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The Heart of the Bain Story?

Ok, so for the last week I have been buried by a combination of summer school teaching and trying to get a book ready to send to shop to a publisher, so I have consumed a lot less news and bloggage than I might otherwise.  I point this out because it demonstrates a bit of distance from the roiling commentary on the Romney Bain story.  I am aware of the story, and I think I know the basics and have read a little bit here and there.

However, watching the typical political storm from a somewhat more detached-than-usual vantage point, I have to ask, is not the fundamental issue as follows?  Earlier in the year, Romney and his campaign claimed that he has left the firm in 1999 to go work on the Olympics.  The reason they wanted to make this claim is because Bain was under criticism for being involved in investments decisions that led to some companies closing and therefore to people losing their jobs.  Since being associated with people losing their jobs in an era in which jobs are a major political issue, Romney wanted no association with post-1999 job losses.  Indeed, the Romney campaign was pretty adamant about Romney being gone from the company during the period in question.  Now, however, it ends up that Romney did not leave, but that he was the president and CEO until 2002.  He is now having to explain this discrepancy.  This is problematic for him because a) he appears to have lied about (or, at least, severely spun) his 1999-2002 involvement in the company, and b) he can now be associated with the aforementioned job loses.  Meanwhile, some commentators are suggesting some criminal might be found in the SEC filings, etc.

Do I have the basics?

Now, it seems to me that while this story will fade (and, further, as much of blogstorm that it may be, one suspects that most voters are paying it no mind whatsoever), that the following is true:

1.  This all reinforces the notion that Romney is willing to bend the truth, if not lie, in his pursuit of office.

2.  He is now connected with the job loss/outsourcing issue (and it looks like he lied to cover up that fact, and hence making it seem that the action may be worse than originally thought, because after all, why lie about it if it wasn’t a big deal?).

3.  Criminal charges are not happening.

None of this, by the way, speaks well to the alleged management skills that Romney is supposed to be bringing to the table.

In regards the the question of how the Romney campaign created this mess, I would point to a post from Dave Weigel yesterday who noted that following:

So who gave people the idea that Romney had completely severed ties with Bain in February 1999? The Romney campaign! On May 14, bristling at the first Obama/Bain attacks, the Romney campaign (via spokeswoman Andrea Saul) sent out a kitchen-sink debunking statement. The argument, made VERY LOUDLY in bolded sentences, was that Romney “left Bain Capital” in 1999. The sentences in question:

The Bankruptcy And Layoffs At GS Industries All Occurred AFTER Governor Romney Had Left Bain Capital in February 1999.

After Agreeing To Head The Salt Lake Olympic Committee In February 1999, Romney Said He Will Leave Running Day-Today Operations To Bain’s Executive Committee.

Fact Checkers Have Stated That The Facts “Exonerate Romney” From Allegations Relating To Any Bain Deals In The Early 2000s.

Now, granted, she did say he would “leave running day-to-day operations” and so it depends on what that is supposed to mean.  Clearly we now understand that he remained in charge, at least on paper (and, really, as president and CEO, it had to be more than a mere paper relationship).

The bottom line on all this, then, is that Romney wanted to be held harmless in politically difficult actions that Bain was involved in after February 1999, so he and his campaign obfuscated at best and lied at worst about his involvement and now they have been caught, yes?

In other words:  this is all fundamentally about a campaign mismanaging a potentially negative element of their candidate’s bio, by doing so, making it several orders of magnitude worse?

Related Posts:

About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor and Chair of Political Science at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. He is the author of Voting Amid Violence: Electoral Democracy in Colombia and is currently working on a comparative study of the US to 29 other democracies. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging at PoliBlog since 2003. Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Nikki says:

    Obama in a landslide.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  2. Nikki says:

    You left off the best part…Weigel’s update:

    Romney said he will stay on as a part-timer with Bain, providing input on investment and key personnel decisions. But he will leave running day-to-day operations to Bain’s executive committee.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 1

  3. Nikki says:

    He either lied to the American people and the state of Massachusetts or he lied on his SEC filings. And he was the first to call his opponent a liar.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1

  4. I think that’s pretty much it, though as I’ve said, I doubt that anyone on the Democratic side really believed crimes. That was just a stick to hit the Romney campaign with, and make them sit up, notice, and answer.

    Without the word “felony” this might have blown right by.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 0

  5. Greg says:

    Yeah, you pretty much nailed it. Fortunately I learned from my parents back in grade school – after repeatedly lying about the status of my homework’s completion – that lying about something will more often than not make things worse for you. Unfortunately for Governor Romney, he may just be learning this now because as you’ve laid out, this all seems like it could have been avoided had the campaign been more upfront at the onset.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  6. Nikki says:

    I forgot about the FEC!

    He either lied to the American people, the FEC and the state of Massachusetts or he lied to the SEC.

    So totally, totally, cool!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  7. Modulo Myself says:

    You can’t really fault Romney for lying. People always advocate being open in politics, but there are huge examples (Whitewater) where having every fact laid out is a meaningless gesture.

    This sort of thing worked for Bush. He was able to ‘aw shucks’ his way through a variety of incoherent stories. Clinton could do this as well re: infidelity, as long as there wasn’t a deviant independent prosecutor coming down on him.

    Romney’s way too smart to be Bush, and way less likeable to be Clinton. And he’s also incredibly unimaginative. He really did believe that he could talk about government and regulation and lower taxes as if he was a Bush or Reagan, and as if this was 1995 rather than 2012.

    The real question is: will the money and anti-Obama mania that’s keeping him in the race begin to dry up when he continues to suck.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  8. Me Me Me says:

    From Romney’s own lips – not the campaign speaking for him – just last night:

    “I had no association with the management of Bain Capital after February of 1999,”

    Except that we all know that he did, we’ve seen the documents.

    Nice try, Taylor, but no banana: this is about Romney being a liar, not his campaign staff being careless.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  9. Moderate Mom says:

    If what the Obama campaign holds true, that means that four current Bain officers interviewed by John King are liars too. They all said that Romney had absolutely no input into investment or management decisions at Bain after he left to run the Olympics. His name appeared on those documents while the Bain management worked out the details of purchasing Romney’s 100% ownership in the company. One of them said that when he was gone, he was gone.

    Of those four officers cited in John King’s report, three are registered Democrats and two are active fundraisers (i.e. bundlers) for the Obama campaign. What would be their impetus to lie about Romney’s involvement in Bain during the question in time? From a political standpoint, it would benefit their favored candidate if they said that Romney lied. They didn’t, so I have to assumed that Romney is telling the truth.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

  10. Moosebreath says:

    @john personna:

    Seconded. Given that there are two possible explanations, only one of which is a felony, the chances for prosecution are minute. But that’s hardly the standard for someone running for President.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  11. Ron Beasley says:

    At a time when Wall Street and financial institutions are about as popular as the plague his business experience was probably more a negative than a positive. Not so in DC and NY perhaps but on main street yes. His campaign’s deceptiveness only made things worse.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  12. @Me Me Me:

    Nice try, Taylor, but no banana: this is about Romney being a liar, not his campaign staff being careless.

    Hmm. I am not sure what you think I am trying to do here. From my post:

    so he and his campaign obfuscated at best and lied at worst about his involvement and now they have been caught, yes?

    The “he” in the sentence is Romney. I would note that when I speak of his campaign, he is inherently part of said activity.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  13. Nikki says:

    @Moderate Mom:

    What would be their impetus to lie about Romney’s involvement in Bain during the question in time?

    Perhaps because they, too, suck at the teat of Wall Street. You continue to believe that this election is about Rs vs. Ds. This election is about what the 1% have in mind for this country and what the 99% have in mind. That’s why you see DLCers stepping up to defend Bain–because they are defending their status quo.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  14. James Joyner says:

    The most benign reading of this I can come up with is that Romney, who owned 100 percent of the company, maintained the CEO title to give the impression he was still running the company even though day-to-day ops were under someone else’s control. That actually strikes me as the likeliest explanation.

    In terms of his responsibility for the outcomes, his political statements strike me as reasonably accurate.

    In terms of his managerial responsibility, one can’t really delegate that. I’m not sure the outcomes that took place while he wasn’t hands on tells us much about his management capability–although, presumably, he picked the people to whom he delegated–but he retains ultimate responsibility.

    I haven’t the foggiest what the implications are with the SEC. Does the named CEO actually have to function as a CEO? One imagines not.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  15. PJ says:

    After Agreeing To Head The Salt Lake Olympic Committee In February 1999, Romney Said He Will Leave Running Day-Today Operations To Bain’s Executive Committee.

    I doubt deciding to fire large number of workers, shipping jobs overseas, or buying companies would be considered day-to-day operations, even for Bain.

    But then I haven’t heard anything about what is considered day-to-day operations at Bain.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  16. @James Joyner:

    I haven’t the foggiest what the implications are with the SEC. Does the named CEO actually have to function as a CEO? One imagines not.

    The SEC is concerned with who answers them. When Romney put his name down he was saying “the buck stops here.”

    The thing Doug and Steven have picked up on is that you can’t be buck-stop and completely gone.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  17. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: I think that’s right. Still, there’s span of control issues.

    For example, I think Fast and Furious was a giant fiasco. It might even have crossed the line into illegal. But I don’t hold President Obama accountable for it because I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect that the president would be overseeing operational level details at local offices. To the extent that it happened in his DOJ under his watch, the buck stops with him. Which means it’s up to him to clean it up. We can hold him accountable for stonewalling, for example.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  18. mattb says:

    Generally speaking good analysis. I do question how much this will hurt the Romney Campaign in the short term.

    However, I think this mishandling and the larger “story” here could be very detrimental in the long term if the Obama campaign can correctly spin this. Here’s my rational:

    One of the most potent lines of attack on Romney is the issue of (class) “Privilege.” All of the flip-flopping stuff ties back into this, as does the class stuff. It’s not so much that Romney is “out of touch”, but rather that he has the “privilege” to reinvent the facts when they don’t suit him.

    So the first problem with this is that he gave the appearance he was at Bain when it suited him and then attempted to deny the fact when it didn’t.

    But the second aspect of this, is the idea that for approximately three years, if you follow Romney’s account, he did absolutely nothing, and still remained a CEO/President and drew a significant salary in that position. Again, we run into privilege and everything that Middle America thinks is wrong about “big business” (note: I think there would have been no issue if he had given up the title and still drawn the salary… the issue again comes back to privilege).

