Commentary Magazine


Topic: Bain Capital

A Fitting Message for the Obama Campaign to End On

Obama supporters are back to making Bain Capital an issue, Politico reports:

But with a little over a week left in the race, several of the Democrats’ top independent spenders are leaning hard into the Bain message, eschewing a pure policy message for a gut-punch reminder that the former Massachusetts governor made his fortune through controversial deals in the private-equity industry.

The late emphasis on Bain, Democratic strategists say, reflects both the potency of Bain as an attack against Romney in general, and the pivotal significance of Midwestern states such as Ohio where the Bain message is especially resonant. Though Romney remains no better than tied with Obama in most national and swing-state polls, he has gained enough ground since the first debate on Oct. 3 that reinforcing Obama’s standing in states such as Ohio and Wisconsin is of paramount importance. …

“If the Democrats could finish on a positive message, they would,” Romney adviser Matt McDonald said. “But the president has no positive message, no agenda for a second term and nothing left to offer voters. They’ve thrown everything including the kitchen sink and it hasn’t worked, so now their only choice is to throw the same kitchen sink again. It’s the campaign equivalent of the president’s policies: keep doing the same thing over again and hope for a different outcome.”

Read More

Obama supporters are back to making Bain Capital an issue, Politico reports:

But with a little over a week left in the race, several of the Democrats’ top independent spenders are leaning hard into the Bain message, eschewing a pure policy message for a gut-punch reminder that the former Massachusetts governor made his fortune through controversial deals in the private-equity industry.

The late emphasis on Bain, Democratic strategists say, reflects both the potency of Bain as an attack against Romney in general, and the pivotal significance of Midwestern states such as Ohio where the Bain message is especially resonant. Though Romney remains no better than tied with Obama in most national and swing-state polls, he has gained enough ground since the first debate on Oct. 3 that reinforcing Obama’s standing in states such as Ohio and Wisconsin is of paramount importance. …

“If the Democrats could finish on a positive message, they would,” Romney adviser Matt McDonald said. “But the president has no positive message, no agenda for a second term and nothing left to offer voters. They’ve thrown everything including the kitchen sink and it hasn’t worked, so now their only choice is to throw the same kitchen sink again. It’s the campaign equivalent of the president’s policies: keep doing the same thing over again and hope for a different outcome.”

There’s no time for Obama to shift to a positive message, if one even existed to shift to. His campaign has tapped out its creativity. Their latest attempts at an alternative message? A booklet outlining the same vague policy ideas you can find on Obama’s website. And Obama’s grand proposal to create a “Secretary of Business” cabinet position in a second term (apparently nobody had the heart to tell him about the Secretary of Commerce). 

Obama’s brain trust seems to think it’s easier to frighten voters out of voting for Romney than to persuade voters to reelect the president. Since the Bain attacks didn’t work over the summer, it’s doubtful they’ll have much impact in the final stretch.

It would also be a fitting for Obama’s campaign, and perhaps his presidency, to end in an embrace of the same divisive politics he spoke out against four years ago. For all the talk about Romney’s lack of principles (not an unfair criticism), Obama has let politics trump almost everything he claimed to stand for in 2008. Richard Cohen writes at the Washington Post:

Instead, I see [Obama’s] failure to embrace all sorts of people, even members of Congress and the business community. I see diffidence, a reluctance to close. I see a president for whom Afghanistan is not just a war but a metaphor for his approach to politics: He approved a surge but also an exit date. Heads I win, tails you lose. …

[S]omewhere between the campaign and the White House itself, Obama got lost. It turned out he had no cause at all. Expanding health insurance was Hillary Clinton’s longtime goal, and even after Obama adopted it, he never argued for it with any fervor. In an unfairly mocked campaign speech, he promised to slow the rise of the oceans and begin to heal the planet. But when he took office, climate change was abandoned — too much trouble, too much opposition. His eloquence, it turned out, was reserved for campaigning.

Obama never espoused a cause bigger than his own political survival.

One point of disagreement. If Obama was purely interested in his political survival, he would have governed more like a Bill Clinton and pivoted to the center earlier in his campaign. But Cohen does hit some truth when he mentions Obama’s approach to politics. The president seems to view governing as a zero-sum game, where one side can only win if the other side loses (and the best approach is to make sure the other side never has a chance).

Obama’s presidency has been full of failures to compromise. In 2009, after Republicans expressed concerns about his stimulus, Obama famously told Eric Cantor: “I won. So I think on that one, I trump you.” He tanked the grand bargain. He derailed a potential DREAM Act compromise by taking executive action that he previously denied he could take. He’s declined to reach out to Republicans at almost every chance.

Congressional Republicans aren’t blameless. But most of them didn’t run on a promise of post-partisanship and bipartisan compromise, while Obama did. He had a responsibility to at least make a serious effort.

Instead, Obama and his team always seem too focused on winning the fight of the week, the day or the hour. He seems to have trouble looking beyond the immediate future, including goals as long-term as his “political survival.” It’s not just his campaign that’s seized on one distraction after another — it’s his entire presidency. One week he’s talking about immigration, the next he’s talking about green jobs. Then it’s the war in Afghanistan, and the Do-Nothing Congress. Now it’s back to Bain Capital. In the end, few things actually get done.

Read Less

Romney Explains Bain in His Own Words

Mitt Romney opened up with some new details about his Bain Capital career in a Wall Street Journal op-ed today, explaining how the lessons he learned in business help make him ideally suited for the presidency. This new anecdote about his time at Damon Corp., where a manager was engaged in Medicare fraud, is particularly interesting:

Running a business also brings lessons in tackling challenges. I was on the board of a medical diagnostic-laboratory company, Damon, when a competitor announced that it had settled with the government over a charge of fraudulent Medicare billing. I and fellow Damon outside board members joined together and immediately hired an independent law firm to examine Damon’s own practices.

The investigation revealed a need to make some changes, which we did. The company, along with several other clinical-laboratory companies, ended up being fined for billing practices. And a Damon manager who was responsible for the fraud went to jail. The experience taught me that when you see a problem, run toward it or it will only get worse.

That will be my approach to our federal budget problem. I am committed to capping federal spending below 20% of GDP and reducing nondefense discretionary spending by 5%. This will surely result in much wailing and gnashing of teeth in Washington. But a failure of leadership has created our debt crisis, and ducking responsibility will only cripple the economy and smother opportunity for our children and grandchildren.

Read More

Mitt Romney opened up with some new details about his Bain Capital career in a Wall Street Journal op-ed today, explaining how the lessons he learned in business help make him ideally suited for the presidency. This new anecdote about his time at Damon Corp., where a manager was engaged in Medicare fraud, is particularly interesting:

Running a business also brings lessons in tackling challenges. I was on the board of a medical diagnostic-laboratory company, Damon, when a competitor announced that it had settled with the government over a charge of fraudulent Medicare billing. I and fellow Damon outside board members joined together and immediately hired an independent law firm to examine Damon’s own practices.

The investigation revealed a need to make some changes, which we did. The company, along with several other clinical-laboratory companies, ended up being fined for billing practices. And a Damon manager who was responsible for the fraud went to jail. The experience taught me that when you see a problem, run toward it or it will only get worse.

That will be my approach to our federal budget problem. I am committed to capping federal spending below 20% of GDP and reducing nondefense discretionary spending by 5%. This will surely result in much wailing and gnashing of teeth in Washington. But a failure of leadership has created our debt crisis, and ducking responsibility will only cripple the economy and smother opportunity for our children and grandchildren.

As Politico notes, “the involvement of Damon Corp. in Medicare fraud has long been viewed as a target for Romney’s foes,” including Newt Gingrich and public workers unions. Here’s what one AFSCME ad said about Romney in January:

“What kind of businessman is Mitt Romney?” the ad asks. “While Romney was a director of the Damon Corp., the company was defrauding Medicare of millions. Prosecutors called it ‘corporate greed run amok.’ The company was fined $100 million. But Romney himself made a fortune. Corporate greed … Medicare fraud. Sound familiar?”

Politifact reported in January that there has been confusion over what role Romney played in detecting the fraud — according to some reports he’s said he helped uncover it, and according to others he’s said he wasn’t aware of it. Coming out with a clear story and concrete details was a good way for Romney to preempt the Obama campaign attacks that will surely come up soon. It also makes the Damon story less of a “bombshell revelation” when some newspaper inevitably publishes a deep-dive investigation into it in a few weeks.

Read Less

Pro-Obama PAC’s Dishonest New Bain Ad

The Obama-supporting Priorities USA PAC has released anti-Bain ads before, but it’s reached a new level of dishonesty with this latest one. It features a former GST Steel worker blaming Mitt Romney for the loss of his job and health care, which he suggests led to his wife’s subsequent illness and death. Politico reports:

The commercial casts Mitt Romney’s business background in a severely negative light, but it’s not a typical slash-and-burn attack ad. Instead, it features former GST Steel employee Joe Soptic speaking to the camera about what happened when the plant where he worked shut down.

