Mitt Romney in Chicago: Inside the Maggiano’s fund-raiser

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Chicago Sun-Times reporter Dan Mihalopoulos

handled pool duty for Mitt Romney’s Tuesday swing through the Chicago area. Below, the

report from a fund-raiser at Maggiano’s on Grand, 516 N. Clark St…..

Romney spoke for about 14 minutes Tuesday afternoon to about 60

supporters from the hospitality industry who attended his fundraiser

at Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant in downtown Chicago. Tickets to

the event were $5,000, $25,000 and $50,000, aides to the candidate

said.

He was introduced by Toni Brinker, the widow of Norman Brinker –

founder of the Dallas-based company that owns the Maggiano’s and

Chili’s Grill & Bar restaurant chains.

Toni Brinker, who was Norman Brinker’s fourth wife, lauded Romney as a

“great governor” with excellent leadership skills and “strong family

values.”

Romney said that “hundreds of thousands of people” in the hospitality

industry owe their jobs to the “individual industry, risk taking,

entrepreneurship” of the supporters in the room.

Romney said he was “increasingly impressed by the impact of one

person.” He cited Lech Walesa, whom he met recently in Poland, as well

as Rosa Parks and “the fellow from Tunisia” who lit himself on fire in

protest and inspired the Arab Spring revolutions in the Middle East.

He also described how Condoleeza Rice told him about a woman who began

the overthrow of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu by calling him a

liar, prompting others to begin chanting “liar.”

“Ultimately he is executed,” Romney said. “The power of one person.”

Romney said Walesa told him, “Mitt, the world needs America’s

leadership. America needs to lead. He was concerned that America was

not leading. He laid out for me things we need to do as Americans to

help lead the world in a time of tumult like the one we’re in today.”

The impact of one or two people can be extraordinary, he said, adding,

“That’s also true in the sector that creates jobs, the private

sector.”

He pointed to a man in the audience who had been with McDonald’s for

27 years and worked with Ray Kroc. He said at a time when he was in

his “late teens, maybe 20,” he found a voucher in his dad’s dresser

drawer that entitled him to a lifetime of free burgers, fries and

shakes. “It was signed by the hand of Ray Kroc,” perhaps when his

father did a training seminar in the early years of the McDonald’s

chain. Romney said he told his father, “This is a goldmine, dad. What

are you you – what are you doing?” Romney laminated it. He said his

father went every day for a hamburger or fish fillet sandwich. “They’d

never seen something like that. But he said was never turned down.”

He said many who started with McDonald’s went on to run other

restaurants. “It’s individuals and their entrepreneurship which have

driven America. What America is not a collective, where we all work in

a kibbutz or we all work in some little entity. Instead, it’s

individuals pursuing their dreams and building successful enterprises

which employ others, and they become inspired as they see what has

happened and go off and start their own enterprises.”

He told the story of Jimmy John Liautaud, founder of the

Champaign-based Jimmy John’s fast-food chain, who was a poor student

but borrowed money from his father to start the chain. Equipment to

make hamburgers or hot dogs was more expensive than he though. “The

only thing he could afford with the money he had borrowed was a few

tables to make sandwiches with. He made sandwiches in a garage.” Now

he has 1,500 restaurants that employ 60,000 people. “This is the way

America works.”

“What we’ve seen over the last three and half years is a president who

may be well intentioned but whose policies have failed the American

people.” He said there were 23 million Americans out of work, no

longer looking or underemployed. “It’s not just a failure of policy,

it’s a moral failure–in the nation that is the most wealthy in the

world, for us not to be able to provide work for people who want to

work. The policies that president put in place, rather than actually

encouraging the economy to grow and thrive, have made it more

difficult for the economy to recover. This has been the longest, most

painful recovery from a recession in American history. That’s not just

a matter of chance. That flows from policies that didn’t work. What

the president has done is make it harder for entrepreneurs and

innovators to start businesses and to grow businesses. People have

pulled back from risk taking and starting enterprises at the very time

we needed them to step forward. And it happens across the board.”

He said hiring has been discouraged by “decisions of the National

Labor Relations Board” and Obamacare.

“One after the other, his policies have made it harder for the economy

to recover,” Romney said. “I’m trying to find a way to encourage

consumer choice and more freedom because our economy runs on freedom

and individuals pursuing their dreams. If people aren’t putting their

dreams in action with their time and

the financial resources, then America is not going to generate the

jobs we need to create.”

He then ticked through his five-point economic plan before closing

with an attack on Obama’s recent statements on entrepreneurship. “I

didn’t believe he actually said it. I was incredulous. I read that

what the president said was if you have a business, you didn’t build

it, someone else did that. He didn’t really say that, did he? Then I

went and read the text and found he had said that, and looked on

YouTube.” He said Obama claimed it was taken out of context. “Look at

the context. It’s worse than the quote.” That comment elicited

laughter and clapping.

“He said these people think they’re successful, these people think

they’re smart … Where is he going with this? Is there something that

is not good about being smart and working hard? … It is a lack of

understanding about how America’s economy works.”

After the event, his Illinois campaign chairman, State Treasurer Dan

Rutherford, said Romney had raised more than $2 million Thursday in

Illinois. “He’s going to be back again,” Rutherford said, declining to

say exactly when Romney would return to Illinois. “We are doing

abundantly well raising money here in this state.”

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