    Just as John Kerry’s actions — true, exaggerated, and false — were able to be spun by the Bush campaign into the image of a “Fortunate Son”, so also may these actions — again, some true, some exaggerated, and others false.

    The other big issue is that these are continuing to come from the campaign versus third party sources. And that’s a huge issue.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  19. jib says:

    The real problem for Romney is that he is a private equity guy running for pres in 2012. The specifics of this single incidient is only relevant in that it keeps bain front and center. Although the NY / DC axis fails to recognize it, the American people are furious with wall street and its pets in DC. Obama is very vulnerable on wall street but lo and behold, repubs go and nominate a living, breathing wall street douche bag.

    Obama is one lucky Pol but better lucky than good I guess.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  20. @James Joyner:

    That’s not a direct comparison.

    Do you think Obama ever said he was completely removed from Fast and Furious?

    Or did he in fact always have a “buck stops here” answer?

    The realities of the Fast and Furious case are that while Obama was indeed President we also have a trail of decisions taken at lower levels. We have visibility. We know that such and such ATF person contacted such and such State District Attorney, etc.

    If anything, Obama has been protective of his brood, even using Executive Privilege to shield them. That tied them in James, it did not disavow or deny them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  21. Modulo Myself says:

    @James Joyner:

    But Obama is responsible for Fast and Furious, in the sense that he’s elected to keep on fighting the drug war.

    So to with Romney. He built Bain and Bain was built on the ability to separate capital from workers, at any cost to the worker. If he supports that idea fine–say it and be done with it.

    Listening to people talk about responsibility and ethics as if these are dark galaxies at the universe’s wall, observable only through highly specialized instruments is ridiculous. When someone like Romney, who is very butch when it comes to foreign policy, hating government programs, or explaining how things really work in the business world, opens his mouth to convey his own experience, it sounds like five hundred lawyers babbling at once. If you can’t answer a point blank question if what you did in life to make 200 million was right or wrong (which is basically the point of all of the anti-Bain attacks) then you should either learn how or offer up your own sleaze as your most promising attribute.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  22. rudderpedals says:

    @mattb: Hold on to that second aspect a moment: Last night Romney repeated his claim to no involvement post 99 but we have another statement from Romney – but under oath – that he was actively attending corp meetings in person and telephonically with the entities he had no involvement with.

    Discrepancies like this are a nightmare for counsel at trial. It’s really hard to rehabilitate a client whose veracity has been thoroughly impeached.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  23. KariQ says:

    The only other complicating factor is Bain’s involvement with the medical waste disposal company Stericycle after Romeny supposedly left the company. Stericycle handled aborted fetuses. This may provide an additional reason for the Romney campaign to be adamant about his non-involvement after 1999.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  24. gVOR08 says:

    In reply to your title -No.
    Kthug has it exactly right.
    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/14/no-bain-no-gain/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  25. Raoul says:

    I think the removal of extracted zygotes has played as a big role in the obfuscation as offshoring. JJ-Romney’s comments are pretty Shermanesque and do not square with reality.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  26. Davebo says:

    @James Joyner:

    Does not the administration that implemented fast and furious in 2006 share any blame at all James?

    As to Bain, perhaps had Romney done a stint in the military he would have learned the cardinal rule. You can delegate authority but not responsibility.

    I’m assuming you did James.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  27. gVOR08 says:

    @James Joyner: That may be the most benign explanation, but it is not the most credible. Steve Kornacki had the most credible explanation. Romney was planning to come back to Bain and left arrangements in place to maintain his ownership and control. In late ’01 he saw a window of opportunity opening to run for gov of Mass and changed his mind. If this is the case, one may reasonably assume he was like a Mafia Don in prison. He was far away, but nothing was done that he didn’t want done.

    Also, James, all things considered; if Romney accuses someone, anyone, else of lying, isn’t it reasonable to assume this is projection?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  28. al-Ameda says:

    @James Joyner:

    For example, I think Fast and Furious was a giant fiasco. It might even have crossed the line into illegal. But I don’t hold President Obama accountable for it because I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect that the president would be overseeing operational level details at local offices. To the extent that it happened in his DOJ under his watch, the buck stops with him. Which means it’s up to him to clean it up. We can hold him accountable for stonewalling, for example.

    He must be stonewalling because Darrell Issa thinks so, and he’s running the investigation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  29. michael reynolds says:

    Here’s the heart of the story: Mitt Romney is a very rich guy who got even richer by doing things that voters don’t like: sending jobs to China, hiding money in the Cayman’s, mass-firings and apparently investing in aborted fetus destruction services.

    So Mr. Romney has precisely one asset that in the abstract seems like it ought to be helpful: business acumen.

    But when we get into details the asset turns to a liability. So he is lying up a storm to escape that liability.

    Here’s what is being somewhat overlooked: he may lie away the liability but one way or the other the asset has been fatally compromised. This leaves Romney with only one tack: attack Mr. Obama. If Mr. Romney were a human being rather than a lizard android that wouldn’t be so hard, but as Romney attacks he’ll also drive up his own negatives. And it’s much, much harder to “define” a guy we’ve all known for four years.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 0

  30. mattb says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Mitt Romney is a very rich guy who got even richer by doing things that voters don’t like: sending jobs to China, hiding money in the Cayman’s, mass-firings and apparently investing in aborted fetus destruction services.