“I don’t think Mitt Romney understands what he’s done to people’s lives by closing the plant. I don’t think he realizes that people’s lives completely changed,” Soptic said. “When Mitt Romney and Bain closed the plant, I lost my health care and my family lost their health care. And a short time after that my wife became ill.”

He continues: “I don’t know how long she was sick and I think maybe she didn’t say anything because she knew that we couldn’t afford the insurance. And then one day she became ill and I took her up to the Jackson County Hospital and admitted her for pneumonia and that’s when they found the cancer and by then it was stage four. It was — there was nothing they could do for her. And she passed away in 22 days.”

Read More

The Obama-supporting Priorities USA PAC has released anti-Bain ads before, but it’s reached a new level of dishonesty with this latest one. It features a former GST Steel worker blaming Mitt Romney for the loss of his job and health care, which he suggests led to his wife’s subsequent illness and death. Politico reports:

The commercial casts Mitt Romney’s business background in a severely negative light, but it’s not a typical slash-and-burn attack ad. Instead, it features former GST Steel employee Joe Soptic speaking to the camera about what happened when the plant where he worked shut down.

“I don’t think Mitt Romney understands what he’s done to people’s lives by closing the plant. I don’t think he realizes that people’s lives completely changed,” Soptic said. “When Mitt Romney and Bain closed the plant, I lost my health care and my family lost their health care. And a short time after that my wife became ill.”

He continues: “I don’t know how long she was sick and I think maybe she didn’t say anything because she knew that we couldn’t afford the insurance. And then one day she became ill and I took her up to the Jackson County Hospital and admitted her for pneumonia and that’s when they found the cancer and by then it was stage four. It was — there was nothing they could do for her. And she passed away in 22 days.”

The effort to link Romney to GST Steel’s collapse is fairly flimsy on its own, as the plant declared bankruptcy and shut down years after Romney left Bain. But as Politico’s Alexander Burns reports, the Priorities USA ad also suggests that GST Steel worker Joe Soptic’s wife died shortly after the factory closed, as a result of losing their health insurance. That timeline is misleading, according to Burns:

In the case of this particularly jarring super PAC ad, it may also be relevant that Soptic’s wife died in 2006, years after the GST factory closed down.

A 2006 story in the Kansas City Star reported the death of Ranae Soptic, a former champion roller skater: “Soptic went to the hospital for pneumonia, but doctors found signs of very advanced cancer, and she died two weeks later on June 22.”

I asked Priorities USA strategist Bill Burton to explain the connection between Romney, Bain and a cancer fatality that happened near the end of Romney’s tenure as governor of Massachusetts. The lapse in time between the plant closing and Soptic’s death doesn’t mean the ad is invalid, but it raises questions about the cause and effect relationship here.

The Washington Examiner also looked back at some of Soptic’s previous media appearances, and argues that details in his story have changed:

Why is Soptic upset? Primarily, its because his pension was cut. In this interview, Soptic clarified that his 401k was not affected but he lost $400 a month from his pension.

But in a January 2012 Reuters story, Soptic reportedly said that he only lost $283 per month from his pension.

Soptic isn’t a figure the GOP will have an easy time responding to, because his story is deeply personal and sad. But Priorities USA deserves all the criticism it’s getting for exploiting this story to launch a misleading attack on Romney. To insinuate that Romney was responsible for the death of Soptic’s wife seven years after he left Bain and five years after GST Steel shut its doors is a terrible slander, even by Priority USA’s usual standards.

Read Less

What Harry Reid Thinks of HuffPo

Senator Harry Reid doesn’t seem to think much of the Huffington Post. Ready with an unsubstantiated rumor to spread about Mitt Romney’s taxes, Reid went to the HuffPo, assuming he was on friendly ground, free of fact-checkers. That’s really the only explanation for why he thought he could get these outlandish allegations against Mitt Romney into print:

In a wide-ranging interview with the Huffington Post from his office on Capitol Hill, Reid saved some of his toughest words for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Romney couldn’t make it through a Senate confirmation process as a mere Cabinet nominee, the majority leader insisted, owing to the opaqueness of his personal finances. …

Reid sat up in his chair a bit before stirring the pot further. A month or so ago, he said, a person who had invested with Bain Capital called his office.

“Harry, he didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years,” Reid recounted the person as saying.

“He didn’t pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that’s true? Well, I’m not certain,” said Reid. “But obviously he can’t release those tax returns. How would it look?”

Read More

Senator Harry Reid doesn’t seem to think much of the Huffington Post. Ready with an unsubstantiated rumor to spread about Mitt Romney’s taxes, Reid went to the HuffPo, assuming he was on friendly ground, free of fact-checkers. That’s really the only explanation for why he thought he could get these outlandish allegations against Mitt Romney into print:

In a wide-ranging interview with the Huffington Post from his office on Capitol Hill, Reid saved some of his toughest words for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Romney couldn’t make it through a Senate confirmation process as a mere Cabinet nominee, the majority leader insisted, owing to the opaqueness of his personal finances. …

Reid sat up in his chair a bit before stirring the pot further. A month or so ago, he said, a person who had invested with Bain Capital called his office.

“Harry, he didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years,” Reid recounted the person as saying.

“He didn’t pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that’s true? Well, I’m not certain,” said Reid. “But obviously he can’t release those tax returns. How would it look?”

HuffPo notes that Reid’s office wouldn’t provide the name of the investor who “told” him about Romney’s alleged 10-year tax vacation. Hmm. For a reporter, wouldn’t that normally be a gigantic, flashing warning sign that you are probably about to be played? Let’s walk through this again: Reid says he spoke to a Bain investor on the phone who handed him this bombshell. He brings it up during a conversation with reporters. And yet he doesn’t provide the guy’s name so the journalists can go take a closer look at the story? What? Why not?

Reid has a personal and political interest in helping Obama get reelected. If he really received information about Romney dodging taxes from a source he trusted, why on earth would he go to HuffPo to cryptically recount this story second-hand rather than give them the name of the investor who supposedly knows about it and have the reporters nail it to the wall?

At Fortune, Dan Primack destroys any shred of doubt Reid’s story is pure fantasy:

One of two things has happened: (1) Reid is simply making the whole thing up, in order to pressure Romney into releasing tax returns for years prior to 2010, or (2) Reid’s investor pal lied, and the senator didn’t bother to conduct even a mild vetting before sharing the accusation with reporters. Either way, shame on gossipy gentleman from Nevada.

Let me make this crystal clear: Investors in private equity funds do not receive, nor are they entitled to request, personal tax returns for fund managers. Not just at Bain Capital, but everywhere. For example, ask the person managing your 401(k) for their personal tax returns. See how far you get. …

A Reid spokesman defended his boss to me on the phone, only saying that I’d have to talk to Reid’s original source. But of course he wouldn’t provide the source, or even ask Reid if there had been a follow-up like “How the hell would you know that?”

Whatever the truth about Romney’s tax history, we know that Reid’s “source” is full of it.

Unless Reid comes clean about his source or provides some more information, journalists should stop reporting this as if it’s anything more than an unsubstantiated and highly dubious smear from a Romney opponent.

Read Less

No New Break in Bain Timeline Story

Based on all the sensational headlines last weekend, you might think there was actually a new break in the Bain Capital timeline story. The Huffington Post has: “Ed Gillespie: Mitt Romney Retired Retroactively From Bain.” MSNBC has: “Former Bain Capital partner says Romney was ‘legally’ CEO of Bain Capital Until 2002.”

Retired retroactively? Legally CEO? Sounds scandalous, but there’s nothing new when you get past the headlines. The New York Times report today concludes the exact same thing media fact checkers and the Romney campaign have been saying since January — Romney de facto left Bain in 1999, when he went to run the Olympics. His name remained on the SEC forms until the company a.) established that he wouldn’t return to a management role after the Olympics ended, b.) transitioned to a new ownership structure:

Indeed, no evidence has yet emerged that Mr. Romney exercised his powers at Bain after February 1999 or directed the funds’ investments after he left, although his campaign has declined to say if he attended any meetings or had any other contact with Bain during the period. And financial disclosures filed with the Massachusetts ethics commission show that he drew at least $100,000 in 2001 from Bain Capital Inc. — effectively his own till — as a “former executive” and from other Bain entities as a passive general partner.

An offering memorandum to investors in Bain’s seventh private equity fund that was circulated in June 2000 also suggests that Mr. Romney was no longer actively involved in managing firm investments at the time. The memorandum, first published by Fortune, provides background on the “senior private equity investment professionals of Bain Capital.” Eighteen managers are listed; Mr. Romney is not among them.

On another filing with Massachusetts officials, Bain Capital listed all of Bain’s directors and officers for 2001. The form lists Michael F. Goss as “president, managing director and chief financial officer,” along with seventeen other managing directors. Mr. Romney is not among them, suggesting that while he still owned Bain’s management company, he was not an officer of the company.

