How Much Does It Cost To Vacation With Mitt Romney?

A summer vacation at the Romney’s $8 million haven at Lake Winnipesaukee is more of a display of exorbitant wealth than it is a good ol’ fashioned family vacation. The only recognizable item we saw was a cooler. With the astronomical cost of boat owning and summer-home upkeep, a vacation with the Romney’s makes John Kerry’s windsurfing adventure look like chopped liver. The mandatory chores should represent middle class values, but the perennial use of a “chore wheel” likens everyday clean-up to a kitschy TV game. Inside the $630,000 boat house are some high-octane toys with unattainable price tags for most Americans. The volleyball and tennis courts are more panache than they are practical. And the horse stable, with guest apartments above it, probably costs more than the average middle class home.

Here’s a look at the cost of a vacation with the Romney’s:

Sea Ray 290:


Though Mitt’s family boat is not a yacht, it’s one step away according the boat maker’s website. This 29-foot bow rider can safely occupy 15 people–even though it looked as if there were 25 Romney’s on board. A new Sea Ray 290 costs between $100-200k, depending on the bells, whistles and engine.

Sea Doo GTI:


Next to the kayaks and canoes, which cost several hundred dollars a piece, sits the Romney Jet Ski. A brand new Sea Doo GTI runs anywhere from $9,300 to $11,699. That’s 10 times the cost of windsurfing board that was probably used by John Kerry. One more thing: Does Ann always get to drive?

The Horse Stable:

The cost of the edifice itself is unknown, though it’s probably more than the $630k boat house, but the price tag on what sleeps inside the stable is in the same price range as Mitt’s boat. In 2003, Ann Romney paid $105k for her horse Super Hit.

Want to see more of Romney’s expensive toys? Check out the things he could buy with the tax break that he plans to give himself.

The Shadowy Macau Lawyer Behind Federal Probe Of Adelson’s Billions

The Shadowy Macau Lawyer Behind Federal Probe Of Adelson’s Billions

When Steven C. Jacobs was the CEO of Sheldon Adelson’s Sands China casino operations in Macau, he made one thing very clear to his billionaire boss: Putting Leonel Alves on the payroll as legal counsel may “pose serious risks.” But Adelson ignored Jacobs’ advice and hired Alves, a Macau legislator who has worked for companies with connections to organized crime in China.

He fired Jacobs instead.

Among the perils foreseen by Jacobs – which have materialized in full since he filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Adelson in 2010 – are ongoing investigations of Sands China by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commmission, spurred in part by the hotel casino’s payments to Alves.

The Alves probe only represents one aspect of the federal investigation into Adelson’s overseas affairs. But the financial relationship between Alves and Sands China may violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices act, which could in turn cost Adelson his casino operating license as a penalty for venal acts — and taint the millions of dollars he has donated to support the presidential candidacies of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

According to Jacobs, Adelson purportedly hired Alves in 2009 to act as a conduit to government officials in Macau and Beijing. At the time, Adelson and his Las Vegas Sands Corp. were weighed down by $11 billion in debt and business was suffering from the global economic maelstrom. Then Alves received an offer for a lucrative backdoor deal.

Emails obtained by the Wall Street Journal show that Alves wrote to Jacobs about “someone high ranking in Beijing” who proposed that Las Vegas Sands pay a $300 million bribe to win the government’s approval for the construction of a luxury apartment complex in Macau — and to kill a lawsuit against Sands China claiming that the casino operator improperly terminated a contract with the Taiwanese businessman Marshall Hao.

In one email, Alves quoted a Beijing official who told him to “talk to Mr. Adelson and find an agreement, ASAP, for the lawsuit.” He wrote to Jacobs: “At the same time, he told me there is a way to get the necessary permission to allow the sale of the serviced apartments,” Alves wrote to Jacobs. He also wrote that “there is an amount to be agreed by Mr. Adelson in order to settle the two issues.”

The Las Vegas Sands denied making bribes or receiving improper benefits. Alves complained that the Journal‘s report was “taken out of context” and  “not accurate.”

The public record tells little about Alves, but his myriad connections with China’s elites extend beyond politics. He is a legal adviser to China Star Entertainment Limited, for instance, a Hong Kong film production company and distributor owned and operated by one Charles Heung.