    Actually, I’d take it a step in a different direction… he has a broader record of doing things that his base doesn’t like, which includes all of the above, but also can include being an absent CEO (again, if this had been simply portrayed as ownership, I think he would come out a *little* better, but the drawing a 100K salary while doing nothing, but maintain the title, just doesn’t sound good), saying that he’d be more liberal that Ted Kennedy on Abortion issues, and Universally Mandated Healthcare in Massachusetts.

    If this was years past, and the Republican conservative base was more moderate, I think they would more easily accept these things. But the recent drive to purity of partisan ideology means that each one of those things make Romney a little more suspect to the base.

    And so, Romney ham-handedly attempts rewrite his own history (something that his privileged position has allowed in the past) in an attempt to please his base. The problem is that he’s trying to deny the rewriting even as it’s happening (and this isn’t the first time his campaign has mishandled this sort of situation — see Richard Grenell as another example).

    If the Obama campaign is on point with this, I suspect that the goal isn’t so much to peel off independents from Romney as it is to disappoint the base — because they realize that if, like in 2008, they base ultimately abandons the candidate, then Romney has little chance of winning.

    That said, I’m not sure if this is necessarily enough when the person Obama is really running against isn’t so much Romney as it is “not Obama.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  31. mattb says:

    @rudderpedals:

    Discrepancies like this are a nightmare for counsel at trial. It’s really hard to rehabilitate a client whose veracity has been thoroughly impeached.

    Completely agree. The issue is, at this moment, who all is paying attention? Most of the people following this news have already made up their minds one way or the other.

    And I don’t think this is about the general population, at least not yet (though the narrative that incorporates this may eventually reach them).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. Buzz Buzz says:

    The OTB drones, Mother Jones, Talking Points Memo, Daily Kos
    - vs.-
    Politifact, Forbes, the Washington Post fact checker, reality.

    You Bainers are as hilariously delusional as the Birthers and Truthers!

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 19

  33. michael reynolds says:

    @mattb:

    I don’t hold out much hope for Romney disappointing his base, at least in terms of having an effect on voting. The GOP base hates Obama, period. The base are older, whiter and less-educated and they feel emasculated (rightly) by the rise of minorities, gays, better-educated youth, etc… They’re in a self-reinforcing rage loop and that hatred will get them to the polls.

    I do think this is about swing voters in half a dozen states who may be thinking, “I like Obama, but I’m disappointed, so maybe it’s time to give another guy a shot.” Mr. Obama’s campaign is creating a narrative that goes like this, “I’m disappointed in Obama, but Mr. Romney is simply unacceptable, so I’ll vote for the likable Mr. Obama and hope he does better in his second term.”

    What’s happening with Bain is that Obama is taking away Romney’s only positive. Romney can’t run on his record in Massachusetts so all he’s got is Bain and Bain is well on its way to being a dirty word.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  34. mattb says:

    @Buzz Buzz:

    - vs.-
    Politifact, Forbes, the Washington Post fact checker, reality.

    As a complete aside, if nothing else comes of this, I look forward , in the coming weeks and months, to pointing conservative drones back to these threads when they once again return to their usual moans that “Politifact”, “FactCheck” and the “WaPo Fact Check” are in the bag for Obama and should never be trusted.

    BWT, since conservatives have recently come to embrace these sites, let me point out another feature of Politifact… the Obama and GOP promise meters (http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/). It sorta puts a damper on the Obama never followed through on any campaign promises (they’re currently ranking Obama at 50% kept or partially enacted through compromise, and 26% broken or stalled).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  35. DRS says:

    And as the base watches in baffled fury as Romney gets tangled up in another complicated explanation that will end up at “what’s the big deal? This is how all the billionaires do it”, they can also watch the polling numbers which have Romney and Obama close to a tie. After all this is the election that they are supposed to win by a landslide because Obama is so obviously awful and terrible and anti-American and..and…and anyway the economy sucks, so there.

    How happy are they going to be in late October if Romney isn’t miles ahead in the polls and they remember stuff like this that showed what a mistake they made? And isn’t Sarah Palin just kicking herself now?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  36. mattb says:

    Fair points @michael reynolds. And in the long run I totally agree about peeling off independents.

    In many respects, this is shaping up to resemble 2004 in a number of ways — albeit with the roles generally reversed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  37. James Joyner says:

    @Davebo: Yes, I made that exact point in my initial comment.

    @gVOR08: I don’t see much difference, actually. Either way, Romney handed over day-to-day control of the company in 1999. So, despite having ownership interest and even a theoretical right to veto decisions, he’s justified in arguing that he had nothing to do with what was going on at Bain if he in fact wasn’t at Bain.

    What actually strikes me as more problematic is that he wants to have it both ways. That is, he claims credit for the good things that happened during his tenure actually running the place–as well as the good things that happened subsequently, on account of his haven’t started the business. But he also disavows blame for any of the bad things that happened during that period. I don’t think that flies.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  38. James says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Romney can’t run on his record in Massachusetts [...]

    As a Bay Stater, I can tell you our former Governor only has himself to blame for that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  39. jukeboxgrad says:

    michael:

    Bain is well on its way to being a dirty word

    Yes, exactly. That’s been true for a while, and Mitt has known that for a while.