Read More

Based on all the sensational headlines last weekend, you might think there was actually a new break in the Bain Capital timeline story. The Huffington Post has: “Ed Gillespie: Mitt Romney Retired Retroactively From Bain.” MSNBC has: “Former Bain Capital partner says Romney was ‘legally’ CEO of Bain Capital Until 2002.”

Retired retroactively? Legally CEO? Sounds scandalous, but there’s nothing new when you get past the headlines. The New York Times report today concludes the exact same thing media fact checkers and the Romney campaign have been saying since January — Romney de facto left Bain in 1999, when he went to run the Olympics. His name remained on the SEC forms until the company a.) established that he wouldn’t return to a management role after the Olympics ended, b.) transitioned to a new ownership structure:

Indeed, no evidence has yet emerged that Mr. Romney exercised his powers at Bain after February 1999 or directed the funds’ investments after he left, although his campaign has declined to say if he attended any meetings or had any other contact with Bain during the period. And financial disclosures filed with the Massachusetts ethics commission show that he drew at least $100,000 in 2001 from Bain Capital Inc. — effectively his own till — as a “former executive” and from other Bain entities as a passive general partner.

An offering memorandum to investors in Bain’s seventh private equity fund that was circulated in June 2000 also suggests that Mr. Romney was no longer actively involved in managing firm investments at the time. The memorandum, first published by Fortune, provides background on the “senior private equity investment professionals of Bain Capital.” Eighteen managers are listed; Mr. Romney is not among them.

On another filing with Massachusetts officials, Bain Capital listed all of Bain’s directors and officers for 2001. The form lists Michael F. Goss as “president, managing director and chief financial officer,” along with seventeen other managing directors. Mr. Romney is not among them, suggesting that while he still owned Bain’s management company, he was not an officer of the company.

Let’s remember why this story matters. Not because Romney may have been engaged in criminal behavior by listing himself on the SEC forms, as the Obama campaign has wildly and absurdly alleged. But because the Democratic Party wants to tie Bain’s business errors between 1999 and 2002 around Romney’s neck. The response from Bain insiders — several of whom are Democrats and Obama donors — has unanimously been that Romney was not involved with management after he left to run the Olympics. In other words, there’s no standing to hold him accountable for flawed investments and management blunders after that date.

That brings us to the second reason why the Obama campaign has been hammering this issue: they’re desperate for Romney to release his tax returns from the past five or ten years. According to Democrats, that’s the only way he can actually put this issue to rest.

I’m personally with the Obama campaign on one point — Romney should release more tax returns. Politician transparency is important, and releasing multiple years of tax returns, as presidential candidates traditionally have, would be in the public interest.

But you can believe that without buying into the Democratic Party’s conspiracy theories about the Bain timeline. From the evidence already out there, there is zero reason to believe that Romney was actively managing Bain after 1999.

Read Less

Bain Story Recycled From Primaries

The Obama campaign managed to get the Boston Globe to pick up the story nobody else was buying: that Mitt Romney lied about leaving Bain Capital in 1999, based on documents filed with the SEC. As WaPo’s fact-checker Glenn Kessler notes, these claims had already been picked over and rejected by numerous outlets:

But now the Boston Globe has raised the issue again. The story seems to hinge on a quote from a former Securities and Exchange Commission member, which would have more credibility if the Globe had disclosed she was a regular contributor to Democrats. (Interestingly, “The Real Romney,” a book on the former Massachusetts governor, by Boston Globe reporters, states clearly that he left Bain when he went to run the Olympics and details the turmoil that ensued when he suddenly quit, nearly breaking up the partnership.)

We’re considering whether to once again take a deeper look at this, though it really feels like Groundhog Day again. There appears to be some confusion about how partnerships are structured and managed, or what SEC documents mean. (Just because you are listed as an owner of shares does not mean you have a managerial role.)

To accept some of the claims, one would have to believe that Romney, with the advice of his lawyers, lied on government documents and committed a criminal offense. Moreover, you would have to assume he willingly gave up his share to a few years of retirement earnings — potentially worth millions of dollars — so he could say his retirement started in 1999.

Read More

The Obama campaign managed to get the Boston Globe to pick up the story nobody else was buying: that Mitt Romney lied about leaving Bain Capital in 1999, based on documents filed with the SEC. As WaPo’s fact-checker Glenn Kessler notes, these claims had already been picked over and rejected by numerous outlets:

But now the Boston Globe has raised the issue again. The story seems to hinge on a quote from a former Securities and Exchange Commission member, which would have more credibility if the Globe had disclosed she was a regular contributor to Democrats. (Interestingly, “The Real Romney,” a book on the former Massachusetts governor, by Boston Globe reporters, states clearly that he left Bain when he went to run the Olympics and details the turmoil that ensued when he suddenly quit, nearly breaking up the partnership.)

We’re considering whether to once again take a deeper look at this, though it really feels like Groundhog Day again. There appears to be some confusion about how partnerships are structured and managed, or what SEC documents mean. (Just because you are listed as an owner of shares does not mean you have a managerial role.)

To accept some of the claims, one would have to believe that Romney, with the advice of his lawyers, lied on government documents and committed a criminal offense. Moreover, you would have to assume he willingly gave up his share to a few years of retirement earnings — potentially worth millions of dollars — so he could say his retirement started in 1999.

The SEC documents in the Globe piece don’t appear to be new. Here’s WaPo’s Kessler from last January, throwing cold water on a document that the Globe seems to treat as a smoking gun:

In the [2002] Massachusetts [SEC] document, Romney is also listed as 100 percent owner of “Bain Capital Inc.” But there is less than meets the eye here. Bain Capital Inc. was the management firm, which was paid a management fee to run the funds and actually made virtually no profit, since it existed to pay salaries and expenses. After Romney formally left Bain in 2001, a new entity called “Bain Capital LLC” took over the management function.

By virtually all accounts, Romney was focused on the Olympics in the 1999-2002 period. Yet because Romney had not legally separated from Bain, his name is littered across Securities and Exchange Commission filings concerning Bain Capital deals during this period. The crazy quilt of private-equity structures, in some ways, makes his ownership appear even more ominous, as the filings list hundreds of thousands of shares controlled by Romney.

Even so, it is a real stretch to claim that Romney — himself — “closed” these stores. No evidence has emerged that he was involved in the KB Toys transaction. Indeed, when creditors sued over the dividend payment, they named six Bain-controlled entities and three Bain executives who had served on the board of KB Holdings.

The Globe is responsible for its own reporting, but clearly this was a story the Obama campaign has been trying to resurrect. The campaign has been blasting out the Globe article — and strongly-worded comments accusing Romney of either lying or being a criminal — for most of the day. The story is being dutifully picked up by news outlets, but most political reporters can probably see what’s going on here. The Obama campaign is playing dirty pool, planting flimsy stories that had already been settled months ago. Now the media will wade through the SEC documents again, and the Romney campaign will have to answer the same questions it answered last January. Even if this is thoroughly debunked, it hurts the Romney campaign simply because it’s in the news.

Read Less

Will Americans Forgive Mitt for Being Rich?

The debate about who is the real jobs outsourcer — Mitt Romney or Barack Obama — may be turning against the Republican with the publication of a Boston Globe report alleging he didn’t really leave Bain Capital in 1999 as he has said. If true, that might allow Democrats to pin responsibility on Romney for actions the company took after his departure. More to the point, this story along with a far murkier attempt to claim that there was something fishy about his personal investments and tax returns published in Vanity Fair makes it clear that liberals are determined to put Romney on trial for the crime of being wealthy, even if there are no credible allegations that he has ever broken any laws or behaved in an unethical manner.

This ought to be enough to persuade Romney that if he wants to win in November he’s going to have to do more than merely point out that the president has run the economy into a ditch without any plan for extricating it. Rather than run away from the charge of being a rich man, perhaps it’s time for him to start focusing his campaign on a defense of economic freedom and capitalism. This will enable Romney to provide a positive context for the smears about his record that isn’t coming across in the media. If the progress of the questionable outsourcing story line has shown, playing it safe and merely critiquing Obama’s failures is not going to be enough to put him over the top in a media environment in which the deck is always going to be stacked against him.

Read More

The debate about who is the real jobs outsourcer — Mitt Romney or Barack Obama — may be turning against the Republican with the publication of a Boston Globe report alleging he didn’t really leave Bain Capital in 1999 as he has said. If true, that might allow Democrats to pin responsibility on Romney for actions the company took after his departure. More to the point, this story along with a far murkier attempt to claim that there was something fishy about his personal investments and tax returns published in Vanity Fair makes it clear that liberals are determined to put Romney on trial for the crime of being wealthy, even if there are no credible allegations that he has ever broken any laws or behaved in an unethical manner.