Heung happens to be the son of the Sun Yee On triad’s founder, Heung Chin. Yet today, the son of one of China’s most notorious gangsters denies any involvement with the sordid world of Sun Yee On, which boasts more than 60,000 members and powerful connections with the upper echelons of Chinese politics. The films that Heung bankrolls often portray the criminal environment in which his father thrived – a  world of money laundering, illegal arms sales, prostitution, violence-tinged debt collection and — of course– gambling. Despite Heung’s pleas of innocence, a 1992 Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report on Asian crime identified him as an official of the triad—an accusation rejected by Heung.

But when Heung applied for a Canadian visa in 1995, he was rejected due to evidence that placed him “on the ruling council” of the Sun Yee On triad. In a 1994 New York Chinatown racketeering case, a former Sun Yee On member testified that Heung was one of “the top guys, the biggest” in the society.

The connection with Hueng is not the only tie between Alves and reputed gangsters. From 2006 to 2008, Alves was listed as a solicitor for Galaxy Entertainment Group, a Hong Kong-based casino operator.

In 2002, when Sands China first won its casino license in Macau, it was partnered with Galaxy — but Nevada gaming regulators ended the relationship due to Galaxy’s controversial “VIP room” practices at the Sands in Macau.

Back in 2007, William Weidner, the former  president of the Sands in Las Vegas, cited the difficult nature of the relationship between Galaxy and his former company during a deposition in an unrelated case. “These guys want to do VIP rooms the way they … do them in Macau where the … triad guys run them, because they’re the only ones that can grant and collect credit in mainland China, and they smuggle [Chinese currency] across the border,” he said. “I can’t do that business. That’s the way they want to do it, so I can’t do it.”

The link between underground crime societies and Macau’s gambling industry is no surprise. But why Adelson insisted on hiring Alves — even after he was warned of the consequences — is still unknown. The associations and business relationships Adelson sought in Alves could, depending on what the DOJ and SEC find, become the leviathan that topples the Adelson empire.

Part 2: To be continued….

GOP Billionaire Probed For Illicit Ties With Chinese Officials, Gangsters

GOP Billionaire Probed For Illicit Ties With Chinese Officials, Gangsters

There was once a time, not so long ago, when Sheldon Adelson — the 79 year-old gambling mogul who recently vowed to spend $100 million to elect Mitt Romney — would have considered such profligate political largesse beyond his means.

Often when his name is mentioned in coverage of the 2012 campaign — as when he spent millions on Newt Gingrich’s ill-fated primary bid — the Jewish Adelson is said to be motivated politically by his ultra-hawkish Zionism. But the inner history of his gambling empire, currently under scrutiny by law enforcement officials, suggests he may have at least one other reason for his determination to oust the Obama administration.

Not much more than a decade ago, his Sands Hotel and Casino ranked fifth in revenues on the Las Vegas Strip. With a mere billion in the bank, he ranked 274 on Forbes’ list of Richest Men in America. Now with a net worth of $25 billion, he is ranked the eighth richest American, just behind the notorious Koch brothers.

Adelson owes his improved fortures to Macau, the island province recoverd by China in 1999 after more than 400 years of colonial rule by Portugal. What was once a government monopoly on gambling was opened up by Beijing authorities to private operators, with 21 bidders for three licenses. Despite its financial weakness compared with its Vegas competitors, Adelson’s company came out on top.

The questions that continue to haunt Adelson are why officials in Macau and Beijing decided to award a gaming license to him – and how he conducted business there in the years since. Indeed, those questions are the subject of ongoing litigation between Adelson and two executives who formerly worked for him: Richard Suen, who claims to have successfully escorted the Vegas billionaire through the complex, mystifying political systems of China and Macau; and Steven C. Jacobs, who ran the Sands China casino in Macau until Adelson abruptly fired him.

Although Adelson promised Suen a payment of $5 million plus two percent of LVSI’s net profits in Macau as a “success fee,” he was never paid. In 2008 a Las Vegas jury awarded Suen $43.8 million for his role in Adelson’s campaign for a Macau license. But the court’s decision was overturned on appeal and the case will be retried in 2013.