    It was a couple of months ago that Obama started to hit Mitt hard regarding Bain. One of the key elements of Mitt’s initial response was to issue this web video regarding Steel Dynamics. The most interesting thing about that video? It completely avoids any use of the word “Bain.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  40. john personna says:

    @James Joyner:

    I still think arguing “nothing to do” is a bridge too far.

    At a minimum, retaining the titles, he was maintaining trust in the people operating in his name.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  41. jukeboxgrad says:

    steven citing weigel:

    So who gave people the idea that Romney had completely severed ties with Bain in February 1999? The Romney campaign! On May 14 …

    Weigel’s basic point is correct, but I think he (and some other people) are missing something important. Mitt didn’t start digging this hole for himself on “May 14.” The spin he used on that date is the same spin he started using ten years ago. This is nicely explained here.

    The main reason he is now stuck with that spin is that he committed himself to it a long time ago. It’s an old blunder, not a new blunder.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  42. jukeboxgrad says:

    james:

    So, despite having ownership interest and even a theoretical right to veto decisions, he’s justified in arguing that he had nothing to do with what was going on at Bain if he in fact wasn’t at Bain.

    It wasn’t just “ownership interest.” He was the sole owner. And as the sole owner, he didn’t just have “a theoretical right to veto decisions.” He had the right, period.

    As the sole owner, he was responsible for “what was going on at Bain,” whether he was there or not.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  43. mattb says:

    @James Joyner:

    What actually strikes me as more problematic is that he wants to have it both ways. That is, he claims credit for the good things that happened during his tenure actually running the place–as well as the good things that happened subsequently, on account of his haven’t started the business. But he also disavows blame for any of the bad things that happened during that period. I don’t think that flies.

    BINGO… and this is why I keep coming back to the notion of “privilege” with Romney. I think, generally speaking, he’s been able to largely have things both ways for most of his life.

    And so, as a result, we have seen an ongoing pattern within his campaign of trying to have things both ways and then flailing when they’re forced to make an actual choice. Hence the problem with coming up with an understandable statement on Healthcare and the Mandate and things like Bain.

    Likewise, Romney has worked to go after endorsements from base-friendly folks like Ted Nugent, while at the same time, pretending that they didn’t engage in that activity. And there was the entire hiring/firing/resigning of Richard Grinnell. The Etch-a-sketch comment. Issues with Immigration.

    I’m not saying that politicians don’t reverse their position (hell look at Clinton and his ability to Triagulate). The thing is that the good ones own the action. But, as you’ve pointed out in the past, Romney is an awkward campaigner and someone who seems to want to be liked in general. The net result is that he avoids taking a clear side on these issues.

    As Michael Renyolds has pointed out time and time again, even more so than liars, American’s hate phonies (something to do with “Catcher in the Rye,” I think). Romney’s problem is that moments like this, as they did with Kerry, tend to set off folks phonies alarm.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  44. michael reynolds says:

    I assume you guys have all seen this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/14/obama-ad-firms-slams-romn_n_1673112.html

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  45. anjin-san says:

    this is why I keep coming back to the notion of “privilege” with Romney. I think, generally speaking, he’s been able to largely have things both ways for most of his life.

    I think this is spot on. Romney’s entitlement issues have entitlement issues. He is used to being able to fudge, cut corners, bend (or break) the truth, and get away with it, scott free. He is probably genuinely perplexed that there are now millions of people saying “sorry Charlie, that won’t play.”

    He has basically lived the life of a prince, and now he is getting battered on the rocks and shoals of the more egalitarian world that most of us inhabit.

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  46. mattb says:

    One other thought… While Romney might be an awkward campaigner, I also think he’s a disciplined one, as long as he’s in control.

    If we go back to the debates, his worst performances and unforced errors almost always occurred when someone (fairly or unfairly) landed a single blow and then pressed the advantage. Granted he doesn’t have the glass jaw that some folks thought he had, but he’s not particularly good when moving backwards.

    The real thing to watch here is how long it takes him — as his campaign — to put this thing to bed and move on. If they can’t do that soon, I suspect we will begin to see worse and worse errors coming from the Romney camp in the coming days.

    I’m still doubtful it may change anyone’s minds now, but one has to wonder how much of this will be generating quotes and soundbites that will resurface at or after the conventions and in the debates.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  47. jukeboxgrad says:

    john:

    I doubt that anyone on the Democratic side really believed crimes

    Everyone knows there will be no prosecution, but there is no doubt that a crime was committed, because statements Mitt made to SEC contradict statements he made to FEC (as Nikki has mentioned). Stephanie Cutter’s “felony” statement could have been even more forceful.

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  48. Jeremy R says:

    The Boston Globe has a followup Bain story today:
    http://bostonglobe.com/metro/2012/07/13/evidence-mounts-mitt-romney-continuing-ties-bain-after/w9vGMpkCKg1GaYdaU8l8GL/story.html

    It was not until 2002 that Romney finalized a severance agreement with Bain, a 10-year deal with undisclosed terms that was retroactive to 1999.

    Financial disclosure forms Romney filed in Massachusetts indicate he earned at least $100,000 as a Bain “executive” in 2001 and 2002, separate from investment earnings.