This ought to be enough to persuade Romney that if he wants to win in November he’s going to have to do more than merely point out that the president has run the economy into a ditch without any plan for extricating it. Rather than run away from the charge of being a rich man, perhaps it’s time for him to start focusing his campaign on a defense of economic freedom and capitalism. This will enable Romney to provide a positive context for the smears about his record that isn’t coming across in the media. If the progress of the questionable outsourcing story line has shown, playing it safe and merely critiquing Obama’s failures is not going to be enough to put him over the top in a media environment in which the deck is always going to be stacked against him.

While Democrats may think they’ve finally gotten Romney by digging up the fact that he was still listed on tax filings as the owner of Bain after he left, there is no real dispute that when he departed the firm to run the 2002 Winter Olympics he ceased to play a role in its activities or decisions. The Obama campaign ads claiming Romney was a “pioneer” in outsourcing are obviously false. In response, the Republicans have counter-punched with generally accurate charges that show how the president’s trillion-dollar stimulus package helped fund “green” companies that actually shipped jobs overseas. The mainstream media has largely resisted taking up this story, but Romney’s real problem is not the outsourcing charge so much as it is the Democrats’ successful attempt to brand him as an out-of-touch plutocrat.

The Vanity Fair feature by leftist author Nicholas Shaxson is part and parcel of this same effort to cast aspersions on Romney’s wealth. Read it through, and you won’t find one single firm allegation that points to illegality or a genuine ethical transgression. The best he can do is to claim Romney invested some of his money abroad, and that due to the technical difficulties of assessing the value of many of his assets, we don’t know exactly how much he is worth. Of course, Romney probably doesn’t know either, but the point of all of Shaxson’s talk about “grey areas,” tax shelters and off-shore accounts is not so much to prove anything about the Republican candidate as it is to paint a picture of the complicated accounting that an investment portfolio of that size requires so as to make Americans suspicious.

Shaxson also throws around the names of the late English newspaper tycoon and scammer Robert Maxwell who invested in one of the early Bain funds back in the 1980s before the collapse of his empire. There’s no wrongdoing here, but it does allow the author to play a little guilt by association with Romney. As for how Romney amassed his wealth, Vanity Fair allows Shaxson to treat the failures of some of the companies Bain invested in as typical of a tactic he says was designed to destroy the firms without providing any of the far more numerous examples of those who prospered under its guidance.

The result is a thin tissue of innuendo spread over a few thousand words that provides little light about Romney’s financial life but speaks volumes about the desire of the left to smear him even though there is very little material for mud slinging in his life.

Yet rather than sit back and let Democrats and their allies in the media define him as a shadowy creature of a sinister Wall Street, this might be a good time for Romney to go on the offensive and start speaking more in defense of free market economics. Stuck with a sagging economy, bad news about employment and bereft of any ideas about what to do about any of this other than spend more money the Treasury doesn’t have, the Democrats might be in a tough spot. But they just may get away with it by putting Mitt Romney on trial for the crime of being wealthy. The question now is whether the Republican is so worried about the focus on his money that he’ll allow himself to be spooked into merely playing defense on the issue. In spite of the way Democrats have exploited the politics of jealousy and resentment, America remains an aspirational society. Instead of fleeing from the charge of being wealthy, Romney needs to emphasize that his success shows the genius of American capitalism and why it must be defended against the party of big government. The public will forgive Romney for being rich but not for ignoring the issue.

Read Less

Can Class Warfare Sink Romney?

With a sinking economy and few accomplishments to his credit, President Obama has been doing the only thing an incumbent in his position can do: trash his opponent. Democratic attacks on Mitt Romney’s business record have taken a toll on the Republican candidate, but the assault on his record as an investor can only go so far. The president’s base may buy into the claims that Romney’s wealth was gained only by outsourcing American jobs abroad, but most are not that gullible. The line between throwing mud at Romney and trashing capitalism is very thin. If the president is going to go to the polls as the champion of propping up doomed businesses with bailouts as opposed to creating wealth and jobs by promoting those that can succeed, Romney will win. However, Romney’s problem is not so much his record at Bain Capital as it is the idea that he is an out of touch rich guy. And that, rather than Bain, is the real Democrat target, as today’s front page story in the Sunday New York Times rightly points out.

Seen in that light, Democratic strategists had to be pleased this week when photos of a shirt-sleeved President Obama on his working class bus tour of Ohio were contrasted with pictures of Romney jet-skiing on a New Hampshire lake while on a July 4th vacation with his family. Republicans who remember the points they scored when photographers caught John Kerry windsurfing during the 2004 campaign probably winced when they saw Romney cavorting on the water. But it remains to be seen whether Barack Obama–the candidate of Hollywood elites and who recently was hosted at a gala fundraiser in New York by Sarah Jessica Parker where his candidacy was touted by Vogue editor Anna Wintour–can convince wavering independent voters he is the champion of the working class. The question for the country is not so much who’s the rich guy in the race as who is the one who is out of touch with the country’s economic dilemma. While Romney’s weakness has always been his inability to connect with ordinary voters, Obama’s is that he is the guy in charge of an economy where employment is shrinking rather than growing.

Read More

With a sinking economy and few accomplishments to his credit, President Obama has been doing the only thing an incumbent in his position can do: trash his opponent. Democratic attacks on Mitt Romney’s business record have taken a toll on the Republican candidate, but the assault on his record as an investor can only go so far. The president’s base may buy into the claims that Romney’s wealth was gained only by outsourcing American jobs abroad, but most are not that gullible. The line between throwing mud at Romney and trashing capitalism is very thin. If the president is going to go to the polls as the champion of propping up doomed businesses with bailouts as opposed to creating wealth and jobs by promoting those that can succeed, Romney will win. However, Romney’s problem is not so much his record at Bain Capital as it is the idea that he is an out of touch rich guy. And that, rather than Bain, is the real Democrat target, as today’s front page story in the Sunday New York Times rightly points out.

Seen in that light, Democratic strategists had to be pleased this week when photos of a shirt-sleeved President Obama on his working class bus tour of Ohio were contrasted with pictures of Romney jet-skiing on a New Hampshire lake while on a July 4th vacation with his family. Republicans who remember the points they scored when photographers caught John Kerry windsurfing during the 2004 campaign probably winced when they saw Romney cavorting on the water. But it remains to be seen whether Barack Obama–the candidate of Hollywood elites and who recently was hosted at a gala fundraiser in New York by Sarah Jessica Parker where his candidacy was touted by Vogue editor Anna Wintour–can convince wavering independent voters he is the champion of the working class. The question for the country is not so much who’s the rich guy in the race as who is the one who is out of touch with the country’s economic dilemma. While Romney’s weakness has always been his inability to connect with ordinary voters, Obama’s is that he is the guy in charge of an economy where employment is shrinking rather than growing.

Obama’s ordinary guy pose is as phony as the image of Romney as the top-hatted plutocrat from the Monopoly board game. Obama is as comfortable cavorting with the rich as Romney, and were he a Republican rather than a Democrat and the first African-American president, the mainstream liberal press would be roasting him over his frequent golf breaks and hobnobbing with the coastal elites. Moreover, Obama is misguided if he thinks economic rhetoric stolen from Occupy Wall Street protests is a political winner. While the Times may think this is no longer an aspirational society that admires rather than resents success, there is no evidence the majority of Americans agree.

While the Bain attacks have scored some points, Democrats are actually fighting on Romney’s ground when they seek to determine the election on the question of who is the better economic steward or job creator. Romney’s gaffes and general awkwardness have beguiled them into thinking his wealth and business success is a weakness. But, as Friday’s latest jobs report shows, this vulnerability on the GOP standard-bearer’s part is nothing when compared to the president’s failures. Class warfare tactics may rouse the liberal base, but they are bound to fall flat with swing voters who want to know why the president is still blaming his predecessors for the state of the country.

Thus, the Democrats’ harping on Romney’s money and what Bain did is actually a trap they are setting for themselves. Romney’s campaign has been rightly criticized for a strategy that appears to be aimed at playing it safe and avoiding the bold proposals that would provide a clearer alternative to Obama’s dependence on big government solutions. But as long as the campaign is being fought on the question of job creation and the economy, the Republican has the upper hand. Trashing the challenger is the only way to go when you can’t run on your record, but so long as Romney can point to the country’s economic decline on Obama’s watch, his business acumen remains an asset rather than a defect.

Read Less

Clinton’s Motivation for Killing Bain Attack

To be fair, Cory Booker and Deval Patrick were really the ones who killed Obama’s Bain Capital strategy. But last night on CNN, Bill Clinton basically dipped it in cement and threw it in the East River:

Bill Clinton, in an appearance on CNN last night, said that Mitt Romney has a “sterling business career” and that the campaign shouldn’t be about what kind of work Romney did.

“I don’t think we ought to get into the position where we say this is bad work; this is good work,” Clinton said, adding: “There’s no question that, in terms of getting up, going to the office, and basically performing the essential functions of the office, a man who’s been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold.”

