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Super PAC for Romney focuses ads on key states

SHANNON STAPLETON/REUTERS

About a dozen people staged a “Dogs Against Romney’’ protest yesterday outside the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York.

A super PAC supporting Mitt Romney has launched an eight-state advertising campaign in an effort to bolster the former Massachusetts governor as his campaign prepares for three weeks of crucial primaries.

The new wave of spending — $1.5 million in all — could also serve to combat the growing popularity of former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, who is now running head-to-head with Romney in national polls, propelled by support from conservative and Tea Party voters. Brittany Gross, Restore our Future spokeswoman, would not say which ads would air in any of the states and whether they would attack Santorum.

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The super PAC has spent most of its money attacking former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who had briefly appeared to be Romney’s most formidable opponent.

The biggest ad buy is in Michigan, where the super PAC is spending $640,000 in broadcast advertising. Already, Restore our Future is running a TV ad there attacking Gingrich for his “baggage,’’ including the growth of earmark spending while he was speaker and his teaming up with former Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi for an ad on global warming.

Michigan, which votes Feb. 28, is considered a crucial state for Romney, who grew up there. He won the Michigan primary in 2008. His father, George, was an auto industry executive and Michigan governor.

The Romney campaign has started airing a TV ad in Michigan, a positive spot featuring Romney’s childhood there and expressing his support for the auto industry. The Romney campaign has paid for mostly positive ad spots, leaving the negative advertising to the super PAC.

Other Restore Our Future ad buys include: $121,000 for broadcast and cable TV ads in Arizona; $252,000 for TV and radio ads in Ohio; and $184,000 for TV, cable, and radio ads in Tennessee. Smaller TV-only ad buys include: $118,000 in Georgia; $84,000 in Alabama; $68,000 in Mississippi; and $40,000 in Oklahoma.

Arizona votes Feb. 28. Oklahoma, Tennessee, Ohio, and Georgia all vote on Super Tuesday, March 6. Mississippi and Alabama vote March 13.

Although Romney is struggling to attract the support of conservative voters, the new advertising blitz illustrates one major strength for him: fund-raising. The super PAC supporting Romney raised more than $30 million as of the end of 2011, while the super PAC supporting Gingrich had raised $2 million and the super PAC supporting Santorum had raised less than $1 million. While Santorum in particular has seen his fund-raising surge along with his popularity, he will have a long way to go to catch up with Romney.

SHIRA SCHOENBERG

Levin proposes raising tax rate on carried interest

WASHINGTON - Representative Sander Levin outlined a new proposal yesterday in his five-year effort to increase the lower tax rate that private equity managers and other investment executives pay on their earnings.

The bill by the Michigan Democrat is similar to a proposal in President Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget released Monday. The administration estimates the change would generate $13.5 billion in additional taxes over the next decade.

“This loophole for years has unfairly enabled some of the highest-paid individuals in the country to sharply reduce their tax bills, and it is time to close it once and for all,’’ said Levin, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.

Republicans object to the tax change, saying it would hurt economic growth. The House passed Levin’s proposal when Democrats controlled the chamber. It has not advanced since Republicans took control of the House after the 2010 election.

Private equity managers are paid management fees and carried interest, which typically is a 20 percent share of the profits earned by their funds. The management fees are taxed as ordinary income, which has a top rate of 35 percent, and carried interest is considered a capital gain taxed at a top rate of 15 percent.

The preferential tax treatment of carried interest has benefited Mitt Romney, who helped found and run the private equity firm Bain Capital. Of the $21.6 million in income Romney reported receiving in 2010, $7.4 million came from carried interest, Ben Ginsberg, national counsel for Romney’s campaign, said as Romney released his tax returns on Jan. 23. Romney paid an overall 13.9 percent federal tax rate.

BLOOMBERG NEWS

Protesters rally against Romney at dog show

NEW YORK - About a dozen demonstrators - with a few pooches - rallied against Mitt Romney yesterday outside the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

The half-hour protest took issue with Romney over the oft-told story of how he traveled with his Irish setter, Seamus. Romney said he put the dog inside a crate and strapped it to the roof rack for a 12-hour drive on a 1983 family vacation.

Protest spokeswoman Kitty Hendrix said the Dogs Against Romney website has about 25,000 members. The protesters held signs that said “Mitt is Mean’’ and “Dogs Aren’t Luggage.’’ A pug and a bull terrier joined their owners at the demonstration.

Scott Crider, an Alabama online marketing specialist and dog owner, started the website.

“I was just mortified that somebody would put a live animal on top of their car and drive for 12 hours,’’ Crider said.

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