    In addition, Bloomberg news service reported Friday, Romney is named as one of two managing members of Bain Capital Investors LLC in annual reports filed in Massachusetts as late as 2002, “adding a new corporate entity to a growing number of Bain-related investments and funds that list the Republican presidential candidate as controlling the company three years after he said he left it.”

    On the day after Romney took over the Winter Olympics, the Boston Herald reported that “Romney said he will stay on as a part-timer with Bain, providing input on investment and key personnel decisions.”

    On July 19, 1999, a news release about the resignation of two Bain Capital managing directors describes Romney as CEO and “currently on a part-time leave of absence to head the Salt Lake City Olympic Committee.”

    A Harvard Business School bulletin from October 1999 reported that “Romney is currently on leave as CEO of Bain Capital” and not that he had “retired” from Bain. In a November 2000 interview with the Globe, Romney’s wife, Ann, said he had been forced to lessen, but not end entirely, his involvement with Bain Capital.

    Romney also testified that “there were a number of social trips and business trips that brought [him] back to Massachusetts, board meetings” while he was running the Olympics. He added that he remained on the boards of several companies, including the Lifelike Co., in which Bain Capital held a stake until 2001.

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  49. michael reynolds says:

    @mattb:

    Yeah, aren’t you surprised that he hasn’t handled this better? This shouldn’t be that hard, but it goes to that privilege and the resultant cluelessness. He doesn’t realize how this plays because he’s never been an average American.

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  50. mattb says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Yeah, aren’t you surprised that he hasn’t handled this better?

    Actually, I’m not in the least bit surprised. These sort of issues have always been a problem for him.

    This shouldn’t be that hard, but it goes to that privilege and the resultant cluelessness. He doesn’t realize how this plays because he’s never been an average American.

    Right… and that speaks to part of the problem — it’s one thing to say that you will care and work for Average Americans. It’s entirely different to say that you ARE an “Average American.”

    In the past, you could be Republican and outwardly not be an Average American. If anything, I’d say it was harder to do that and be a Democrat. But in recent years, for a variety of reasons (in part what you mentioned way up on the thread), to be a Republican Candidate you need to “BE” an “Average American.”

    Romney’s Wealth + Privilege + Mormonism (and I need to include that, like it or not) prevent that from being possible. And so he’s got to play the role. The problem is he plays it uncomfortably. And the moment a crack forms, he overcompensates in a way that hurts him.

    Ironically, beyond a firm belief that I’d hate his appointee’s to a number of key agencies and his Supreme Court Nominees, I tend to think that he actually would be an OK president (far better than anyone else in the primaries after Huntsman dropped out). And a lot of that has to do with the fact that he isn’t an “Average American” (for better or worse).

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  51. john personna says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    Can’t the filings be true and the “crisp” (and retroactive, LOL) departure be the part made up?

    James seems to think one can be sole owner, chairman, CEO, and president, while having “nothing to do with what was going on” but most conservatives have abandoned that argument.

    They rightly see a transition (which would be natural) and see Romney selling it badly.

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  52. rudderpedals says:

    @mattb: I agree about the greater impact on the base than the general public. The moneyed component of the base, the big business element personified by say Rupert Murdoch or the donors seeking the VIP entrance, are panicking and pushing now for a Game Changer even though right now it’s hard to see it moving the social conservatives much.

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  53. jukeboxgrad says:

    Can’t the filings be true

    In FEC forms he signed in 2011 and 2012, Mitt said this: “Romney retired from Bain Capital on February 11, 1999.” Meanwhile, he signed multiple SEC forms after 2/99, stating that he was CEO etc. How can all those statements be true?

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  54. anjin-san says:

    he’s justified in arguing that he had nothing to do with what was going on at Bain if he in fact wasn’t at Bain.

    Is that really what he is arguing? What I am hearing is that he is saying his relationship had ended utterly, and there is a hard, well defined line between when he was at Bain and when he left to become involved in the Olympics. This does not appear to be the case.

    Romney has two problems here. He is running from the record of the company that is his creation – the one that made him rich – and in doing so, he may well have flat out lied to the voters and turned a spotlight on some of his character flaws at the same time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  55. Drew says:

    Sorry to burst bubbles. Every PE firm I’m familiar with (-and ive see and particiapeted in a boatload of them) has two governing documents. The first is the LP agreement that runs between the management company and the limited partners. The second is the operating agreement that runs between the partners, and now, with most management companies being LLCs, the members.

    Governance and economics are clearly delineated, in great detail. And it is not uncommon at all for founding partners to retain residual economic interests through ownership, while forgoing all governance rights or influence. Our founding partners did. They didn’t control squat. It happens all the time.

    Of all institutions, the WAPO gave this three pinnochios. At least they some sense of honesty.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 12

  56. michael reynolds says:

    Maybe Romney can do the same thing if he’s elected president: keep the salary, the house, the plane, the title, the credit for all the good stuff, but designate someone else to run things ‘day to day’ and take any blame.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  57. john personna says:

    Romney did not say “good-bye, suckerz” and then sign for the suckerz with the SEC.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  58. jukeboxgrad says:

    drew:

    it is not uncommon at all for founding partners to retain residual economic interests through ownership, while forgoing all governance rights or influence

    Show us an example where someone is sole owner of a company and somehow has no “governance rights or influence.” That’s a contradiction in terms.

