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Politics spawns Etch A Sketch revival, Justice Department sues AT&T over billing practices

Published: Thursday, March 22 2012 7:25 p.m. MDT

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum holds an Etch A Sketch as he speaks to USAA employees during a campaign stop, Thursday, March 22, 2012, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Associated Press) Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum holds an Etch A Sketch as he speaks to USAA employees during a campaign stop, Thursday, March 22, 2012, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Associated Press)

TOLEDO, Ohio — Pushed to the bottom of the toy box by video games and other high-tech gadgets, Etch A Sketch is suddenly drawing lots of attention, thanks to a gaffe that has shaken up the race for the White House.

Ohio Art Co., maker of the classic baby boomer toy, is sending a big box of Etch A Sketches to the presidential campaigns to say thanks for the publicity and a boost in sales.

It all started when Mitt Romney strategist Eric Fehrnstrom was asked Wednesday about the candidate's politics now versus next fall, and he likened the campaign to an Etch A Sketch: "You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again."

Democrats and Republicans alike seized on the remark, saying it was evidence that Romney is a flip-flopper willing to alter his positions for political gain.

GOP rival Newt Gingrich told voters in Louisiana that "having an Etch A Sketch as your campaign model raises every doubt about where we're going." Rick Santorum brandished an Etch A Sketch and told voters he is a candidate who stands "firmly on the rocks of freedom, not on the sands of an Etch A Sketch toy." Santorum's staff also handed out miniature Etch A Sketches to reporters.

An Etch A Sketch shows a depiction of President Barack Obama. The toy has gained prominence and a sales increase in the past week after a Mitt Romney staffer likened his campaign to the drawing device. (Associated Press) An Etch A Sketch shows a depiction of President Barack Obama. The toy has gained prominence and a sales increase in the past week after a Mitt Romney staffer likened his campaign to the drawing device. (Associated Press)

While Romney's opponents are hoping the remark will erase his momentum and reframe the debate, the biggest winner might be Ohio Art.

Its stock, which trades over the counter, had nearly tripled by Thursday afternoon to $9.65, and major stores reported a jump in sales, said chairman Bill Killgallon.

"We're proud that one of our products is shaking up the debate," he said.

Ohio Art has sold more than 100 million Etch A Sketches worldwide since its introduction in 1960.

small-business aid bill passes in the senate

WASHINGTON — Legislation to help startup companies raise capital by reducing some federal regulations has easily passed the Senate despite warnings from some Democrats that less government oversight would mean more abuse and scams.

San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan (21) is defended by  Minnesota Timberwolves' Kevin Love (42) and Martell Webster (5) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game on Wednesday, March 21, 2012, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Associated Press) San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan (21) is defended by Minnesota Timberwolves' Kevin Love (42) and Martell Webster (5) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game on Wednesday, March 21, 2012, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Associated Press)

President Barack Obama supports the measure, which stands to be one of few bipartisan bills to pass Congress during this politically contentious election year.

Democrats pushed through an amendment designed to increase investor protections, so the legislation will still require either another House vote or House-Senate negotiations. The House passed the measure two weeks ago on a 390-23 vote. All 26 negative votes in the Senate came from Democrats.

The legislation combines six smaller bills that change Securities and Exchange Commission rules so small businesses can attract investors and go public with less red tape and cost.

— Associated Press

Volkswagen's Tennessee plant to add 800 new jobs

 (Ellen Dallager, Associated Press) (Ellen Dallager, Associated Press)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Volkswagen will add 800 new jobs at its Tennessee plant to boost production of the popular Passat sedan.

The jobs will increase the plant's workforce to more than 3,500 by the end of the year, the German company said Thursday. The additional workers will be used to bolster the existing two shifts at the plant and expand production to Saturday.

"We're adding a third team at this plant for a simple reason: Customers want to buy Passats," said Jonathan Browning, the president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America.

The plant will operate 120 hours per week with the new workers, up 40 hours from current levels, he said.

— Associated Press

jimmy buffet gets ok to share vegas casino profits

LAS VEGAS — Nevada gambling regulators have approved a license that will let singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett share in the gambling revenues from his Margaritaville casino in Las Vegas.

The Nevada Gaming Commission unanimously approved a gambling license Thursday for Palm Beach, Fla.-based Margaritaville Holdings and its famous chairman Buffett.

The casino located inside the Flamingo on the Las Vegas Strip opened in October. Buffett has had a presence in Sin City since 2003 through his Margaritaville restaurant.

Buffett told commissioners he never imagined the laid-back beach tune he released in 1977 would eventually become a valuable piece of intellectual property. But he added that "Margaritaville" was "a pretty good song" and said "it worked out."

— Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has sued to recover millions of dollars from AT&T Corp., alleging the company improperly billed the government for services that are designed for use by the deaf and hard-of-hearing who place calls by typing messages over the Internet.

The system has been abused by callers overseas who use it to defraud U.S. merchants by ordering goods with stolen credit cards and counterfeit checks. In response, the federal government ordered telecom companies to register their users.

The Justice Department lawsuit said AT&T failed to adopt procedures to detect or prevent fraudulent users from registering. The government said the company feared its call volumes would drop once fraudulent users were prevented from calling on the system. The government reimbursed AT&T $1.30 per minute for every call on this system.

— Associated Press

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