On the facts, nothing terribly new was added to the Bain equation by the Boston Globe story charging that Mitt Romney controlled the company for three years longer than he previously claimed. Several fact-checking organizations said the charges aren’t exactly breaking news and Romney’s denials have some validity.
The problem for the Romney campaign, when it comes to the Bain issue, is that things are reaching the point where the facts don’t really matter. The bigger problem is that the Bain cloud now hanging over the former Massachusetts governor is growing daily, and the Romney campaign still hasn’t found a compelling way to respond to what’s becoming the driving narrative, fairly or unfairly, of the 2012 campaign.
After the Globe reported that Romney formally led Bain longer than he’d previously acknowledged — an allegation that Team Romney adamantly contests — Republicans worried that their soon-to-be nominee hasn’t sufficiently answered numerous questions swirling around his Bain tenure.
(Also on POLITICO: Obama camp wages war over Bain 'cloud')
A senior Romney strategist said Thursday that the campaign had a plan and wouldn’t be distracted from implementing it, despite pressure from outsiders. The strategist called the new charges part of an old line of attack that had already been thoroughly aired.
“We went through this in the primary,” the adviser said. “You have a lot of people inside the Beltway, who like to sit back and be armchair quarterbacks, strategists who talk to you and don’t go on the record. We have a plan. We know what the plan is, and we’re going to implement the plan.”
The adviser added: “We aren’t reacting to what the Obama campaign does. … We aren’t reacting to what Republican strategists do. We’ve got a plan to win. We know what it takes and that’s what we’re going to do. All of this hew and cry, you know, from the bedwetters who get to sit on the sidelines, aren’t going to affect what we’re going to do and our plan.”
In many ways, the Globe story didn’t break a lot of new ground, as several truth squad reports pointed out. It simply renewed focus on the fact that Romney has always stated that he technically left Bain in 1999 to run the Salt Lake City Olympics, while maintaining legal and financial ties to the company that didn’t include actively managing its affairs or investments.
There was no evidence that the newest allegations had changed that, although Romney’s campaign sought a correction from the Globe, a move they’ve tried with similar stories at other publications in the past. The Globe stood by its story.
The campaign released its first television ad responding to the claims that Romney outsourced jobs on Thursday morning, which pointed to fact-checking reports and used a four-year old video of Hillary Clinton admonishing Obama during the primary.
Fortune published a story on Thursday afternoon detailing confidential reports from Bain that were “obtained” by the magazine and countered the Globe’s timeline.
But Republicans warned that none of that would make Bain go away as a political issue.
“Mitt Romney had an opportunity to answer these questions during the primary,” said Rick Tyler, who ran the pro-Gingrich super PAC that spent millions attacking Romney on the Bain issue. “ He did not answer these questions and now they’re coming up again.”
Tyler warned that the newest Bain twist has the potential to inflict real harm if Romney doesn’t start providing answers.
“I saw Andrea Saul’s robotic response, which was the same as it’s always been,” Tyler said, referring to Romney’s press secretary. “That doesn’t comport with documents that have his name on it after 1999 that list him as CEO who was making money off of transactions. If he wasn’t making money from Bain, then his tax returns from the period in question would reveal that.”
Tyler said Romney needs to be frank and provide all the details necessary to explain his role in the company after 1999. He hypothesized that there could be more documents to come.
“Only [Romney] can provide that information,” Tyler said. “Or we’ll just have drip, drip, drip to November.”
“He needs to get way out in front of it, explain it with detail No. 1 to 100,” said former Mike Huckabee manager Chip Saltsman.
“It festers, because in today’s world an attack that doesn’t have a response, no matter how ridiculous it starts to sound, people will start to believe it,” Saltsman said.
Democrats are weaving the latest Bain news into an overall narrative of wealth and secrecy that they hope will be simply unpalatable to voters, tying it together with Romney refusing to release his tax returns and ads hitting him for setting up offshore bank accounts in the Cayman Islands.
Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter on Thursday called Romney the “most secretive candidate to run for president since Richard Nixon.”
“Either Mitt Romney, through his own words and his own signature, was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the SEC, which is a felony,” Cutter said. “Or, he was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the American people to avoid responsibility for some of the consequences of his investments,” including layoffs and outsourcing jobs.
GOP consultant Rick Wilson said Romney now has an opening to attack Obama’s operation for calling him a felon; the Republican did demand an apology from Obama’s campaign for Cutter’s remarks, but Chicago declined.
”Romney has an opening to go right to the trustworthiness of the Obama message operation from top to bottom. They’ve already been pushing back hard on this with media on the phony outsourcing issue,” Wilson said. “As always, fortune favors the bold.”
Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist who worked for Jon Huntsman during the primary, said the controversy could be solved if Romney were to release his tax returns, acknowledging that no one wants to put their financials out there but that it has become necessary.
