Bain Makes A Man Take Things Over
Ever since Mother Jones‘ David Corn and Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall dug up some near-decade-old Security and Exchange Commissiond (SEC) filings which indicated Mitt Romney’s ties to Bain Capital persisted long after his campaign has claimed, it’s been a matter of time before the Romney camp had to withstand its first full-blown media feeding frenzy. Well, it’s July 12 as I write, and I think it’s fair to say that time is now.
With fanfare nearly approaching bright neon lights and fireworks, The Boston Globe has published a front-page story examining Romney’s post-1999 relationship with Bain. The nub of the story is when Romney truly stopped being The Man at Bain. He claims that 1999 was the end-point, after which he focused all of his time and attention on readying for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics — and, crucially, not directing or approving Bain’s management of firms engaged in outsourcing American jobs. What the Globe — as well as the aforementioned Talking Points Memo — found, however, are SEC filings indicating Romney was indeed still in charge as late as 2002:
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.
Romney has said he left Bain in 1999 to lead the winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, ending his role in the company. But public Securities and Exchange Commission documents filed later by Bain Capital state he remained the firm’s “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president.”
Also, a Massachusetts financial disclosure form Romney filed in 2003 states that he still owned 100 percent of Bain Capital in 2002. And Romney’s state financial disclosure forms indicate he earned at least $100,000 as a Bain “executive” in 2001 and 2002, separate from investment earnings.
The timing of Romney’s departure from Bain is a key point of contention because he has said his resignation in February 1999 meant he was not responsible for Bain Capital companies that went bankrupt or laid off workers after that date.
It’s worth noting that the Globe‘s report isn’t breaking news so much as deepening and further substantiating already broken stories. But it’s nevertheless significant for an arguably top-tier newspaper — and one with more experience covering Mitt Romney than anyone else — to trumpet this report as the Globe has done.
The most immediate consequence will be keeping the story in the news, during what’s often the most dangerous time for a pol, the lull before the two parties’ conventions. Reporters are desperately looking for something, anything to write about, and many voters are only now beginning to pay closer attention to the race. A media turbine over whether Romney not only outsourced American jobs but lied about doing it is most definitely not the kind of introduction Romney’s brain trust wants.
What’s more, the Romney campaign’s response thus far to the outsourcing accusations — an aggressive and categorical denial — has, in its stridency, only raised the stakes.
If reporters and the public become convinced that the Republican candidate lied about his previous business dealings, the blowback will be not only intense but self-reinforcing. On the one hand, the toxic nature of the outsourcing charge will be confirmed; after all, if the Romney people didn’t find the attack so worrisome, why would they lie? On the other hand, the revelation of dishonesty will not only piss off media members who don’t begrudge campaigns for playing “the game,” but do mind being bullied in the service of a lie, will smell blood. And Democrats will be only too happy to provide the rhetorical weaponry journos need.
Keeping all of this in mind, this latest hard-hitting attack ad from Romney’s campaign may prove an extraordinarily ill-timed misfire: