Mitt Romney’s campaign accused President Obama of waging a “war on religion” in a new ad Thursday, saying the president’s health care plan forces religious institutions to “go against their faith.”
The charge is an apparent reference to a requirement, announced in January by the Department of Health and Human Services, that employers provide free contraception through their health insurance plans. Churches were exempted, but colleges, charities, and hospitals affiliated with religious groups were not.
After strong objections by Republicans and religious leaders, particularly Catholics, Obama outlined a compromise in February: Women employed by religiously affiliated organizations would still receive free contraception coverage, but the coverage would be funded by insurance companies, not by employers.
“No woman’s health should depend on who she is or where she works or how much money she makes,” Obama said. “As we move to implement this rule, however, we’ve been mindful that there’s another principle at stake here — and that’s the principle of religious liberty.”
Responding to the Romney ad, the Obama campaign defended the president’s compromise and accused Romney of trying to “take women’s health back to the 1950s,” noting the presumptive GOP nominee’s pledge to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
“President Obama believes that, in 2012, women should have access to free contraception as part of their health insurance, and he has done so in a way that respects religious liberty,” said Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith .
But Obama’s compromise has failed to satisfy some Catholics. In June, the Catholic Health Association said the president’s proposal is “unlikely to adequately meet the religious liberty concerns of all of our members and other church ministries” in a letter to Health and Human Services.
The health association contended the Obama administration’s definition of a religious employer remains too narrow and expressed discomfort with “direct or indirect involvement” in providing contraception coverage.
In the Romney ad, a narrator asks, “Who shares your values?” before asserting “President Obama used his health care plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith.”
“Mitt Romney believes that’s wrong,” the narrator adds.
Obama campaign cites op-ed in call for Romney tax data
President Obama’s reelection campaign repeated its call for Mitt Romney to release additional tax returns Thursday, citing renewed interest in a tax shelter used by the Marriott hotel chain when Romney chaired the company’s audit committee in the 1990s.
In an op-ed published Wednesday by CNN, Peter C. Canellos, former chair of the New York State Bar Association’s Tax Section, and Edward D. Kleinbard, former chief of staff of Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, described Romney as “an executive who was willing to go to the edge, if not beyond, to bend the rules to seek an unfair advantage.”
Canellos donated $2,300 to Obama in 2008.
He and Kleinbard noted that a federal appeals court ruled in 2009 that Marriott used “fictitious” losses to artificially reduce its taxable income during the period when Romney led the audit committee charged with ensuring tax-code compliance. The scheme was known as “Son of Boss.”
Canellos and Kleinbard concluded that Romney showed “insensitivity to tax obligations” while on the Marriott board and wrote that the company’s engagement in Son of Boss raises a question about Romney’s personal tax compliance: “Did he augment his wealth through highly aggressive tax stratagems of questionable validity?”
The Obama campaign has been posing the same question for months, as it has pressured Romney to make public more tax returns.
Romney has released his 2010 return and an estimate for 2011, and has promised to share his complete 2011 return when it is filed.
Health care remark brings backlash from conservatives
WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney’s campaign is facing conservative backlash against a spokeswoman’s comments highlighting the Massachusetts health care law, illustrating the latent distrust among some in his party just weeks before Romney receives the Republican presidential nomination.
The dissent came after Romney press secretary Andrea Saul appeared on Fox News on Wednesday to rebut an ad run by a Democratic super PAC. The ad — largely discredited by fact-checking organizations — suggests Romney is to blame for a woman’s death because her husband lost his health insurance when he was laid off from a company owned by Bain Capital.
Saul called the ad misleading and disingenuous, then highlighted an inconvenient fact: If the man had lived in Massachusetts, where Romney spearheaded a law covering nearly everyone, he would have had health care coverage.
The conservative criticism was fierce and immediate.
Erick Erickson, a prominent blogger, said it could “mark the day the Romney campaign died.” He also called it a “ ‘Read My Lips’ moment of betrayal,” in reference to President George H.W. Bush’s violation of a pledge not to raise taxes.
“Consider the scab picked, the wound opened, and the distrust trickling out again,” Erickson wrote.
Conservative commentator Ann Coulter bitterly complained, saying donors should stop contributing to Romney until Saul is fired. “There’s no point in us going to a convention and pushing for this man if he’s employing morons like this,” Coulter said.