Mitt Romney calls Obama a ‘crony capitalist’
By Philip Rucker,
This post has been updated.
SALEM, N.H. – Mitt Romney labeled President Obama a "crony capitalist” during a campaign event here Thursday morning, accusing the president of engaging in “political payback” to the labor unions that have supported his campaigns.
Seizing on Obama’s decision to install three appointees to the National Labor Relations Board without Senate approval during the congressional recess, Romney ratcheted up his rhetoric on labor relations.
The establishment front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination used the phrase “crony capitalism” – a rallying cry for tea party activists frequently invoked by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) – at least four times.
“This is crony capitalism,” Romney said. “It scares away real entrepreneurs and investors. They go to other countries. It’s killing jobs. This president is a crony capitalist. He’s a job killer.”
Responded Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt: “This is a bold statement from a governor whose state was 47th out of 50th in job creation during his tenure and a corporate buyout specialist who enriched himself by bankrupting companies and outsourcing jobs.”
“While the president is fighting to ensure that hard work and responsibility are rewarded, and that everyone from Main Street to Wall Street plays by the same set of rules, Mitt Romney is willing to settle for an economy where fewer people succeed no matter how hard they work,” LaBolt said.
Romney’s remarks came at the start of a town hall meeting with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) at the Boys and Girls Club in Salem. McCain, too, slammed Obama for his NLRB appointments. McCain endorsed Romney to be the GOP nominee Wednesday.
“This is a classic example of the way this president regards, and frankly abuses, [the] office of the presidency of the United States,” McCain said.
Romney also accused Obama of unethically funneling government money to energy firms, including Solyndra, which supported his campaigns.
“You know, he said he wanted to create green jobs,” Romney said. “I don’t think we understood that he wants to give jobs to the people who gave him the green.”
For months on the campaign trail, Romney has criticized the NLRB and accused Obama of stacking the board with “union stooges.” But Romney stepped up his focus on the issue Thursday as he departed for a campaign swing in South Carolina, a right-to-work state with lenient labor laws. The NLRB’s opposition to a Boeing airplane factory in Charleston has been a major issue for South Carolina Republicans.
Romney began airing a new television advertisement Thursday in South Carolina called “Free Enterprise,” in which he calls the NLRB’s Boeing decision “simply un-American.”
Addressing a couple hundred supporters at the town hall meeting in Salem, Romney said businesses expect the NLRB to foster “a fair and level playing field,” not to be used as “a political tool.”
“This NLRB is not there to encourage enterprise and growth of industry,” Romney said. “It’s there to be as a political payback for the president. Capitalism, free enterprise woks. Crony capitalism does not. This president has engaged and is engaging in crony capitalism.”