Clinton urged the Obama campaign to instead focus on contrasting its vision for the country with Romney’s. His comments came at the tail end of a day in which another Obama surrogate, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D), called Bain a “a perfectly fine company.”

Read More

To be fair, Cory Booker and Deval Patrick were really the ones who killed Obama’s Bain Capital strategy. But last night on CNN, Bill Clinton basically dipped it in cement and threw it in the East River:

Bill Clinton, in an appearance on CNN last night, said that Mitt Romney has a “sterling business career” and that the campaign shouldn’t be about what kind of work Romney did.

“I don’t think we ought to get into the position where we say this is bad work; this is good work,” Clinton said, adding: “There’s no question that, in terms of getting up, going to the office, and basically performing the essential functions of the office, a man who’s been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold.”

Clinton urged the Obama campaign to instead focus on contrasting its vision for the country with Romney’s. His comments came at the tail end of a day in which another Obama surrogate, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D), called Bain a “a perfectly fine company.”

Obviously, Clinton can’t be excused as a political neophyte and probably knew exactly what he was doing when he made that comment. The choice of words — lauding Romney’s “sterling business career” — went beyond what even Patrick or Booker have said about Romney. If Clinton wanted to merely express his disapproval of Obama’s strategy, he could have done it more subtly and without praising Romney’s career. He had to know he was giving Romney a priceless campaign soundbite that it will play on a loop whenever the Obama campaign tries to drag out the Bain attack again, effectively destroying any possibility that the strategy can be salvaged.

The question is, why? In the best case scenario, maybe Clinton was actually trying to help Obama. The former president is extremely well attuned to political trends, and maybe he senses that the Bain strategy will continue to bog down the Obama team if they keep pursuing it. Clinton’s argument that the election has to be about the big picture was similar to an argument his former pollster Douglas Schoen has made: Obama needs a clear, sweeping message for his campaign, a vision for a second term that transcends attack politics. Maybe Clinton was hoping his comments last night would be a sharp nudge in that direction.

Or, more cynically, maybe this wasn’t about helping Obama at all. Clinton has caused some headaches for this White House, and maybe he just doesn’t feel he has much to gain from Obama’s reelection, particularly if he wants Hillary to try again in 2016.

Read Less

Another Obama Surrogate Flop

Today’s theme for the Obama campaign was to focus on Mitt Romney’s term as governor of Massachusetts. The plan, outlined in a memo by campaign senior strategist David Axelrod and leaked to the New York Times, was to label the GOP nominee as someone who promised to bring jobs to the Bay State and failed. Unfortunately, the main witness for the prosecution in this indictment, Romney’s successor, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, didn’t stick to the script.

Appearing this morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, Patrick committed the cardinal sin of defending Bain Capital, the private firm Romney managed and the object of a scathing campaign of distortion by the Obama camp. Just as bad was the fact that he praised Romney as a person and admitted that unemployment was low when he left office, thus undermining Axelrod’s main theme of the day. This prompted Republicans to begin tweeting about a possible “hostage video” alert along the lines of Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker’s disastrous backtracking from similarly fair-minded comments about Romney and Bain.

Read More

Today’s theme for the Obama campaign was to focus on Mitt Romney’s term as governor of Massachusetts. The plan, outlined in a memo by campaign senior strategist David Axelrod and leaked to the New York Times, was to label the GOP nominee as someone who promised to bring jobs to the Bay State and failed. Unfortunately, the main witness for the prosecution in this indictment, Romney’s successor, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, didn’t stick to the script.

Appearing this morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, Patrick committed the cardinal sin of defending Bain Capital, the private firm Romney managed and the object of a scathing campaign of distortion by the Obama camp. Just as bad was the fact that he praised Romney as a person and admitted that unemployment was low when he left office, thus undermining Axelrod’s main theme of the day. This prompted Republicans to begin tweeting about a possible “hostage video” alert along the lines of Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker’s disastrous backtracking from similarly fair-minded comments about Romney and Bain.

Patrick is close to both President Obama and Axelrod, so left-wing conspiracy theorists who termed Booker’s outbreak of honesty on “Meet the Press” last week a plot to advance the Newark mayor’s career aren’t going to be able to play the same game with the Massachusetts governor. And it’s not as if Patrick didn’t try to make a distinction between his criticisms of Romney and defense of Bain. But the failure of this latest Obama surrogate to substantiate the case against Romney indicates not so much unrest among Democrats but the weak nature of this line of attack.

It may also be true that Patrick’s statements on the Bain issue may not be another case of heresy as far as his party is concerned but a realization that the Democratic talking point about Romney exemplifying the evils of private capital isn’t working. As Politico reports:

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Thursday, Patrick called Bain “a perfectly fine company.”

“They have a role in the private economy, and I’ve got a lot of friends there,” Patrick added. “I think the Bain strategy has been distorted in some of the public discussions.”

“I think the issue isn’t about Bain. I think it’s about whether he’s accomplished in either his public or private life the kinds of things he wants to accomplish for the United States,” the Massachusetts governor said.

“It’s never been about Bain,” Patrick emphasized during another Thursday appearance, on CNN’s “Starting Point.”

Unfortunately for Obama and the Democrats, they have done everything possible in recent months to make it about Bain. Thus, Patrick’s statement is going to be interpreted as yet another instance of dissension on what has been a central theme in the president’s re-election campaign.

Patrick was on similarly shaky ground while following Axelrod’s playbook about jobs in Massachusetts:

But the Massachusetts-based assault on Obama’s rival started with a whimper not a bang when Patrick lavished praise on Romney during “Morning Joe.”

Patrick, who followed Romney as governor in 2007, called the GOP presidential nominee a “gentleman” and said, “He’s always been a gentleman to me, and the people who know him well and personally speak very warmly of him. I haven’t had a lot of interaction with him, but the transition [to Patrick’s governorship] was smooth.”

The governor also was asked by an MSNBC panelist about the unemployment rate in Massachusetts when Romney left office – and the answer left “Morning Joe” panelists musing about how low it was.

“I think when he left office, it was in the fours. I want to say 4.3 percent, about what the national average was,” Patrick said.

“That’s pretty good,” responded host Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman.

“Yeah, not bad,” said Barnicle, a [liberal] former Boston Globe journalist, and frequent “Morning Joe” contributor. …

With host Soledad O’Brien on CNN, Patrick was more consistently on the attack, but was forced to defend his line of criticism.

O’Brien challenged Patrick with the fact that Romney added 31,000 jobs to the Massachusetts economy.

“I didn’t say he didn’t add any jobs,” Patrick explained. “I said, that in a good economy, we were growing third from the bottom compared to other states around the country.”

It all added up to a lousy day for another Obama surrogate as well as the Democratic campaign. Rather than undermining Romney’s claim to be the man with the sort of economic expertise that can help the nation’s fiscal woes, the attack wound up doing just the opposite. Though Axelrod has a reputation as a brilliant strategist, it looks like his 2008 magic is gone. He may hope the cumulative effect of the various Democratic lines of attack (the phony “war on women,” Bain Capital, and now Massachusetts) will chip away at Romney’s strength, but right now all they appear to be doing is to show the Obama campaign is floundering while searching for a strategy that can replace the “hope and change” mantra that worked so well four years ago.

Read Less

Booker’s Spokeswoman Walks the Plank

Newark Mayor Cory Booker is apparently still paying penance for his blasphemy against the Obama campaign on “Meet the Press” last week. NJ.com reports that Booker’s Communications Director Anne Torres stepped down today:

“I just decided it is best if I pursued other opportunities,” Torres said by phone. “We have very different views on how communications should be run.”

While a crucial part of the administration’s public face and dealings with the press, Torres’ role is strictly confined to city business. It is unclear what role, if any, she would have had in preparing Booker’s remarks on “Meet the Press,” wherein the mayor said he had “personal” problems with President Obama’s attacks on Bain Capital — problems he called nauseating.

Read More

Newark Mayor Cory Booker is apparently still paying penance for his blasphemy against the Obama campaign on “Meet the Press” last week. NJ.com reports that Booker’s Communications Director Anne Torres stepped down today:

“I just decided it is best if I pursued other opportunities,” Torres said by phone. “We have very different views on how communications should be run.”

While a crucial part of the administration’s public face and dealings with the press, Torres’ role is strictly confined to city business. It is unclear what role, if any, she would have had in preparing Booker’s remarks on “Meet the Press,” wherein the mayor said he had “personal” problems with President Obama’s attacks on Bain Capital — problems he called nauseating.

As NJ.com reports, it’s not clear what part Torres would have played in Booker’s “Meet the Press” remarks. The implication here is that Booker’s comments didn’t accurately reflect his own beliefs, but were instead a communications blunder by his staff. Which is ridiculous – this wasn’t a speech, it was a panel discussion. Whether or not Torres prepped the mayor on the negativity in the Obama anti-Bain ads, Booker was clearly speaking for himself when he criticized them.

