US presidential polls: Romney may beat Obama at fund raising

It is quite possible that Governor Romney will not only catch up with President Obama in fund raising but may well overtake him. There is no shortage of money. The war has just begun

As Reuters reported last week “Republican party grandees gathered in the shadow of Wyoming’s Majestic Grand Teton mountains on Thursday for a high dollar fund raising event that will add to presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s brimming campaign coffers.

Hosted by former vice-president and native son Dick Cheney who often goes fly fishing for trout in nearby streams, the country club reception and dinner is expected to bring in $4 million for Romney in one of the biggest fund raising night of the 2012 election season.
Business and party figures will huddle at Jackson Hole, a rugged valley settled by beaver trappers in the nineteenth century i.e. now a playground for the rich who come for winter skiing and for summer outings on the Snake River and a glimpse of buffalo, moose and elk.”

The week before that there was a gathering in the Hamptons where a large group of well-heeled Republicans had to wait for several hours to get a glimpse of Mitt Romney. Suddenly Governor Romney is every where and is matching the star power and fund raising ability of President Obama. Not only are the well-heeled lining up for Governor Mitt Romney, they are opening up their wallets and contributing substantially to the Republican war chest. Further the Supreme Court decision in the healthcare case which saved Obama care has so charged up the Conservative base that they have been contributing large amounts of money to Mitt Romney and the Republican National Committee. A week after the Supreme Court decision the Republican National Committee announced a haul of another $5 million. Similarly the Obama endorsement of gay marriage fired up the gay community with enthusiastic gay men and women stopping of on the highway to send money to the Obama campaign. Similarly President Obama’s announcement of amnesty for Hispanic voters who were educated in the United States of America or joined the military has considerably enthused the Hispanics and I will be very surprised if that has not been converted into Hispanic voters contributing more to the Obama campaign.

In June the Obama campaign had one of its best fund raising months and collected $70 million but President Obama candidly announced “We got beat” as the Romney campaign collected $100 million. President Obama has more money in his war chest but has also been spending at a quicker rate. David Axlerod, President Obama’s advisor when asked on the State of Union programme by Candy Crawley as to why the Republicans were collecting more dollars then the Democrats, replied with a straight face “that our money comes from the grass-roots; their money comes from the wealthy who have been promised substantial tax benefits. But we will manage” and Candy Crawley said “I am sure you will”.

However it is quite possible that Governor Romney will not only catch up with President Obama in fund raising but may well overtake him.

Adding intrigue to all this is the Supreme Court judgement in the Citizens United case which makes it possible for the organisations not directly connected with the campaigns to raise and spend unlimited funds on behalf of the campaign as long as there is no co-ordination with the campaign. This is something new from the last election where unlimited funding was not permitted. This has led to several Super PACs being created such as Karl Roves American Crossroads or Restore our  Faith, the pro Romney Super PAC or the VG Action Fund the Super PACs founded by former Aides to house majority leader Mickey Cantor. These Republican Super PACs are outspending democratic Super PACs like pro USA Action.

The Super PACs are playing and active role in the elections and are not only advertising in a big way but also will ultimately help their candidates strengthen their ground game. As the Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s recall election showed the Republicans have very deep pockets, unlimited resources and the wherewithal to spend the same in their cause. Trade unions and other democratic groups are unable to match the same.

Being out of the White House for the last three and half years seems to have led to the Republicans having a greater hunger than the Democrats to capture the White House and they will  deploy whatever the financial resources are required to ensure the same. Protestors are already accusing the Republicans for wanting to buy the election. But how can President Obama complain? It is he who refused public funding in the last election and outspent John McCain by a margin of 2:1 and was the master of internet fund raising. And in the early going he has not been shy with spending. It is reported that a hundred million dollars have already been spent by the Obama campaign in swing states tying Mitt Romney to Bain Capital excesses. One-fourth of the money is in Ohio. And substantial funds have been spent in Florida and Virginia. The Romney Campaign says that 60% of the Obama advertisements are negative. The Obama campaign replies that 90% of the Romney advertisements are negative. There is no shortage of money. The war has just begun.

(Harsh Desai has done his BA in Political Science from St Xavier's College & Elphinstone College, Bombay and has done his Master's in Law from Columbia University in the city of New York. He is a practicing advocate at the Bombay High Court.)


EPFO slaps Rs55 crore demand notice on Ahluwalia Contracts

EPFO has slapped a Rs54.57 crore demand notice on Ahluwalia Contracts, however the company said it will file an appeal with the tribunal for quashing the demand

New Delhi: Retirement fund body Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) has slapped a Rs54.57 crore demand notice on Ahluwalia Contracts (India), reports PTI.


Ahluwalia Contracts (India), which is into the business of construction, however, quashed the charge, labelling it "arbitrary".


"...The company has just received the demand notice of Rs54.57 crore for the period September 2007 to March 2009 from Employee Provident Fund office, New Delhi," it said in a BSE filing.


"The demand is hypothetical assumption and arbitrary. The demand notice is under study and the appeal will be preferred at competent authority to quash the demand," it added.


Ahluwalia Contracts (India) is one of the few firms belonging to the construction sector who pay provident funds on regular basis, Company Chairman & Managing Director Bikramjit Ahluwalia told PTI.


"We are among the 5% of the construction firms in India which pay provident fund regularly. The rest 95% don't. However, they are targeting us only. This is the result of inspector raj," Ahluwalia said.


"We are going to the tribunal and prove that we are not doing anything wrong," he added.


SEBI panel for raising MF's administrative, other expenses

The mutual fund industry has been demanding hiking expense ratio by 0.25% to 2.5% and also doing away with the sub-ceilings within the expense ratio for AMCs

New Delhi: The Mutual Fund Advisory Committee appointed by Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is understood to have accepted the demand of the MF industry, including hiking expense ratio, at their meeting, reports PTI.

The mutual fund industry has been demanding hiking expense ratio- the percentage of an investor's money that is deducted by the fund house annually to meet its expenses - by 0.25% to 2.5%, sources said.

Besides, the industry had also pitched for fungibility, which refers to doing away with the sub-ceilings within the expense ratio for asset management companies (AMCs), they added.

At present, of the total expense ratio of 2.25% charged by fund houses, 1% is charged as asset management fees. The rest is used to meet custodian charges, advertising and marketing costs and other operating expenses.

Earlier this month, the MF industry had discussed their demands with the officials of Finance Ministry. At the meeting, the industry had also demanded shifting of the 12% Service Tax burden on consumers.

Last month, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who also holds the finance portfolio, has said that mutual fund industry was facing problems and something was needed to be done to resolve their issues.


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