Their business relationship began in November 2000, when Adelson hired Suen as a consultant to advise how he might gain influence with the Communist leadership in Beijing and thus win a gaming license in Macau. Suen testified that he believed Adelson’s “strong affiliations with the Republican Party” would win him the attention of top government officials, including then-Vice Premier Qian Qichen, who oversaw Macau.

It was Adelson’s political connections, according to his own testimony, that got him the highly unusual meeting with Qian. His opportunity arose when members of Congress filed legislation designed to prevent China from hosting the 2008 Olympics due to human rights violations. Adelson simply used his clout as a major Congressional donor to kill the bill, calling “four or five” Representatives. At a Fourth of July picnic, he spoke with then-Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX) about the bill.

Bejing soon won the Olympic bid, and Adelson subsequently met with Vice Premier Qian in 2001 at the Purple Light Pavilion — the illustrious Beijing venue where Qing Emperors once received imperial emissaries and foreign generals. In February 2002, China’s rulers awarded Adelson a gaming license for Macau.

Not long after the Sands Macau opened in 2004, Adelson’s corporate profits began an astronomical rise. Since then, Adelson and his company have built two more casinos on the Chinese island. In 2012, first quarter revenue nearly doubled from 2011 for the Las Vegas Sands Corp, with one casino alone averaging nearly $4.5 million in revenue per day.

Yet despite his stratospheric wealth Adelson is, much like his Vegas casino in 1999, “currently vulnerable.” Probes by the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission could threaten his empire.

If those probes find wrongdoing, the chief witness may be Jacobs, former CEO of Sands China, the Macau casino, is also suing the mogul and his company for wrongful termination. Among other claims, Jacobs has alleged in court papers that Adelson demanded secret investigations of high-ranking Macau government figures in order to thwart regulation of his businesses. The plaintiff is Jacobs, who received a $2.5 million bonus two months prior to his dismissal, claims Adelson wanted him to use improper “leverage” against senior government officials — and to refrain from disclosing information concerning the company’s alleged involvement with the island’s “Triad” criminal gangs, among other issues, to the LVSI board of directors.

According to Jacobs, Adelson was determined to “aggressively grow” the junket business, which brings high-rolling gambling patrons to special “VIP rooms” at Macau casinos – despite credible allegations that the junkets are controlled by Triad racketeers. In 2010, Reuters reported that a top Triad gangster and junket owner had shared in profits from a Sanda VIP room.

Attorneys for Jacobs have filed court documents stating that he is a cooperating witness in probes under way by the Justice Department and the SEC into whether Adelson’s firms have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by maintaining a top Macau official on the Sands China payroll.

As a casino operator in Las Vegas, Adelson is subject to Nevada laws regulating gaming. Should federal authorites uncover any overseas malfeasance, the gambling baron could lose his license — and taint all of the money donated to his political favorites. No wonder he wants more and better friends in Washington.

Part One: To be continued

Meet Five Of Mitt’s Beltway Bandits

To heighten contrast with a Democratic president, Mitt Romney presents himself as a reforming Washington outsider. But the resumes of several top advisers – energy lobbyists, defense lobbyists, and other K Street veterans – indicate his close relationship with his party’s Beltway insiders, who have so much to gain from a Republican victory in November.

Drew Maloney: Congressional Relations and Fundraising

Maloney, CEO of Ogilvy Government Relations, has raised enormous sums of money and wrangled Congressional support in both of Romney’s presidential campaigns. Among his lobbying clients have been such mammoths as Verizon, Pfizer, and Fannie Mae. In the second quarter of 2011 alone, Maloney bundled $56,750 for Romney. Early in his career he generated controversy as a chief of staff and fundraiser for Tom DeLay, the former Republican Majority Whip, now free on bail while appealing his money laundering conviction.

Vin Weber: Economic Adviser and Possible White House Chief of Staff

As a member of Congress, Vin Weber overdrew his House Bank account by $47,987 and wrote 125 bad checks. He “retired” from Congress in 1992 to became managing partner of lobbying firm Clark and Weinstock. (In 2006, Freddie Mac paid Weber $360,297 to lobby on its behalf.) Today he helps run the American Action Network, a shadowy, Karl Rove-linked “charitable” group pushing repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Jim Talent: Energy Adviser

As Senator from Missouri, Talent voted “no” on reducing carbon emissions by 2025; now he’s a lobbyist for one of the nation’s largest coal producers, Peabody Energy. So although Romney was once concerned about climate change, his energy platform calls for increasing production of coal and amending the Clean Air Act to exclude carbon dioxide from environmental regulations.