    And then answer what I asked you here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  59. mattb says:

    @Drew:

    Governance and economics are clearly delineated, in great detail. And it is not uncommon at all for founding partners to retain residual economic interests through ownership, while forgoing all governance rights or influence. Our founding partners did. They didn’t control squat. It happens all the time.

    Seriously question — did they retain the title of “CEO” (or any other type of “EO”).

    Coming out of the corporate world, it’s hard to imagine any scenario in which the CEO of a company could retain that title AND be on a three year leave of absence.

    That said, I know private equity is a different world. The question is how many other people will accept that.

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  60. An Interested Party says:

    Sorry to burst bubbles.

    Oh you needn’t worry, as you aren’t…most people won’t understand the particulars of this nor will they be willing to get down into the weeds to understand the details, but the overall meme, the big picture message is what is hurting and will continue to hurt Romney, as well as his and his campaign’s handling of all of this…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  61. michael reynolds says:

    Shorter Drew:

    We terribly important business people pull sh!t like this all the time therefore it’s okay, so shut up peasants.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  62. al-Ameda says:

    Part of Romney’s problem with Bain is that prior to the 2008 crash of the financial markets most Americans did not care much about how firms like Bain operated. We did for a while during the tech bubble bust, then we were back to not caring.

    Well, now that people know that people like Romney made a fortune in large part by acquiring firms and stripping out assets and laying off workers, it’s harder to sell people on the happiness and joy that is Bain.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  63. mattb says:

    @Drew:

    Governance and economics are clearly delineated, in great detail. And it is not uncommon at all for founding partners to retain residual economic interests through ownership, while forgoing all governance rights or influence. Our founding partners did. They didn’t control squat. It happens all the time.

    To @An Interested Party’s point that “you may be right, but people won’t understand it,” one problem that Romney faces is that he’s running into the myth of the “heroic and hands on” CEO which came of age during the Reagan years.

    Since the 80′s our culture in general, and the Republican Party in particular, has celebrated the idea of the CEO as a visionary leader who is deeply engaged with the direction of his company (if not out right turns it around). From Lee Iaccoca to Jack Welch to Steve Jobs to Meg Whitman, CEO’s are portrayed as charismatic leaders who make sure that their company gets things done. In fact, George W. Bush explicitly ran on the idea that what the country needed is a CEO-in-chief.

    The challenge for Romney is that, on the one hand, he’s repeating that same rhetoric and, on the other hand, is basically saying that he was a CEO in name only for at least three years. While I concede that this may be the norm for PE firms, I think you should be able to see how that creates a certain degree of cognative dissonance with the general population’s understanding of what an (industrial) CEO is.

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  64. michael reynolds says:

    What Romney’s saying is, “As a CEO and owner of a company I was able to set aside such parochial and irrelevant matters as patriotism, loyalty to workers, or concern for regular people. And now, based on that experience, I want to be president.”

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  65. jukeboxgrad says:

    he was a CEO in name only for at least three years

    Mitt has a much bigger problem. People are figuring out that the only company he ever ran is a company that created nothing tangible, and mostly made money by taking other companies apart.

    the idea of the CEO as a visionary leader … Lee Iaccoca to Jack Welch to Steve Jobs to Meg Whitman

    The CEOs we admire build something real, that people understand and need. Vulture capitalism a/k/a financial engineering is a different animal; it’s essentially organized crime with better diplomas and suits.

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  66. gVOR08 says:

    @James Joyner: I appreciate that you independently see in this situation the point I made at Doug’s post – ” I’m really impressed by Romney’s management skills. He seems to have always been completely in charge when good things happened and totally uninvolved when bad things happened. According to Romney.”

    So it’s all good, and I won’t belabor the more than theoretical difference between Romney having said on the phone or at a social event something like, ‘I’m good with the deal with the Chinese outsourcing company, go for it’ and not having said anything like that. And I’ll concede the non- provability of such a hypothetical statement.

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  67. jukeboxgrad says:

    From a WP thread:

    Mitts Dogma is strapped to the roof of his Karma.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  68. rudderpedals says:

    Today’s Boston Globe reports Romney was a genral partner in some entities and the managing member of others. Governance in these sorts of entities is intentionally opaque (feature, not a bug). Without knowing more it boggles that a reasonable person would retain all of the personal liability GPs and managers retain while ceding authority to others.

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  69. mattb says:

    Mitt has a much bigger problem. People are figuring out that the only company he ever ran is a company that created nothing tangible, and mostly made money by taking other companies apart. … Vulture capitalism a/k/a financial engineering is a different animal; it’s essentially organized crime with better diplomas and suits.

    While I agree with the sentiment, I think this will potentially fly over the heads of most voters. I hope I am proven wrong as I think a broader cultural conversation on “vulture capitalism” is long overdue.

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  70. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: I think “nothing to do” clearly overstated the situation. But I can see where, in both his own mind and his sense of what he was conveying to the public, he would think “someone else is calling the shots” and “nothing to do” are synonymous. Having gone from a hands-on manager to simply owning and having the right to veto decisions is a quantum jump.