While the comments weren’t particularly damaging for Booker, at least not with his constituents, they did hurt Obama and are continuing to drag down his anti-Bain strategy. Did Booker part ways with his communications director under pressure from the Obama campaign, or was it a decision he came to on his own? There’s always the possibility that Booker and his communications staff clashed over the way the initial response to the controversy was handled — the creepy hostage video, for example.

Read Less

GOP Rolls Out Attack Ad on Equity Failures

American Crossroads is out with a new ad today pushing back on President Obama’s Bain Capital attacks by assailing his own epic “public equity” failures, such as Solyndra and the auto bailout:

Read More

American Crossroads is out with a new ad today pushing back on President Obama’s Bain Capital attacks by assailing his own epic “public equity” failures, such as Solyndra and the auto bailout:

So far, Mitt Romney has steered clear of negative attacks when responding to the Bain Capital criticism. Instead, he’s highlighted his record of achievement at Bain, and pointed out that even top Democrats and Obama campaign surrogates have called the president’s attacks on private equity unfair. But, as the American Crossroads ad shows, there’s also plenty of ammo to strike back with. While Bain Capital may not have succeeded at turning around every company it bought – such is the nature of the business – at least it wasn’t playing recklessly with taxpayer money. Kimberly Strassel argued this point in the Wall Street Journal last week:

All those Republicans grousing about the president’s attacks on private equity might instead be seizing on this beautiful point of contrast. Mr. Obama, after all, is no mere mortal president. Even as he’s been busy with the day job, he’s found time to moonlight as CEO-in-Chief of half the nation’s industry. Detroit, the energy sector, health care—he’s all over these guys like a cheap spreadsheet.

Like Mr. Romney, Mr. Obama has presided over bankruptcies, layoffs, lost pensions, run-ups in debt. Yet unlike Mr. Romney, Mr. Obama’s C-suite required billions in taxpayer dollars and subsidies, as well as mandates, regulations, union payoffs and moral hazard. Don’t like “vulture” capitalism? Check out the form the president’s had on offer these past three years: “crony” capitalism.

This is a line of attack the Romney campaign has been waiting to roll out for awhile. It looks like American Crossroads and other outside groups will be doing the heavy lifting for now, but Mike Allen reports that Romney is planning a targeted campaign against specific stimulus projects in individual states:

A senior aide tells us Mitt Romney plans to begin hitting specific stimulus projects as he travels, arguing that President Obama has actually subtracted jobs: “Were these investments the best return on tax dollars, or given for ideological reasons, to donors, for political reasons? He spent $800 billion of everybody’s money. How’d it work out? It was the mother of all earmarks, not a jobs plan. By wasting all of this money, you had the worst of all worlds: It destroyed confidence in the economy, and makes people less likely to borrow money. Dodd-Frank has been a disaster for the economy. Where are the steady hands? Who’s in charge of energy? Where’s the strong, confident voice on the economy?”

Smart points. The last thing the Obama campaign wants to bring up now is Solyndra, drawing attention to its failures on both energy and the economic stimulus. The more Romney talks about this, the more it seems like the Obama campaign severely underestimated its opposition.

Read Less

Cracks in Democratic Unity

At the National Journal, Josh Kraushaar reports that the Obama campaign’s Bain Capital attack exposed the waning power of centrist Democrats in the party, a development that has many Democrats concerned:

Conversations with liberal activists and labor officials reveal an unmistakable hostility toward the pro-business, free-trade, free-market philosophy that was in vogue during the second half of the Clinton administration. …

Moderate Democratic groups and officials, meanwhile, privately fret about the party’s leftward drift and the Obama campaign’s embrace of an aggressively populist message. They’re disappointed that the administration didn’t take the lead advancing the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction proposal, they wish the administration’s focus was on growth over fairness, and they are frustrated with the persistent congressional gridlock. Third Way, the centrist Democratic think tank, has been generating analyses underscoring the need for Democrats to appeal to middle-of-the-road voters, to no avail.

Read More

At the National Journal, Josh Kraushaar reports that the Obama campaign’s Bain Capital attack exposed the waning power of centrist Democrats in the party, a development that has many Democrats concerned:

Conversations with liberal activists and labor officials reveal an unmistakable hostility toward the pro-business, free-trade, free-market philosophy that was in vogue during the second half of the Clinton administration. …

Moderate Democratic groups and officials, meanwhile, privately fret about the party’s leftward drift and the Obama campaign’s embrace of an aggressively populist message. They’re disappointed that the administration didn’t take the lead advancing the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction proposal, they wish the administration’s focus was on growth over fairness, and they are frustrated with the persistent congressional gridlock. Third Way, the centrist Democratic think tank, has been generating analyses underscoring the need for Democrats to appeal to middle-of-the-road voters, to no avail.

The problem is, Barack Obama is facing a compelling economic message from his opponent: Mitt Romney spent 25 years building businesses and overhauling companies in the private sector; Obama, in contrast, has spent his entire career in politics and community organizing. As Romney argued effectively in his interview with Time magazine today, there is nothing necessarily wrong with Obama’s career choices. They just don’t prepare someone to deal with an economy that’s speeding toward a fiscal cliff.

In response, Obama has embraced a populist, anti-competition, anti-capitalist message. Not only is it imprudent and unhelpful to stir up those sentiments during tough economic times, it’s also damaging to the Democratic Party’s brand. And it hasn’t been politically effective so far. Several polls today show the race is tightening, and Obama actually appears to be scaring away the working class voters who he’s been trying to win over with his class warfare message. The party that emerged so unified behind Obama in 2008 already seems to be coming undone.

Read Less

Media Taking a Break from Bain-Bashing

After the Obama campaign spent the last week attacking Mitt Romney about his Bain Capital record, the Washington Post reports that they seem to be taking a break from the Bain-bashing. Obama’s two new ad spots are both positive – one is on benefits for veterans and the other is on Medicare. It seems to be a response to Democratic concerns that Obama is abandoning his principles by going “negative” (as if his 2008 campaign never got into the mud).

The Bain attacks have been a disaster for the Obama campaign so far, and some of the problems are self-created. For one, there was clearly very little messaging organization between the campaign, surrogates, and Democratic leaders. And as Peter wrote yesterday, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt’s disastrous Anderson Cooper interview also indicates that the campaign was unprepared for basic questions about the hypocrisy of the Bain attack – maybe because they never thought the normally-friendly media would even ask.

Read More

After the Obama campaign spent the last week attacking Mitt Romney about his Bain Capital record, the Washington Post reports that they seem to be taking a break from the Bain-bashing. Obama’s two new ad spots are both positive – one is on benefits for veterans and the other is on Medicare. It seems to be a response to Democratic concerns that Obama is abandoning his principles by going “negative” (as if his 2008 campaign never got into the mud).

The Bain attacks have been a disaster for the Obama campaign so far, and some of the problems are self-created. For one, there was clearly very little messaging organization between the campaign, surrogates, and Democratic leaders. And as Peter wrote yesterday, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt’s disastrous Anderson Cooper interview also indicates that the campaign was unprepared for basic questions about the hypocrisy of the Bain attack – maybe because they never thought the normally-friendly media would even ask.

This was a major miscalculation on Obama’s part. The media isn’t jumping on Romney’s Bain record because most of the stories in the Obama ads are old news. Not only were they covered extensively during Romney’s senatorial and gubernatorial races, but they also received a lot of attention when Newt Gingrich raised the issue during the primaries. The definitive Bain articles have already been written and rewritten, and the arguments from both sides have already been exhausted. New information will undoubtedly come to light at some point, but until that happens this is all reheated news.

The more interesting story is the infighting in the Democratic Party about Obama’s negative campaigning, and the fact that Obama has accepted large donations from Bain executives while attacking the company. The Obama campaign’s mistake was failing to realize this and prepare for it before it was too late.

Read Less

Obama’s Bain Hypocrisy

ABC News reports that one of Obama’s top bundlers, Bain Capital executive Jonathan Lavine, actually appears to have had much more of a connection to the Ampad plant-closing issue than Mitt Romney did:

The Obama campaign’s latest attack tells the story of workers at an Indiana office supply company who lost their jobs after a Bain-owned company named American Pad & Paper (Ampad) took over their company and drove it out of business.

Here’s what the Obama web video doesn’t mention: A top Obama donor and fundraiser had a much more direct tie to the controversy and actually served on the board of directors at Richardson, Texas-based Ampad, which makes office paper products….

Lavine started working for Bain in 1993. He was one of three Bain executives who served on the board of directors of Ampad for several years, a post he held until 1999. Here’s a news release announcing his departure from the company in April 1999.

Lavine’s placement on the board of Ampad suggests he had a more direct role than Romney in the series of events surrounding the layoffs, labor disputes and eventual bankruptcy of the Marion, Ind., factory featured in the Obama campaign video.