“I feel like we are watching a rerun of an episode from the Republican primary with the return of the releasing of taxes issue,” she said. “It turned into a big deal during the primary, and pretty much got diffused when he released the one-year of returns. I wish he’d hurry up and release more tax returns so this distraction would go away.”
She added that they’re only apt to show he made a lot of money and followed the laws.
“He should just release the stupid taxes and eliminate the Obama campaign tactic of insinuating he’s got something to hide. The Obama people are going to keep the issue alive and it has the potential of mushrooming into a bigger issue,” she said. “It’s time to just pull off the band-aid.”
Following Thursday’s story, the problem for Romney is if voters believe he was firmly linked to the company post-1999, it will torpedo what has thus far been the Republican’s defense against many Democratic attacks against his Bain tenure.
President Barack Obama and Democrats say Bain’s companies, and by extension Romney, laid off workers and outsourced jobs, shipping them overseas. But many of those acts happened after 1999, when Romney says he wasn’t responsible because he was no longer truly running Bain. But the Globe report showing Romney linked to the private equity firm as late as 2002 could contradict those claims, at least in the eyes of voters.
“It could be a real problem,” said GOP strategist Mark McKinnon. “The accumulation of stories about taxes and Bain and offshore and Swiss accounts and secrecy begin to put glue into the narrative Team Obama is pushing that could make it really start to stick.”
Romney’s business experience is his strongest selling point as he frequently argues his time in the private sector makes him more qualified than Obama to fix the economy. The Democratic attacks are starting to get labeled as the equivalent of the “Swift Boat” offensive that sunk John Kerry’s presidential campaign over his Vietnam war record.
Romney is violating a basic rule of politics, GOP strategist Ford O’Connell warns: Define yourself before your opponent does it for you.
“He needs to get out ahead of this and put this issue to rest before it becomes a major distraction,” O’Connell said. “He has yet to do it and if he doesn’t do it, Obama is going to do it for him.”
Not answering has the potential to eat away at Romney’s support in swing states.
“We’re starting to see evidence in some of the battleground states that this is working in the favor of the president,” O’Connell said. “There are only so many more of these chinks in the armor Romney can take.”
Banking on voters casting their ballots against Obama without Romney providing his own vision or plan is a “fool’s errand,” O’Connell said. “The key for Romney is to define himself and provide a bold, clear vision for the future,” he said.
Kellyanne Conway, a Republican pollster who worked for Gingrich during the primary, said Romney can easily turn the Bain attacks into a positive by showing voters the kind of household names that were associated with the firm.
She said Romney should explain that Bain helped create Staples, Sports Authority and Burger King, well-known retailers that voters will associated with success. Romney has already done some of this, but in a very limited way.
“Romney can convert the response into an opportunity to explain what it is he did at Bain. He didn’t just show up and make a quarter of a billion dollars. He helped to start to launch or expand companies,” Conway said. “He should respond for two reasons: to show it’s just a distraction and to show that the big people talk about big ideas and small people talk about other people.”
The Obama campaign went on the attack Thursday after a bombshell report revealed that Mitt Romney was the CEO of Bain Capital for years longer than he has previously admitted.
Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter said this new disclosure shows Romney is “the most secretive candidate to run for president since Richard Nixon.”
“At every turn, at every piece of Mitt Romney’s record or credential, whether it’s Bain, whether it’s his own personal finances, whether it’s who is raising money for him or his time in the Statehouse in Massachusetts, there is an enormous cloud over Mitt Romney’s record because of his penchant for secrecy and not wanting to be transparent and open with the American people,” Cutter said on a conference call with reporters.
(Also on POLITICO: Globe to correct credit ‘mistake’ in Bain story)
This latest report puts Romney on the defensive over his ties to Bain Capital, a central focus of the Obama campaign’s attacks on the Republican’s candidacy. It also plays into the Obama camp’s charge that Romney is not being truthful and forthcoming about his finances and tax returns.
The Romney campaign disputed the Boston Globe story that found, based on documents filed with the SEC, that the former Massachusetts governor had served as the CEO at Bain until 2002, although Romney has maintained that he left active management of the firm in 1999.
“The article is not accurate,” Romney press secretary Andrea Saul said in a statement. “As Bain Capital has said, as Governor Romney has said, and as has been confirmed by independent fact checkers multiple times, Governor Romney left Bain Capital in February of 1999 to run the Olympics and had no input on investments or management of companies after that point.”
And Romney adviser Matt McDonald told POLITICO that “Romney wasn’t involved in any investment decisions. He was on the SEC filings because he was still technically the owner but hadn’t transferred ownership to other partners.”
Cutter said the Globe report should set off alarms for the American public about trusting Romney’s biography — and that it also seriously undercuts any claims from his campaign that Romney is “someone who understands the real economy” unlike President Barack Obama.
