywell can also be filled. 

The fact that the drywell at No. 2 has so little water could mean that technicians will need to develop a new technique. “With levels of radiation extremely high, we would need to develop equipment that can tolerate high radiation,” Junichi Matsumoto, an executive at Tepco, said Tuesday. 

To gauge water levels inside the drywell at reactor No. 2, workers in hazmat suits inserted an endoscope equipped with a tiny video camera, a thermometer, a dosimeter for measuring radiation and a water gauge. 

It is unclear if they will be able to perform the same test at the other badly damaged reactors — No. 1 and No. 3 — because nearby radiation levels are higher there. 

Experts also worry about a fourth reactor that was not operating at the time of the tsunami, but nevertheless poses a risk because of the large number of spent nuclear fuel rods stored in a pool there. 

The spent fuel rods pose a particular threat, experts say, because they lie outside the unit’s containment vessels. Experts have become especially worried in recent weeks, as earthquakes continue to hit the area, that the damaged reactor building could collapse, draining the pool and possibly leading to another large leak of radioactive materials.
Tepco has been working to fortify the crumpled outer shell of the building of that reactor, No. 4. 

“The plant is still in a precarious state,” said Kazuhiko Kudo, a professor of nuclear engineering at Kyushu University in southwestern Japan. “Unfortunately, all we can do is to keep pumping water inside the reactors,” he said, “and hope we don’t have another big earthquake.” 

Matthew L. Wald contributed reporting from Washington.

Gingrich: Running for president is ‘much harder than I thought it would be’

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, April 8, 2012 20:27 EDT
Newt by DonkeyHotey via Flickr

WASHINGTON — Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, lagging far behind his rivals and his campaign mired in debt, acknowledged Sunday that Mitt Romney was his party’s “most likely” nominee.
But the former House speaker insisted he was staying in the race despite being far outpaced by frontrunner Romney and fellow contender Rick Santorum, after polls once had him as the leading Republican to take on President Barack Obama in November’s presidential elections.
“I think you have to be realistic, given the size of his organization, given the number of primaries he’s won. He is far and away, the most likely Republican nominee,” Gingrich told “Fox News Sunday.”
He said that if Romney gets the 1,144 delegates to the Republican National Convention required to officially clinch the nomination, “I’ll support him. I’ll do everything I can this fall to help him defeat Obama.”
Gingrich recognized that he owes “much more than we wanted to,” with an estimated $4.5 million in debt, and that his campaign is “operating on a shoestring.” He fired a third of his campaign staff just two weeks ago.
Running for president “turned out to be much harder than I thought it would be,” the Georgia Republican said, expressing admiration for the substantial campaign machine Romney has built after an unsuccessful 2008 run, and adding that he has “no regrets.”
“I hit him as hard as I could. He hit me hard as he could. It turned out he had more things to hit with than I did. And that’s part of the business. He’s done the fundraising side brilliantly,” Gingrich added.
But he said he was not yet ready to drop out, even as his looming defeat grows increasingly inevitable. He has only managed to win Republican primaries in South Carolina and his home state of Georgia since voting got underway in January.
“I do think there’s a desire for a more idea-oriented Republican Party, but that doesn’t translate necessarily to being able to take on the Romney machine,” he said.

Santorum to remain with ailing daughter on Monday

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum will not campaign Monday to stay at the side of his 3-year-old daughter Bella in the hospital, his campaign said.
"Rick Santorum will not hold any campaign related events on Monday so that he and Karen can remain in the hospital with their daughter Bella.  The entire Santorum family is incredibly grateful for the outpouring of prayers and support," Santorum national communications director Hogan Gidley said.
Bella suffers from Trisomy 18, a chromosomal defect that claims the lives of most children born with it in their first year. The reason for her hospitalization this week hasn't been released.
Santorum is home in Virginia for the Easter holiday.
This is the second time during the campaign that Bella has needed to be taken to a hospital. Santorum canceled events in late January after Bella was rushed to a Virginia hospital when she developed pneumonia in both lungs.