Read More

ABC News reports that one of Obama’s top bundlers, Bain Capital executive Jonathan Lavine, actually appears to have had much more of a connection to the Ampad plant-closing issue than Mitt Romney did:

The Obama campaign’s latest attack tells the story of workers at an Indiana office supply company who lost their jobs after a Bain-owned company named American Pad & Paper (Ampad) took over their company and drove it out of business.

Here’s what the Obama web video doesn’t mention: A top Obama donor and fundraiser had a much more direct tie to the controversy and actually served on the board of directors at Richardson, Texas-based Ampad, which makes office paper products….

Lavine started working for Bain in 1993. He was one of three Bain executives who served on the board of directors of Ampad for several years, a post he held until 1999. Here’s a news release announcing his departure from the company in April 1999.

Lavine’s placement on the board of Ampad suggests he had a more direct role than Romney in the series of events surrounding the layoffs, labor disputes and eventual bankruptcy of the Marion, Ind., factory featured in the Obama campaign video.

Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt gave ABC an evasive response when asked about the contradiction:

“No one aside from Mitt Romney is running for president highlighting their tenure as a corporate buyout specialist as one of job creation,” LaBolt said. “The president has support from business leaders across industries who have seen him pull the economy back from the brink of another depression.”

True, Romney is the only candidate running as a turnaround artist and job-creator. But Obama is also the only candidate running on the claim that Bain Capital is a greedy company that bulldozed smaller businesses and destroyed lives. If that’s the centerpiece of his reelection strategy – and so far it sounds like it is – isn’t it noteworthy that he’s taking large donations from Bain leadership?

It’s not just donations, either. Lavine’s name appeared six times on the White House visitor logs since Obama took office, including a meeting with Rahm Emanuel in 2009. Lavine and two other Bain executives, Josh Bekenstein and Mark Nunnelly, were also invited to a White House event encouraging the private sector to invest in community-oriented non-profits in 2009. In a speech at the event, Obama called on the attending business leaders to “provide that critical seed capital to launch these ideas”:

So all of this represents a new kind of partnership between government and the non-profit sector. But I can tell you right now, that partnership isn’t complete, and it won’t be successful, without help from the private sector. And that’s why I’m glad that there are some deep pockets in the audience here — foundations, corporations, and individuals. You need to be part of this effort, as well.  And that’s my challenge to the private sector today.

Note that Lavine, Bekenstein and Nunnelly were all top Bain executives during Romney’s tenure and remain so today. The fact that the White House invited them to an event to encourage them to invest in vital non-profits seems to contradict the White House’s current claim that Bain had a history of destroying companies it invested in.

Read Less

Pressure Booker? From Inept to Dishonest

Earlier today I criticized Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt for his strikingly inept television appearance. But ineptness is one thing; misleading people is quite another. And as this new RNC ad  makes clear, LaBolt’s statement that the Obama campaign did not reach out to Newark Mayor Cory Booker in the aftermath of Booker’s defense of Bain Capital was simply not true.

Mayor Booker himself admits he was contacted by the Obama campaign. Which means that LaBolt was either lying or he’s speaking out on issues he has no knowledge about while giving us the impression that he’s an authoritative voice.

Read More

Earlier today I criticized Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt for his strikingly inept television appearance. But ineptness is one thing; misleading people is quite another. And as this new RNC ad  makes clear, LaBolt’s statement that the Obama campaign did not reach out to Newark Mayor Cory Booker in the aftermath of Booker’s defense of Bain Capital was simply not true.

Mayor Booker himself admits he was contacted by the Obama campaign. Which means that LaBolt was either lying or he’s speaking out on issues he has no knowledge about while giving us the impression that he’s an authoritative voice.

I have some free counsel for the Obama administration: Get LaBolt off the air before he does more damage to your credibility and your cause.

Read Less

Tainted Money from Bain Capital?

Last night, Cory Booker attempted to walk back his Bain Capital comments yet again, this time on the Rachel Maddow show. Why is he even bothering? The damage is already done. The left now sees him as a traitor to the class struggle, bought and paid for, as Cornell West is fond of saying, by the Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats.

Let’s imagine they’re right, and Booker said what he said because he thinks the Bain attacks are unpopular with his constituents and donors on Wall Street. If that’s the case, shouldn’t Obama take his comments even more seriously? Back in 2008, Obama was the top candidate recipient of donations from the securities and investment industry, raising more than $16 million. So far in 2012, he has raised $2 million. So…maybe Booker has a point.

Still, liberal bloggers are pushing the issue in an effort to run damage control for the Obama campaign. Booker has apparently taken donations from Bain higher-ups over the years, and Think Progress seized on this scandalous scandal as proof of his treachery:

Read More

Last night, Cory Booker attempted to walk back his Bain Capital comments yet again, this time on the Rachel Maddow show. Why is he even bothering? The damage is already done. The left now sees him as a traitor to the class struggle, bought and paid for, as Cornell West is fond of saying, by the Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats.

Let’s imagine they’re right, and Booker said what he said because he thinks the Bain attacks are unpopular with his constituents and donors on Wall Street. If that’s the case, shouldn’t Obama take his comments even more seriously? Back in 2008, Obama was the top candidate recipient of donations from the securities and investment industry, raising more than $16 million. So far in 2012, he has raised $2 million. So…maybe Booker has a point.

Still, liberal bloggers are pushing the issue in an effort to run damage control for the Obama campaign. Booker has apparently taken donations from Bain higher-ups over the years, and Think Progress seized on this scandalous scandal as proof of his treachery:

Contributions to his 2002 campaign from venture capitalists, investors, and big Wall Street bankers brought him more than $115,000 for his 2002 campaign. Among those contributing to his campaign were John Connaughton ($2,000), Steve Pagliuca ($2,200), Jonathan Lavine ($1,000) — all of Bain Capital. While the forms are not totally clear, it appears the campaign raised less than $800,000 total, making this a significant percentage.

He and his slate also jointly raised funds for the “Booker Team for Newark” joint committee. They received more than $450,000 for the 2002 campaign from the sector — including a pair of $15,400 contributions from Bain Capital Managing Directors Joshua Bekenstein and Mark Nunnelly. It appears that for the initial campaign and runoff, the slate raised less than $4 million — again making this a sizable chunk.

In all — just in his first mayoral run — Booker’s committees received more than $565,000 from the people he was defending. At least $36,000 of that came from folks at Romney’s old firm.

In other words, they’re going further than just attacking Romney’s tenure at Bain. They’re now claiming the firm itself is so poisonous that even taking money from its executives is enough to taint a politician.

This attack becomes problematic because both Obama and the DNC have taken large contributions from Bain employees, including several of the executives accusatorily cited in the Think Progress article. Bain’s Managing Partner Steve Pagliuca, and Managing Directors Jonathan Lavine and Mark Nunnelly have already given the maximum donation to the Obama campaign and the DNC for the 2012 campaign cycle, each contributing $35,800 to the Obama Victory Fund 2012 and $30,800 to the campaign committee.

Lavine has also been one of Obama’s top bundlers, raising over $100,000* for him so far this cycle.

And yet Think Progress is trying to smear Booker by saying these Bain executives kicked his campaign a few thousand dollars each back in 2002?

It doesn’t look good. Some of the Bain executives listed are long-time DNC donors, and what are they getting for it now? A $700 million dollar national campaign against their company? Targeted attacks from Democratic think tank bloggers? That kind of treatment isn’t going to inspire confidence in potential Obama donors watching from the sdelines.

*I initially wrote that Lavine raised over $1 million – that was actually the number of total contributions he’s given to all federal candidates, parties and PACs since 1990, according to OpenSecrets.

Read Less

Obama Launches New Bain Attack Ad

Note to Cory Booker: don’t watch this latest Obama ad while eating lunch. The Obama campaign has released another distorted attack on Bain Capital, this time targeting the company’s acquisition of a textile firm called American Pad and Paper (Ampad):

Read More

Note to Cory Booker: don’t watch this latest Obama ad while eating lunch. The Obama campaign has released another distorted attack on Bain Capital, this time targeting the company’s acquisition of a textile firm called American Pad and Paper (Ampad):

The Ampad story was one of Sen. Ted Kennedy’s most effective attacks against Romney in the 1994 Massachusetts Senate race. Paul Barrett has a detailed long read on the background, but here’s a summary: Bain Capital bought Ampad in 1992, and used the company to buy and restructure struggling paper supply manufacturers. In 1994, Ampad bought a small paper company in Marion, Indiana, with Bain’s approval. As part of its plan to rebuild the flailing business, Ampad cut pay and benefits for the 258 workers. The union initially attempted to negotiate with the new management, but ended up walking away from the table and calling a strike. Ampad responded by laying off the striking workers, several of whom blame Romney for their job losses and have actively tried to foil his political ambitions ever since.

The stories of layoffs may strike an emotional chord with some viewers, but Bain and Ampad aren’t the ones to find fault with here. You could just as easily argue that the union bore responsible for the job losses, because it decided to play chicken with Ampad and call a risky strike instead of negotiating. Or you could argue that the plant’s prior management was to blame for driving the plant to financial instability in the first place.