“When he left the Statehouse in Massachusetts, he and his senior staff took all the hard drives with them. And with those hard drives were really the record of the governorship of Mitt Romney. So that broke precedent in Massachusetts. And then finally, Mitt Romney’s Olympic record [is] less than wholesome, shall we say, in terms of the decisions that were made there, the contracts that were signed, and the basic operation of how Mitt Romney ran the Olympics,” she said.
(Also on POLITICO: Bain Capital: Romney left in Feb. 1999)
The Globe story reports that, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, Romney did not leave Bain Capital in 1999 as he said he had but continued his tenure for three additional years.
“Government documents filed by Mitt Romney and Bain Capital say Romney remained chief executive and chairman of the firm three years beyond the date he said he ceded control, even creating five new investment partnerships during that time,” Globe reporters Callum Borchers and Christopher Rowland wrote.
While Romney has previously said he left Bain in 1999 to lead the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the SEC documents filed by Bain Capital tell a different story and state he continued to serve as the firm’s “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president,” according to the Globe.
Cutter said in a statement earlier Thursday the report destroys Romney’s assertion that he cannot be held accountable for the companies that folded or laid off workers after 1999.
“When Mitt Romney ran for governor and now as he’s running for president, he consistently claimed he could not be blamed for bankruptcies and layoffs from Bain investments after February 1999 because he departed for the Olympics,” Cutter said. “Now, we know that he wasn’t telling the truth.”
“This puts him at the center of responsibility for troubling investments involving outsourcing and bankruptcies. It also raises serious questions about why he misrepresented the date of his ‘departure,’ and whether he is concealing his tax returns because there is still more about this period and beyond that he doesn’t want people to know,” Cutter added.
But Bain Capital said in a statement Thursday that the timeline Romney has given of his tenure at the firm is accurate.
“Mitt Romney left Bain Capital in February 1999 to run the Olympics and has had absolutely no involvement with the management or investment activities of the firm or with any of its portfolio companies since the day of his departure. Due to the sudden nature of Mr. Romney’s departure, he remained the sole stockholder for a time while formal ownership was being documented and transferred to the group of partners who took over management of the firm in 1999. Accordingly, Mr. Romney was reported in various capacities on SEC filings during this period,” the firm stated.
If Romney had not actually left in 1999, however, FactCheck.org earlier this month suggested he “would be guilty of a federal felony by certifying on federal financial disclosure forms that he left active management of Bain Capital in February 1999.” McDonald on Thursday fired back against that claim.
“FactCheck was saying, if Mitt Romney was actively managing Bain, as the Globe asserts, and he certified that he wasn’t actively managing Bain, then he would be guilty of a federal felony,” McDonald told POLITICO. “They are not saying that he would be guilty of a federal felony [just] for saying he left in 1999.”
Cutter, however, said unless Romney clears up this information by releasing his tax returns, these questions will continue to linger over the Republican’s campaign.
“Either Mitt Romney through his own words and his own signature was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the SEC, which is a felony, or he was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the American people to avoid responsibility for some of the consequences of his investments,” Cutter said. “And if that’s the case, if he was lying to the American people, then that’s a real character and trust issue that the American people need to take very seriously.”
“This could all be cleared up if they didn’t have anything to hide by releasing Mitt Romney’s tax returns, to walk through exactly when he did cut ties with Bain Capital,” Cutter added. “If the SEC filings aren’t accurate, then prove it.”
Bob Bauer, the Obama campaign’s counsel, said in the conference call with reporters Thursday that “this is serious business.” SEC filings, he said, “are very carefully scrutinized by lawyers because of the very severe consequences that follow from making statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission that are not correct.”
And Bauer added that if Romney misrepresented his role in the filings, in the “normal course” of events this “would subject somebody in this position to every manner of investigation with all the consequences that you can imagine would follow.”
Meanwhile, Globe editor Martin Baron said Thursday that the paper failed to credit other news organizations, such as Mother Jones and Talking Points Memo, that had previously reported on the story. Baron said it was a “mistake” the passages giving credit were removed and that the paper will remedy the error online but added that the Globe “advanced the story with a more comprehensive and complete look that broke significant news.”
But according to a Fortune report on Thursday afternoon, Romney did not manage the private-equity firm’s investments after he said he left in 1999. Fortune, citing confidential firm documents, reported that Romney is not listed in 2000 as one of Bain’s managers and he also does not appear as one of Bain Capital Venture Fund’s “key investment professionals” on a 2001 memo.
The GOP has been lying about Obama the last 4 years ,dont start complaining about dirty politics now
Romney is as much a liar as any politician
Yeah, and i agree Romney is a lying sack of shit just like Obama, but im not out here perpetuating lies about Obama now am I?
If this is the bullshit you want to engage in then you are no different then the people posting links claiming obama blew some dude in the back of a limo......
You are intentionally posting articles you know are lies, and trying to justify it claiming that other people lied about Obama, if you want to perpetuate myths, thats your prerogative, but if thats your angle then dont come on here crying when people spread blatant lies about Obama, cause you dont have a leg to stand on when you spread this horseshit......