Michael Chertoff: Special Adviser

Best known as a co-author of the Patriot Act, the former Secretary of Homeland Security has learned how to turn a profit while “protecting” the nation. Following the arrest of the “underwear bomber” in December 2009, Chertoff made several media appearances to promote full-body scanning systems – with revealing that Rapiscan Systems, a client of his firm, the Chertoff Group, makes the scanners. The Transportation Security Agency then ordered 300 Rapiscan machines – winning $173 million in stimulus contracts — although the Government Accountability Office has said it “remains unclear whether (the scanners) would have been able to detect the weapon” used by the underwear bomber.

Cofer Black: National Security Adviser

Black is Romney’s intelligence agent in Washington’s world of insiders. As a CIA veteran operations officer, he was in charge of counter-terrorism on 9/11. He left the agency in 2007 to join Blackwater, Inc., at the height of the notorious security company’s contracting spree in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Olympic Bribery Scandal Looming Over Mitt Romney’s Likely Chief Of Staff

The Olympic Bribery Scandal Looming Over Mitt Romney’s Likely Chief Of Staff

This article was written with Jillian Anthony

The man who implored Mitt Romney to leave Bain Capital and save the Olympics is now planning the GOP nominee’s potential presidency as a top personal adviser. But Mike Leavitt, recently named to head Romney’s transition team, may still be haunted by questions concerning his own role in the Olympic bribery scandal that brought them together more than a decade ago.

Back then, Leavitt was governor of Utah and at the center of the scandal threatening the 2002 Salt Lake City winter games and the Beehive State. “America needs you,” he recalled telling Romney, a fellow Mormon, in a telephone conversation when he called upon the leveraged buyout titan to “turnaround” the image of the Salt Lake City Olympics. (Turnaround ultimately became the title of Romney’s first book.)

When the bribes and other crimes surrounding Salt Lake’s bid for the games became public — and the Justice Department issued a multi-count felony indictment of bribery and racketeering charges against bid leaders Tom Welch and David Johnson — top Utah Republican legislators said they knew of gifts and scholarships given to International Olympic Committee members a year before the public found out about the scheme. But the governor claimed he knew nothing about those dubious payments.

The Salt Lake City press corps openly questioned whether Leavitt knew more than he let on. A January 23, 2000 Salt Lake Tribune investigation, which is not available online, cast doubt on widespread claims of ignorance:

The revelation [that top Republicans knew about the bribes] raises new questions about when Leavitt, Joklik and others knew about tuition payments to the children of IOC members, and places a harsher light on statements by officials who, at the time the scandal unfolded, said they were shocked, disgusted and totally unaware of past excesses.

The indictment of Welch and Johnson was eventually dismissed — and Leavitt still claims he had no prior knowledge of the bribes. Yet former Utah Senator Scott Howell, a Democrat who also served as a member of the Salt Lake City Olympic organizing committee, told the National Memo: “You’d have to be living in a cave to not have known that type of stuff was going on.”

As governor, Leavitt had the final say in approving Olympic budgets, which included International Olympic Committee educational scholarships. Intended for underprivileged athletes in developing countries, those scholarships were re-routed to the privileged sons and daughters of International Olympic Committee members as a “thank-you” for choosing Salt Lake City as the site of the 2002 Olympics.

“I don’t think there was any question that he knew what was going on,” said Mel Brown, a former Utah House Speaker and one of the Utah Republican legislators who had knowledge of bribes paid by Welch and Johnson a year prior to the scandal’s outbreak.

According to Scott Green, the SLOC’s former budget director, the committee’s former vice president of finance, Gordon Crabtree, “told Governor Leavitt about [the bribes].”

Crabtree later denied making the comment, however, and did not returned multiple requests for an interview.

“Everybody knew what was going on,” Green told the National Memo. “It wasn’t like Tom and Dave were doing all this in secret. It was well known.”