Fox News host: Dems ‘invented’ war on women because ‘stimulus didn’t work’

By David Edwards
Monday, April 9, 2012 12:15 EDT

Fox News host Steve Doocy talks about "war on women"

One Fox News host on Monday asserted that Democrats had concocted the “phony” Republican war on women to divert attention from high gas prices and a slow economic recovery.
Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy noted that gas prices on Catalina Island in California were around $7 a gallon and President Barack Obama could not use the economy as campaign issue.
“You know, the stimulus didn’t work out so well and he’s got a lot of problems,” Doocy explained. “So in the last couple of months what they have done, the Democrats, is that they have invented this phony war on women. They said Republicans are against women.”
“There’s not really a war on women. There’s a war for women because they would like to have as many women vote for their candidate,” he added.
During a Sunday interview on CNN, host Candy Crowley asked Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) if it was unfair to call GOP policies a “war on women.”
“The policies that have come out of the Republican Party, saying that we should have a debate again over contraception and whether we should have access to it and it should be affordable, saying that — like Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin, you know, he tried to quietly repeal the Equal Pay Act,” Wasserman Schultz noted. “Women aren’t going to stand for that. Governor Walker just signed a bill that repeals the equal pay law they had in Wisconsin for years.”
She continued: “You have Republicans who have engaged themselves for the entire Congress trying to redefine rape as only being forcible rape, defunding Planned Parenthood and family planning programs. The Lilly Ledbetter Act — the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act put teeth behind the notion that women deserve equal pay for equal work. That was the first bill the President Obama signed into law. The overwhelming majority of Republicans serving in Congress voted against it.”

“So, the focus of the Republican Party on turning back the clock for women really is something that is unacceptable and shows how callous and insensitive they are towards women’s priorities.”

But Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) told Crowley that Democrats were wrong to accuse Republicans of waging a war on women.
“We’ve got to quit exaggerating our political differences,” Cleaver said, adding that it was also wrong for Republicans to accuse Democrats of a “war on religion.”
A USA Today/Gallup survey of 12 of the top battleground states recently found that likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney had lost 14 points among women in the months after he and many other Republicans objected to mandating that contraception be covered by the health insurance offered by religious institutions. Six in 10 voters favored Obama, while only 30 percent supported Romney.
Watch the video below from Fox News’ Fox & Friends, broadcast on April 9, 2012.

Billy Graham’s daughter: ‘I would not vote for an atheist’

By David Edwards
Sunday, April 8, 2012 14:14 EDT
Ann Graham Lotz, daughter of Reb. Billy Graham, speaks to NBC

The daughter of televangelist Rev. Billy Graham says that it’s important to discriminate against candidates who are atheists because politicians “should have a fear for almighty God.”
In an interview with Ann Graham Lotz on Sunday, NBC host David Gregory noted that her father had advocated using every form of modern communication to spread Christianity.
“For the church, for my daddy, who is an evangelist, I don’t think he was necessarily talking about the political arena when you’re running for president,” Graham Lotz explained. “It’s interesting that Jimmy Carter and George Bush were both considered evangelicals, but very different. So to me, I still think we need to look at the policies.”
“I would not vote for a man who is an atheist,” she declared. “Because I believe you need to have an acknowledgement, a reverence, a fear for almighty God. And I believe that’s where wisdom comes from.”
A 2007 Newsweek poll found that 62 percent of Americans would not vote for a candidate who was an atheist, making atheists one of the groups most politically discriminated against in the U.S.
Watch the video below from NBC’s Meet the Press, broadcast on April 8, 2012.

Robertson tells man ‘you are the boss’ in marriage

Marriage is shared, I do not believe this peddler. It should be an amount they both agree on. And they should be mindful of the  management of their monies.  God does not want us to extend beyond what we can afford.

By Andrew Jones
Monday, April 9, 2012 14:34 EDT
Televangelist Pat Robertson. Screenshot via 700 Club.

Televangelist Pat Robertson once again added to his list of controversial statements Monday, telling a man that he is “the boss” of the family when a conflict arises between him and his wife over money given to church.
On the latest episode of The 700 Club, Robertson responded to a male viewer’s letter about his wife demanding the couple not give more in tithes to their church because of their difficult financial situation. Tithes are the money Christians give from their income to their church as a religious obligation.
“You know big man, you are the boss,” he said. “I know people don’t want to here that, but you are the high priest of your family and you are the man of the house.”
“Now if you’re taking her money and she’s earning it and you’re giving away her money, that’s a different matter. But assuming you’re the breadwinner, you want to give, that’s between you.”
 Here's a lil' somethin' for yr peddlin', Pat

Robertson added: “You need to push forward and your wife will come along. But if you’re vacillating and she pulls you back, you’re not much of a leader. You’re supposed to be a leader, you supposed to be the high priest. You supposed to intercede for your family before the Lord. And, as they say, ‘Man up.’”
WATCH: Video from The 700 Club, via Right Wing Watch, from April 9, 2012.

Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity, Vol. XII

Associated Press
Mitt Romney often keeps the truth at arm's length.

David Corn covered Mitt Romney's speech to the Newspaper Association of America on Wednesday, and came away gobsmacked -- shocked not only by the Republican candidate's dishonesty, but by the larger context.
Romney stood before a gathering of journalists. He made a series of incorrect and dishonest accusations. And he was not hooted out of the room. He faced no penalty for this -- just a few slaps from those pesky, fact-checking schoolmarms. He will not be banned from similar forums. The politerati is not up in arms. His campaign rolled on. And this may well sum up one of the fundamental problems with American politics.
That's more than fair. Romney's habitual dishonesty certainly deserves to be taken more seriously, and the fact that a likely major-party presidential nominee had no qualms about lying to a room full of reporters -- most of whom, presumably, knew when Romney wasn't telling the truth -- underscores an unsettling degree of brazenness. He seems to tell falsehoods with confidence that there will be no consequences.
This week was an ambitious test of this proposition, with Romney straying from the truth with breathtaking frequency. Those looking for proof need only consider the 12th installment of my weekly series, chronicling Mitt's mendacity.
1. Campaigning in Wisconsin, Romney complained, "The president put an ad out yesterday, talking about gasoline prices and how high they are. And guess who he blamed? Me!"
That's not true; Obama's ad does not blame Romney for gas prices. It simply tells voters that the oil companies are supporting Romney's campaign.
2. In an ad, the Romney campaign argued that Obama "has managed to pile on nearly as much debt as all the previous presidents combined."
That's not even close to the truth.
3. In the same ad, Team Romney claimed, "President Barack Obama named himself one of the country's four best presidents."
That's blatantly untrue, and the campaign knows it's blatantly untrue because it's been told the truth several times.
4. On the campaign trail, Romney told voters, "The president said something interesting over the weekend. He said that 'in an ideal world,' government could spend as much as it wanted.'"
To say this was wrenched wildly out of context would be a dramatic understatement.
5. At a forum hosted by disgraced Republican lobbyist Ralph Reed, Romney argued that under the Affordable Care Act, "The employees of the Catholic Church have to be provided by the Catholic Church with health care that gives them free contraceptive and free sterilization treatments and morning-after pills despite the fact that this violates the conscience of the Catholic Church."
He's lying.
6. At the same forum, Romney argued that Obama doesn't believe in "American exceptionalism."
Actually, he does. Obama is the only president in American history to explicitly endorse the phrase "American exceptionalism."
7. At a town-hall meeting in Wisconsin, Romney said "Obamcare," if it's allowed to be implemented, would mean government would control "almost half of the total economy."
Romney appears to have made this up out of whole cloth. It's based on the notion that the government would control all of the nation's health care system under the reform law, which just isn't true -- "Obamacare" relies heavily on private health insurers, not socialized medicine.
8. On Monday night, Romney talked to Fox News' Greta Van Susteren, and argued, "The economy is nothing but the addition of all the businesses in the country together."
That's not true. The American economy includes the public sector.
9. In an interview with James Pethokoukis, Romney insisted that Obama has "launched an all-out attack on small business."
In reality, Obama has cut taxes on small businesses, eased the process that allows small businesses to be created, and streamlined the patent process.
10. In the same interview, Romney argued, "[C]ontrary to Vice President Biden and President Obama, I am not cutting taxes for the rich."
Contrary to Mitt Romney, he is cutting taxes for the rich.
11. Rolling out his new stump speech this week, Romney claimed, "Barack Obama presided over the first trillion-dollar deficit in American history."
That's incredibly dishonest. The deficit Bush left for Obama to clean up was $1.3 trillion on the day Obama was inaugurated.
12. In the same speech, Romney said the Recovery Act "promised to hold unemployment below eight percent."
Romney repeats this lie often, but it's still a lie.
13. Romney also claimed "this president attacks businesses for making money."
That's simply never happened in this universe.
14. In the same speech, Romney suggested once more that Obama has been "apologizing for success at home" as well having apologized "for America abroad."
It's the most tiresome lie of them all.
15. Romney claimed this week, "We know that under this president, chronic unemployment is the worst it's been in American history."
Asked to substantiate the claim, the Romney campaign couldn't.
16. The Romney campaign argued this week that Romney, during his only term as governor, had "four years of budget surpluses."
Actually, Romney left his successor a $1.3 billion deficit to clean up.
17. Romney argued in his speech to the Newspaper Association of America, "I'd be willing to consider the president's plan [on Medicare financing], but he doesn't have one."
Actually, he does. In fact, Romney knows the president has a plan because in the same speech, he criticized it.
18. Romney added that Obama "has taken a series of steps that end Medicare as we know it. He is the only president to ever cut $500 billion from Medicare."
That's a blatant, and rather ironic, lie. The only plan to end Medicare as we know it is the House Republican budget plan written by Paul Ryan -- which Romney has enthusiastically endorsed.
19. In the same speech, Romney said, "Through it all, President Obama has failed to even pass a budget."
That doesn't even make sense -- presidents don't pass budgets; Congress passes budgets.
20. Romney also argued, "With all the challenges the nation faces, this is not the time for President Obama's hide and seek campaign.... Unlike President Obama, you don't have to wait until after the election to find out what I believe in -- or what my plans are."
Actually, Romney is the only candidate in either party to say he won't share the details of his agenda until after Americans vote for him.
21. In the same speech, Romney said, "As I have said many times before, the President did not cause the economic crisis, but he made it worse."
And as I have said many times before, Romney's lying. He knows he's lying because he's also said the American economy has improved under Obama.
22. Romney also argued Obama approved "a government takeover of healthcare."
That's just ridiculous.
For those keeping score, yes, this 12th edition is the longest of the year thus far. It's discouraging because it suggests Romney is getting less honest, not more, as the campaign progresses.

Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity, Vol. XI

Getty Images

It was heartening that Mitt Romney's habitual dishonesty generated far more attention than usual this week, but the scrutiny doesn't appear to have discouraged the Republican frontrunner, who had an incredibly mendacious week.
Indeed, Jamelle Bouie noted the other day, Romney "is running against policies that haven't happened and an Obama that doesn't exist. Exaggeration is normal in politics, but this goes beyond garden-variety embellishment."
To help drive the point home, take a look at the 11th installment of my weekly series, chronicling Mitt's mendacity. Unfortunately, it's one of the longest editions to date.
1. Romney argued this week, "There's no question that when [President Obama] ran for office, he said he wanted to see gasoline prices go up."
No, he didn't.
2. Romney told Fox News, "[President Obama] said that energy prices would skyrocket under his views and he selected three people to help him implement that program: the secretary of energy, the secretary of the interior, and the EPA administrator."
That's not even close to being true.
3. Romney also told Fox News' Bret Baier this week about President Obama, "This is a president [who] simply does not have experience in tough situations."
That's ironic coming from a coddled multi-millionaire from a powerful, wealthy family, but it's also blatantly untrue. Obama has experience leading the nation during a time of multiple ongoing crises. Love him or hate him, the economic crisis, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the strikes on bin Laden and al Qaeda, and the offensive in Libya count as "tough situations" -- tougher than anything Romney has ever seen in his entire life.
4. In reference to Iran, Romney told Fox News, "It's quite clear that the president wants to avoid in any way a discussion about a military option."
It's quite clear Romney's not telling the truth. Obama recently told AIPAC, in a speech Romney heard and critiqued, "I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say. That includes all elements of American power: A political effort ... a diplomatic ... an economic effort ... and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency."
5. In making the case against the Affordable Care Act, Romney said, "Now we find out from the Congressional Budget Office that [Obama administration officials] underestimated its costs -- multiple trillions of new federal spending is simply not something people can afford."
That's just not what the Congressional Budget Office said.
6. In the same appearance, Romney said his first problem with the health care reform law is the "$500 billion cut in Medicare."
Romney loves this line, but it's simply not true.
7. In his University of Chicago speech, Romney said, Obama administration "bureaucrats" are telling "farmers what their 15-year-old sons and daughters can and can't do on the family farm."
That's plainly false.
8. In the same speech, Romney said, "Under Dodd-Frank, [entrepreneurial pioneers] would have struggled to get loans from their community banks."
Romney has to know that's not true.
9. In the same speech, Romney promised, "Instead of raising taxes, I will cut them."
Well, he'd cut taxes for most folks, but for those working families struggling most, the Romney plan calls for a tax increase.
10. In his victory speech in Illinois after the primary, Romney said, "The government would have banned Thomas Edison's light bulb. Oh, that's right. They just did."
This isn't just a lie; it's a dumb lie.
11. Romney told voters in Maryland, "[O]ne of the things that just broke my heart was watching the president go around the world apologizing for America."
You've got to be kidding me.
12. Romney told a Wisconsin radio show this morning that Paul Ryan's budget plan "does not balance the budget on the backs of the poor and the elderly."
That's the exact opposite of reality.
13. In the same interview, Romney said the Ryan plan "preserves Medicare."
Actually, it ends Medicare, and replaces it with vouchers.
14. Romney argued in a separate appearance this morning, "The Catholic Church is being told that they have to provide insurance that covers morning after pills, sterilizations, and contraceptives. Despite the fact that these very features violate the conscience of the Catholic Church itself.
He's lying. That's not what the Catholic Church -- or any other house of worship -- is being told at all.
Rachel argued this week that Romney lies "all the time, really easily," adding, "He says things that are not true with unnerving frequency, arguably more than any modern candidate for major office, and there are a lot of creeps among them. Some dishonesty in national American politics is frankly routine. It's too bad, but it's true. Romney-style dishonesty is a sight to behold. It's different. He's bending the curve."
And as this morning's lies help demonstrate, the candidate doesn't even seem to care about being caught. I've never seen anything like it.

Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity, Vol. IX


Getty Images
There's often a gap between Romney's rhetoric and reality.
There may come a point at which the issue of Mitt Romney's propensity for falsehoods reaches some kind of critical mass. In fact, we may have already reached that point.
David Bernstein argued persuasively this week, "I think we've seen, over the past couple of months, an important tipping point where much of the national political media now recognizes ... that, in the Romney campaign, they are dealing with something unlike the normal spin and hyperbole. They are realizing that Romney and his campaign simply cannot be trusted, in any way, about anything."
I thought of Bernstein's piece on Tuesday when MSNBC's "Morning Joe" did two segments on Romney lying, rather blatantly, about his record on health care. It came the day before Rick Santorum also began targeting Romney as someone willing to "not tell the truth" to win.
Once a candidate earns a reputation for being shamelessly dishonest, it's awfully tough to reclaim a degree of credibility. And with that, here's this week's installment of Romney's biggest falsehoods of the week.
1. Commenting on his health care reform law in Massachusetts, Romney told voters in Ohio this week, "Early on, we were asked if what you did in Massachusetts should be something you'd have the federal government do? I said no from the very beginning. No. This is designed for our state and our circumstance."
He was lying.
2. Romney said of President Obama and veterans' health care, "He's going after TRICARE. Saying, 'Ok, we're going to raise the co-pays. We're going to cut the benefits.' Why is it we go after military families?"
This isn't even remotely accurate.
3. Romney said of Obama this week, "He gave a speech the other day at his State of the Union address. He didn't even mention the deficit or the debt."
Obama mentioned the deficit and the debt six times in his State of the Union address.
4. Pretending to understand U.S. policy in Iran, Romney said Obama "failed" to place sanctions on Iran.
That's the opposite of reality.
5. Also on Iran, Romney said this week that Obama "failed to communicate that military options are on the table" with regards to Iran's nuclear program.
That's also the exact opposite of reality.
6. On Tuesday night, Romney said Obama has "doubled" the deficit.
It's amazing Romney keeps saying this -- he's either lying or he's bad at arithmetic. When Obama took office, the deficit was about $1.3 trillion. Last year, it was $1.29 trillion. This year, it's on track to be about $1.1 trillion. Does Romney not know what "double" means?
7. In the same speech, Romney said Obama "lost our AAA credit rating."
No, actually, he didn't.
8. In the same speech, Romney argued, "President Obama wants to raise your taxes; I'm going to cut them."
Actually, Obama only wants to raise taxes on those making over $250,000 a year. Romney proposes massive tax breaks, except for those struggling most -- their taxes would go up under Romney's plan.
9. On Social Security and Medicare, Romney claimed, "I have a plan that saves both of them, and I have the courage to put that plan on the table."
No, actually, he doesn't -- at least not yet. Romney has presented no details about his "plan" for Medicare and Social Security.
10. Romney told AIPAC that Reagan's philosophy of "peace through strength" is why "the Iranians released the hostages on the same day and at the same hour that Reagan was sworn in."
Romney isn't just lying about what transpired in 1981; he's making a claim that's laughably untrue.
Paul Waldman wrote this week, "So here's my question: Just what will it take for reporters to start writing about the question of whether Mitt Romney is, deep within his heart, a liar?"
With each passing week, I find myself asking the same question.