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Tag Archive: Romney

Obama September surge leaves Romney in a $360 million hole

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Unless Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney persuaded donors to cough up $360 million in September, President Barack Obama will remain the all-time king of political fundraising.Outline of the state of Nevada with bullseye

The Obama campaign released preliminary figures showing their candidate's dollar domination in September, when he raised $181 million, the bulk of it--some 98 percent--in chunks of $250 or less. That brings Obama's overall total to a staggering $925 million in the current election cycle, including money raised by his joint fundraising committees, the Obama Victory Fund and the Swing State Victory Fund, and the Democratic National Committee. 

Romney and his surrogates have ...

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Was the Romney Tax Return Bitcoin Ransom Paid?

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bitcoin illustrationOn September 4th, an anonymous poster claimed to have obtained copies of presidential candidate Mitt Romney's tax returns. They offered to either immediately release the returns or never release them, at the discretion of whomever first paid them one million dollars in the form of bitcoins (approx. 80,500 bitcoins).

It's safe to say that most people think these blackmailers' claims were a hoax: a clumsy and not-very-believable extortion effort that briefly made headlines and then disappeared. Certainly this is the prevailing opinion around the Sunlight office. But we think the bitcoin phenomenon is fascinating for both technical and social reasons (yes, there are labs staffers who have mined bitcoins). And since today is the day of the ransom, it seems like a good time to consider what, if anything, the release or lack of release could mean.

The Romney campaign has chosen not to release the returns, so it's safe to assume that they don't want the returns released by anyone. The release was scheduled to happen in the absence of a payment, so the poster seems at least slightly biased against the Romney campaign. This seems to imply that the lack of a release means that the ransom was paid (not necessarily by the Romney campaign). Yet having not received a ransom and possibly not actually in possession of the returns, a lack of a release allows our anti-Romney protagonist to cast the shadow of an assumed pay-off over the campaign. Thus a lack of a release doesn't tell us much. Ideally, we could detect whether a payoff happened -- but how?

Bitcoins are bought and sold on exchanges similar to the New York Stock Exchange. Traders advertise offers to buy and sell bitcoins at different prices. The exchange matches compatible orders. The price changes based on the exhaustion of orders at a given price. So can't we watch the exchanges for erratic volume and price fluctuations? Unfortunately it's not that simple. The volume on large exchanges like MtGox could facilitate such an exchange in 3 days and they could facilitate it without a detectable change in price or volume over the 24 days since the ransom announcement. Furthermore, bitcoin purchases don't require an exchange. Just as you can buy and sell stocks privately, bitcoin purchases can be conducted privately. Finally, we have to consider the possibility that the ransom-payer could have already had enough bit coins to satisfy the ransom. We'll have to look elsewhere for the evidence.

Unlike the banking system, the bitcoin protocol has no central authorities keeping track of how many bitcoins each participant has. Each participant has only the bitcoins the other parties can prove he has. This conservative approach is required to prevent double-spending of bitcoins. In order to achieve this, the bitcoin network relies on something called the block chain. For each transaction on the bitcoin network, the recipient asks other participants to verify the transaction by completing a zero-knowledge proof and then recording it in a cryptographically tamper-evident manner. For each transaction there needs to be multiple parties involved (the precise number being a matter of preference). This block chain is a huge database available to all bitcoin participants. If the ransom was paid, it would be forever recorded in the block chain.

There are websites dedicated to letting you watch block chain activity. The largest transactions receive quite a bit of attention. Transferring 80k bitcoins in one transaction would be noticed. Thus, to avoid detection of the transaction in the block chain, the parties would require many transactions spread across many sender and recipient addresses. If the recipient wanted to assemble their new-found funds into fewer addresses, they would have to do so through transactions between those addresses. These transactions would also be recorded.

Therefore, if this ransom has been paid or is eventually paid, the transactions would be recorded -- they're in plain sight for all the world to see. It would require a lot of high-tech detective work to find them, but if a payoff happened, it would have to be there.

Do we think it's worth investigating this? No. The odds of the Romney campaign paying a bagman a million bucks in bitcoins seem only slightly better than the Secretary of State secretly being a reptilian alien. But it's a fun exercise to think about.

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King of fundraising: Obama leads Romney by $242 million

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While the most recent Gallup poll shows registered voters equally split, at 47 percent a piece, in the money race President Barack Obama has an unassailable lead. 

In the 2012 campaign cycle, Obama's campaign, the Democratic National Committee and two joint fundraising committees supporting them have collectively raised $743.5 million. The campaign of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, his joint fundraising committee and the Republican National Committee have raised $500.6 million. Because the joint fundraising committee, Romney Victory Inc., files quarterly, its total had to be estimated from media accounts of the campaign's August fundraising totals ...

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Obama’s fundraising machine leaves Romney in the dust

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So can we finally stop hearing the erroneous claim that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is winning the fundraising battle against President Barack Obama, the all-time champion when it comes to vacuuming up campaign cash? In August, the GOP nominee had his best month of fundraising--and fell about $2 million short of Obama's haul.

As we've previously noted, Obama began raising money for his reelection bid in April 2011, pulling in tens of millions of dollars each month for his reelection committee and the Democratic National Committee. Romney only began his joint fundraising efforts with the Republican National ...

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Show us the Obama and Romney Super PAC donors

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On the eve of the Democratic convention, Priorities USA Action, the super PAC that is supporting President Barack Obama's reelection campaign, has announced that it raised $10 million in August, via this report in the New York Times. However, we won't know who has donated this money until official reports are due at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) later this month.

Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, has not yet released its fundraising totals for August. In July, the group raised $7.5 million. Top donors to the group include Casino magnate ...

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Romney falls further behind Obama in race for campaign cabbage

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President Obama in White House vegetable gardenMitt Romney and President Obama have released their July campaign fundraising totals, and the Republican challenger continues to fall further behind the incumbent in the race to raise the most money.

Obama's campaign and the Democratic National Committee claim they raised $75 million last month--$4 million more than their haul in June, while Romney's campaign and the Republican National Committee say they brought in just $101 million, a decline from the $106 million they raised the month before. Much has been made of the fact that Romney has outpaced Obama in monthly numbers since effectively wrapping up ...

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Congressional ad campaigns poised for big fall blitz

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While super PACs, seven-figure checks and the heated Republican presidential nomination fight that Mitt Romney eventually won dominated the news the first half of this election year, congressional campaigns quietly have been pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the political economy -- and the real avalanche of congressional campaign expenditures and campaign ads is yet to begin.

Outside spending groups like the Campaign for Primary Accountability and Freedomworks for America have gotten most of the spotlight for running ads attacking incumbents in primaries. But congressional candidates themselves have had far more to spend to get their message out. As of ...

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Romney’s elite retreat: Who could be on the list?

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Picture of Deer Valley LodgeAll eyes this weekend are set on Mitt Romney’s weekend retreat in Utah, where his campaign has reportedly invited a group of donors with fat wallets to meet the candidate, some of his potential runningmates, and top GOP strategists. A number of media outlets have reported that the minimum price of admission is a $50,000 contribution to his campaign. 

According to media sources, some 700 invitees are landing at Deer Valley Resort, which features 10 restaurants and an outdoor amphitheater. While it serves primarily as a ski resort in the winter months, summer activities include mountain biking, horseback ...

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