While Leavitt continued to deny knowledge of bribes made by Welch and Johnson, he called their actions “repulsive” and said the duo didn’t represent the “values” or
“standards of behavior” in Salt Lake City’s Olympic community.

In February of 2000, Leavitt told the Salt Lake Tribune he and the SLOC “deplore” Welch and Johnson’s actions and “we revolt at being associated with them.” Yet seven months later, Leavitt insisted that the SLOC must pay Welch and Johnson’s legal fees. “It is still unclear if they broke the law,” he said. “I think SLOC should back them.”

“Any comment I made, any opinion I made, was not expressing a view whether or not crimes had been committed,” Leavitt told the National Memo in a recent interview.

Welch and Johnson eventually received legal compensation and severance packages. At first, Romney said he didn’t “like having to pay for Welch and Johnson’s legal fees,” because the “image and symbolism” were “distasteful” to him. As time passed, Romney publicly acknowledged that others likely played a role in the scandal — although Leavitt, the man who had the final say in the review and approval of post-bid Olympic budgets, was apparently left off Romney’s list of culprits.

Brown, the former Republican legislator, said members of the SLOC and the bid committee could have protected Welch and Johnson by admitting that they had all “made the decision collectively” to grease the IOC members with gifts and scholarships in order to win the Olympic bid. “I think that way would have been a lot fairer for everybody than to point the finger at those two gentlemen,” he said.

Today Leavitt is a “regular” at the Romney presidential campaign’s national headquarters at 585 Commercial Street in Boston. He participates in strategy meetings and speaks at fundraisers. Along with his volunteer position as a personal adviser, Leavitt, his family members and his family business’ associates have donated $24,422 to the Romney Campaign since 2007, signifying the close relationship between two men who tout saving the Olympics as a presidential credential.

If Romney wins in November, Leavitt is a likely chief of staff candidate (or perhaps the only potential cabinet member who happens to be Mormon). He’s already outlining a Romney presidency with a plan that insiders call “Project Ready.”

While Leavitt and Romney have come a long way since the 2002 Olympics, both men still cite those months in Salt Lake City as a benchmark on the presidential aptitude test —and depict Romney as the “turnaround” man who rescued the Games from disaster. If anyone is advising Romney to herald his Olympic experience, it’s the man who’s now planning his presidency. What remains to be seen is whether Leavitt can speak candidly about his own Olympics role.

Meet Mitt’s JP Morgan Pals

Meet Mitt’s JP Morgan Pals

Not so long ago, President Obama enjoyed a blossoming relationship with JPMorgan Chase CEO and chairman Jamie Dimon. But now that the bank no longer needs the federal government’s bailout money, Mitt Romney seems to be JPMorgan’s new best friend.
More than three years and $25 billion in bailouts later, Dimon and his colleagues are wooing the GOP candidate with fundraisers and campaign contributions. What is the difference between then and now? In 2008 the bank was lobbying for attention; this year it prefers to be left alone. And despite the bank’s embarrassing loss of $2 billion in a single bad trade, now under investigation by the Justice Department and Congressional leaders, Romney remains supportive of the bank’s deregulatory agenda, promising to repeal the Dodd-Frank reforms.
The banking behemoth’s courtship of Obama seemed to be ending last fall when the bank’s CEO and Romney were spotted in Manhattan having a private, one-on-one discussion before a fundraiser for the GOP candidate hosted by Highbridge Capital, a JPMorgan hedge fund.  

Then in December, JPMorgan Vice Chairman James B. Lee, Jr., and three other Republican donors who work for the bank hosted a Romney fundraiser at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan.  Lee solicited potential donors by email, asking for $2,500 contributions to the Romney campaign and noting that he’s known Mitt for almost his “entire career” and “made one of his first loans when he came to Bain Capital.”  
The party’s  other hosts included Frank Bisignano, the bank’s chief administrative officer; Mary Callahan Erodes, its chief executive officer of asset management; and Mel Martinez, a former US Senator from Florida and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President George W. Bush, who now serves as the bank’s chairman for Florida, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.  Martinez is also chairman of Romney’s National Advisory Council.  Meanwhile, William B. Harrison Jr., Dimon’s predecessor at JPMorgan, hosted a mid-December fundraiser for Romney as well.  In 2008, Harrison was a member of Romney’s Global Competitiveness Policy Advisory Group.
All of this hospitality has added up nicely for Romney. According to Federal Election Committee records, two weeks before and after both December fundraisers, JPMorgan employees donated $60,000 to Romney. So far in this cycle, the bank has contributed $400,675 to Romney and $76,675 to Obama. In 2008, the bank contributed $808,799 to the Obama campaign.