Here’s another glaring problem: Romney took a leave of absence from Bain in January of 1994, in order to focus on his Senate campaign. Ampad bought the Marion paper company in July of 1994. So not only did Romney have no control over Ampad’s actions, he wasn’t even technically at Bain when the Marion company was acquired.

And as the Wall Street Journal argues today, the liberal critique of Bain is illogical. If Bain really was a “vampire” firm that preyed on companies and then unloaded the carcasses onto unwitting buyers, how in the world could they still be in business? Why would any sane investor buy a company from them? How could their acquisitions still manage to get loans if they were consistently defaulting?

The Obama campaign likely hopes voters don’t ask themselves those questions. And while the campaign may hope the Ampad ad works as well for them as it did for Ted Kennedy, there are reasons to believe it won’t. The laid off workers from Marion also helped campaign against Romney when he ran for governor on a job-creation platform in 2002, with much less success. The story apparently wasn’t as convincing to voters the second time around, years after it originally happened.

Read Less

Booker’s Nausea Sent Down Memory Hole

Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker is a rising star in New Jersey whose record running the city has earned him applause on both sides of the political aisle. He’s also thought of as something of a superhero after personally rescuing two neighbors from their burning home last month. But as far as the Obama re-election campaign is concerned, he has no more right to think as he pleases than Winston Smith, the hero of George Orwell’s 1984. Just as Smith was forced to concede that two plus two equals five if Big Brother said it did, so Booker tamely walked back his criticism of the president’s re-election campaign ads lambasting Mitt Romney’s business record.

Speaking on “Meet the Press” Sunday morning, Booker was a political superhero blasting the excesses of both Republicans and Democrats as he decried some conservatives dredging up the Rev. Jeremiah Wright issue and was equally strong on his own party’s attempt to demonize Romney’s career:

I have to just say, from a very personal level, I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity. To me, it’s just we’re getting to a ridiculous point in America, especially that I know I live in a state where pension funds, unions and other people are investing in companies like Bain Capital. If you look at the totality of Bain Capital’s record, they’ve done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses. And this to me, I’m very uncomfortable with. …

The last point I’ll make is this kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides. It’s nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity. Stop attacking Jeremiah Wright.

Coming from a prominent young liberal, this was refreshing stuff. Obviously it was a little too refreshing for the White House, but as bad as the “Meet the Press” comments were for the president, what followed didn’t help either. By the end of the day, a contrite Booker posted a video on YouTube walking back his comments about Bain and tamely claiming instead that it was “reasonable” for the Obama campaign to attack Romney on this score. It was as if it were a video from a hostage being held for ransom.

Read More

Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker is a rising star in New Jersey whose record running the city has earned him applause on both sides of the political aisle. He’s also thought of as something of a superhero after personally rescuing two neighbors from their burning home last month. But as far as the Obama re-election campaign is concerned, he has no more right to think as he pleases than Winston Smith, the hero of George Orwell’s 1984. Just as Smith was forced to concede that two plus two equals five if Big Brother said it did, so Booker tamely walked back his criticism of the president’s re-election campaign ads lambasting Mitt Romney’s business record.

Speaking on “Meet the Press” Sunday morning, Booker was a political superhero blasting the excesses of both Republicans and Democrats as he decried some conservatives dredging up the Rev. Jeremiah Wright issue and was equally strong on his own party’s attempt to demonize Romney’s career:

I have to just say, from a very personal level, I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity. To me, it’s just we’re getting to a ridiculous point in America, especially that I know I live in a state where pension funds, unions and other people are investing in companies like Bain Capital. If you look at the totality of Bain Capital’s record, they’ve done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses. And this to me, I’m very uncomfortable with. …

The last point I’ll make is this kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides. It’s nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity. Stop attacking Jeremiah Wright.

Coming from a prominent young liberal, this was refreshing stuff. Obviously it was a little too refreshing for the White House, but as bad as the “Meet the Press” comments were for the president, what followed didn’t help either. By the end of the day, a contrite Booker posted a video on YouTube walking back his comments about Bain and tamely claiming instead that it was “reasonable” for the Obama campaign to attack Romney on this score. It was as if it were a video from a hostage being held for ransom.

Needless to say, Booker was right the first time he opened his mouth on Sunday. Private equity firms such as Bain are the engine of commerce in this country. Though not all the decisions made by any such firm work out, in the long run they are what builds jobs, not Obama’s tax and spend policies. One suspects this is something most Americans understand, which is why the economy is Romney’s strongest issue and the president’s staff is determined to discredit him.

The embarrassing turnabout won’t do much to burnish the superhero politician’s reputation for independence, and many liberals will probably never forgive him anyway for an act of heresy, even one quickly recanted. But what probably really ticked off the president was that Booker’s original juxtaposition of attacks highlighted that the only way he can be re-elected is by tearing down his opponent. After all, the proposed ad campaign that was supposed to highlight the Rev. Wright issue was not the product of the Romney team or even one of the independent groups closely associated with him. It was something commissioned by Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, who actually renounced the effort as soon as it became public. But the attacks on Romney’s business career are something that is being undertaken directly by the president’s campaign.

Tearing down Romney in this fashion is bad enough, but the sinister fashion with which Booker was forced to not just back away from his original position but to directly contradict it speaks volumes about the way the White House seeks to ride herd on Democrats. To diverge from the party line even to decry the nastiness of politics in an even-handed way while stating your support for the president is clearly unacceptable behavior for a Democrat these days. In his recantation video, Booker speaks as though he is about to be sent to a re-education camp if he doesn’t get it right and say that it’s okay to smear Romney. It should be noted however that the Democratic National Committee wasn’t entirely satisfied with the video since it released an edited version of the recantation that contained his agreement that Romney should be attacked with everything else left out.

One suspects that while Booker and the Democrats would like to send this whole incident down Orwell’s “memory hole,” the public won’t soon forget the mayor’s humiliation or how his recantation only buttressed the truths he originally spoke.

Read Less

Obama Auto Czar Defends Romney

The Obama campaign has a new 2-minute ad out, set to air in five battleground states, that accuses Mitt Romney of closing down a steel company and throwing people out of their jobs in order to make a buck for Bain Capital. It shows images of displaced workers, many of them at the end of their working careers, who are, not surprisingly, unhappy with what happened. It’s tough to lose a job, especially one you’ve held for a long time.

The ad is, of course, unadulterated demagogy. Never mind that the closing took place in 2001, two years after Romney left Bain Capital. Never mind that 2001 was a terrible year for the American steel industry. Never mind that ten percent of the jobs in America disappear every year as the economy endlessly remakes itself through the process of creative destruction that makes capitalism work.

Read More

The Obama campaign has a new 2-minute ad out, set to air in five battleground states, that accuses Mitt Romney of closing down a steel company and throwing people out of their jobs in order to make a buck for Bain Capital. It shows images of displaced workers, many of them at the end of their working careers, who are, not surprisingly, unhappy with what happened. It’s tough to lose a job, especially one you’ve held for a long time.

The ad is, of course, unadulterated demagogy. Never mind that the closing took place in 2001, two years after Romney left Bain Capital. Never mind that 2001 was a terrible year for the American steel industry. Never mind that ten percent of the jobs in America disappear every year as the economy endlessly remakes itself through the process of creative destruction that makes capitalism work.

Indeed, the ad is so shamelessly dishonest that it has produced a surprising critic, Steve Rattner. He is Obama’s former “auto czar,” who presided over the administration’s remaking of General Motors and Chrysler, a process that cost tens of thousands of jobs, as dealerships across the country were closed down by order of the Obama administration.

“I think the ad is unfair. Mitt Romney made a mistake ever talking about the fact that he created 100,000 jobs. Bain Capital’s responsibility was not to create 100,000 jobs or some other number. It was to create profits for his investors, most of whom were pension funds, endowments and foundations. It did it superbly, acting within the rules and acting very responsibly and was a leading firm,” Ratner said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday.

“So I do think to pick out an example of somebody who lost their job unfortunately, this is part of capitalism, this is part of life. And I don’t think there’s anything Bain Capital did that they need to be embarrassed about,” he said.

Rattner, to be sure, made his considerable fortune in a private equity firm not dissimilar to Bain Capital, called Quadrangle Group, and so might be inclined to see things from Romney’s point of view. But this is exactly right. Corporations are not WPA projects; they don’t exist to provide jobs but to maximize profits. Indeed, management has a fiduciary obligation to the stockholders to do exactly that. The theory of businesses as job providers was tried, in effect, in the Soviet Union, which always had a zero unemployment rate. Except for the highly privileged elite at the top, it produced nothing but poverty and a stunning lack of technological innovation.

Romney in particular and Republicans in general need to stop apologizing for advocating capitalism. It is what has made this country so extraordinarily rich, both for the Steve Rattners and Mitt Romneys and for the average American family as well, which lives at a level of affluence undreamed of even two generations ago.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.