William K. Black, associate professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and author of “The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One,” told The National Memo that JPMorgan’s push for Romney grows out of  the “fear element.” 
“The only thing that can interfere with the bank’s power is effective regulators or prosecutors, and so they want to make sure the power will be kept with those who will give them impunity,” Black said.
Asked about the relationship between Romney, Dodd-Frank and JPMorgan’s campaign contributions, campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said: “People who support Mitt Romney support his pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda for the country.” 
Prominent in Romney’s platform for domestic economic policy is to “deregulate and repeal Dodd-Frank,” Black said, which fits nicely with JPMorgan’s desire to “discourage effective regulations and enforcement” as signified by its “political contributions and lobbying.”

Besides Dimon’s ten visits to various government agencies to discuss Dodd-Frank, other executives at the bank have been vocal about repealing the bill. Barry Zubrow, the bank’s head of corporate and regulatory affairs wrote a letter to Congress last February implying that both the Volcker Rule restricting bank investments and the Dodd-Frank reforms will harm JPMorgan when they take effect.  
“Ultimately, we believe that the statute is so flawed that it will be impossible to implement in a way that does not impose unacceptable costs on our economy and financial system,” wrote Zubrow — who gave $2,500 to the Romney campaign days after he testified before Congress that “the regulatory pendulum clearly has now begun to swing to a point that risks hobbling our financial system and our economic growth.” 
On NBC’s “Meet the Press” last Sunday, Dimon said he supports “70 percent” of Dodd-Frank,  but has long opposed the Volcker Rule, which would have prevented his firm’s $2 billion loss if enacted and enforced. That rule limits risks in what lawmakers call “proprietary trading,” or the kind of investments the bank makes on its own behalf.  In a February interview with Fox News, Dimon said JPMorgan takes issue with Volcker because it hinders what he calls “market making.” He went on to add: “We don’t make huge bets, so I understand the goal to make sure these companies don’t make huge bets on the balance sheets….Every trader would need a lawyer, compliance officer, a doctor… a shrink.”
The rule’s author, former Treasury Secretary Paul Volcker, offered a tart response to Dimon: “Don’t mix up proprietary trading in market making.” 
Yet Romney is determined to repeal Dodd-Frank even though Dimon and the bank’s executives would be $2 billion richer if they had heeded Volcker’s advice. In March, the Republican candidate told a crowd of supporters in Ohio that when he gets “rid of Dodd-Frank,” he will make new “laws or regulations.” The description he offered may have been sufficiently vague to please all of his friends at JPMorgan: “It means I want to make sure it’s modern, it’s updated, it goes after the bad guys, but it also encourages the good guys.”
Exclusive: The Crude Intentions Of Romney’s Keystone Billionaire Bundler

Exclusive: The Crude Intentions Of Romney’s Keystone Billionaire Bundler

Mitt Romney’s fundraiser on Wednesday night in Oklahoma City was not just another chance for wealthy donors to fill the candidate’s campaign coffers, but reveals the GOP presidential candidate’s special relationship with oil tycoon Harold Hamm, chairman of Romney’s Energy Policy Advisory Council and host of the quiet soirée. What Hamm and Romney share, aside from great wealth, is a powerful desire to complete the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Hamm is the chairman and CEO of Continental Resources, one of the nation’s largest independent energy companies and leading developer and owner of more than 600,000 acres in the Bakken Oil Field in North Dakota. If the northern section of the pipeline were complete, it would connect to Hamm’s oil field, giving him a 1,700-mile conduit to the Gulf of Mexico. Hamm ranks 33rd on the Forbes’ wealth list and is worth around $12 billion. He estimates 24 billion barrels of crude at Bakken, mostly still underground, so Keystone XL — which would run down from Canada — would expedite his ascent up the billionaire ladder.

With sponsorships ranging up to $50,000 a head, the fundraiser drew roughly 200 attendees to hear Romney speak at Hamm’s home in Nichols Hills, Oklahoma. When asked about the fundraiser’s attendees prior to the event, Hamm didn’t mention names but told The Oklahoman he “knows a lot of oil folks” and “invited everybody” he knows. Hamm and his publicists did not return calls to The National Memo.

Romney says that building the northern section of the XL pipeline is a “no-brainer,” and has called the president an “enemy of energy development” for halting TransCanada’s proposed construction of the XL pipeline in the Nebraska Sandhills above the Ogallala Aquifer. After President Obama denied TransCanada a permit to construct the northern section of the Keystone XL, Hamm and a group of oil industry executives wrote an open letter to the president in an editorial in the The Oklahoman, criticizing his decision to deny the permit as a political maneuver.

“Approval of the entire Keystone XL pipeline should happen now — not after the election,” they wrote to the president. “…America’s greatest benefit will come when we can transport oil from our best energy partner, Canada, and oil-rich North Dakota and Montana.”

Despite Hamm’s homilies about liberating the US from foreign oil, crude from the Canadian tar sands is still foreign. Heather Taylor, director of the National Resource Defense Council’s Action Fund, told The National Memo that tycoons like Hamm want to build the XL pipeline to “raise the price” of US and Canadian crude. Canadian regulators disclosed the same thing in a 2010 report, saying the “purpose” of the pipeline is to disburse the surplus of oil in the Midwest and “create a higher price” for crude.  Bloomberg reported prices may rise as much as 20 cents a gallon in the Midwest and Rocky Mountain region if the XL project is completed.

Shortly after the president’s decision, Mitt Romney asked an audience in North Dakota how anyone could “say no” to a pipeline that will “create tens of thousands of jobs.”

When Romney refers to job creation, he might mean oil spill cleanup crews. In its first year of operation the Keystone I had 12 spills, one of which dumped 14,000 gallons of oil in North Dakota. Residents said a 60-foot geyser erupted from the pipeline and gushed for 30 minutes. TransCanada cleanup crews arrived five hours after the disaster.

Hamm insists TransCanda is using “every safety device known to man” to prevent a XL pipeline spill. Data from scientific research, and even TransCanada, prove otherwise.

TransCanada estimated the XL would have 11 significant spills during a 50-year lifecycle. In “Analysis of Worst-Case Spills by the Keystone XL Pipeline,” John Stansbury, associate professor at the University of Nebraska, says a more realistic estimate is 91 “significant” spills or two large spills a year — with a worst-case-scenario spill pouring 7.9 million gallons of crude oil in the Nebraska Sandhills above the Ogalla Aquifer, polluting a vital source of potable water and eliminating an integral water source for the nation’s agriculture industry.

“You can’t project the enormity of a spill above the aquifer,” Taylor said. “It’s dirty water, it’s dirty food. It’s dirty air. A spill is a big deal and devastating to the economy.”

Not only would the pipeline increase the price of North American oil, it would save Hamm millions per year on transportation. Trains ship North Dakota’s crude for $2 or more a barrel. Shipping it by pipeline would decrease the costs to $1.50 per barrel. Hamm produces more than 90,000 barrels of oil per day in the Bakken and is on track to double his 2011 output.

No wonder Romney says the president doesn’t see the value in the XL pipeline. In this election cycle so far, Romney has received more than $2.5 million in campaign contributions from Big Oil, and super PAC oilmen like the Koch brothers plan to pump more than $200 million into attacks on Obama. According to Think Progress, in the first quarter of 2012, the American Petroleum Institute, Crossroads GPS and the American Energy Alliance spent more than $16 million on ads blasting the president’s energy policies. Hamm and his wife Sue have contributed $9,600 to Romney since 2008. Opening their home to the “oil folks” represented a much bigger contribution by proxy.

On the campaign trail Romney’s vowed to build the XL pipeline “himself” if necessary. But Hamm’s fundraiser suggests why Romney chose an oil billionaire to chair his Energy Policy Advisory Council.