    As noted previously in the thread, my current sense of what happened here is that the story isn’t “Mitt lied” but “Mitt’s trying to have it both ways.” Not that Mitt’s above lying–I’m not at all pleased with his casualness with the truth on some issues. I just think it’s plausible that he wasn’t trying to mislead here and that stating the honest truth might actually have been more misleading. That is, because the reality is complicated, simply saying “nothing to do” actually comes closer to the right received message than “CEO but actually someone else was running the place and caveat 1, caveat 2, caveat 3.”

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  71. jukeboxgrad says:

    I think this will potentially fly over the heads of most voters

    I think there are a lot of people who have a visceral sense that certain kinds of capitalism (like what Mitt did) are toxic and dishonest, even if they can’t articulate the details of what that means and how it works.

    I think a broader cultural conversation on “vulture capitalism” is long overdue

    Yes, and I think that conversation is underway. It was started by Newt, of all people. Look at what I said six months ago:

    Professor Newt has just launched a national seminar on this subject. Mitt/Bain is the perfect case study, and Professor Newt is the perfect teacher. He is actually knowledgable and articulate on the subject. … The subject matter is timely and important, and a lot of people are going to learn things about capitalism that the GOP would prefer them to not know.

    Mitt is providing an inadvertent public service by creating this situation.

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  72. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:
    my current sense of what happened here is that the story isn’t “Mitt lied” but “Mitt’s trying to have it both ways.”

    Yes, and the “two ways” are:
    1) What happened
    2) A bunch of b.s.

    Usually when we have what happened on the one hand, and a bunch of b.s. on the other, the second thing is called a lie.

    Of course it can only be a lie if Mr. Romney knows the truth, and let’s face it, truth and Romney don’t overlap much. I’m increasingly convinced that Mitt Romney doesn’t actually know what truth is.

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  73. anjin-san says:

    Mitt’s trying to have it both ways.

    And that, apparently, is something he makes a habit of, and feels he is entitled to. It kind of goes to character. Like presenting a violent, humiliating attack on a weaker classmate as madcap hijinks that might have gone a bit too far.

    Romeny is a bright guy. He has impressive business skills. But he is something of a weasel, and that is a bad thing in a President…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  74. mattb says:

    @James Joyner:

    I just think it’s plausible that he wasn’t trying to mislead here and that stating the honest truth might actually have been more misleading. That is, because the reality is complicated, simply saying “nothing to do” actually comes closer to the right received message than “CEO but actually someone else was running the place and caveat 1, caveat 2, caveat 3.”

    Again, I think this is exactly the case.

    The problem he faces is that the idea of a “CEO that doesn’t run the place” is completely counter to the general populations concept of what a CEO does.

    Beyond that, I agree with all of that Jukebox.

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  75. jukeboxgrad says:

    the general populations concept of what a CEO does

    It goes back to the important thing davebo said: “You can delegate authority but not responsibility.”

    Part of “the general populations concept of what a CEO does,” and correctly so, is that the boss/owner/CEO is always ultimately responsible, even if they have delegated tasks to others. What Mitt is showing, again, is that he’s a coward, not a leader.

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  76. michael reynolds says:

    @anjin-san:
    A representative of the Weasel Anti-Defamation League is looking for you.

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  77. al-Ameda says:

    @anjin-san:

    Romeny is a bright guy. He has impressive business skills. But he is something of a weasel, and that is a bad thing in a President…

    Remember when people mocked Clinton for triangulating everything, for maneuvering to maximize a political advantage (or minimize political damage) in many situations? Well Bill, for all the mocking, actually had pretty good instincts. Mitt on the other hand consistently comes off as a phony, as a central casting send up of a “typical politician.” Mitt cannot triangulate any issue, no matter how hard he tries.

    This Bain stuff shows Romney doing what he has been doing for about a year and a half now – explain, refute, re-explain, equivocate …. nothing new here.

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  78. anjin-san says:

    Bill, for all the mocking, actually had pretty good instincts.

    Clinton certainly has his faults. But he also has a remarkable intellect and brilliant political instincts – he was able to get through the rough patches on sheer talent. Romney is Jim Everett to Clinton’s Joe Montana…

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  79. lib cap says:

    Man…

    So easily this could have gone away for Bishop Willard.

    Release the returns, and cut the legs off the story.

    But…. NNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooo !!!!!

    Now, it’s likely the ” Bain ” of his existence.

    Awwwwww… poor lil Richie Rich…..

    Looks like you just can’t have a presidency given to you because thou tall and have “good” hair.

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  80. Spartacus says:

    @lib cap: :Release the returns, and cut the legs off the story.”

    I don’t think there’s any way in the world that Romney will ever release those tax returns because doing so may very well expose him to criminal liability in light of the contradictory statements he’s made to the SEC and the FEC.

    He’s not holding on to those tax returns because of the the extremely low tax rate he paid on millions and millions of dollars. We already know from the return he did release that he made a boat load of money and hardly paid any taxes.

    He’s withholding his tax returns because they will most likely show that Bain counted his salary as a business expense and that was used to reduce Bain’s taxable income. If Romney was not actually a Bain employee who worked for that salary Bain should not be entitled to write off his salary.

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  81. jd says:

    Romney is nowhere near as charismatic as Richard Gere, but if he could identify a Pretty Woman, would it help his cause?

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  82. jukeboxgrad says:

    More proof that Mitt lied. On 11/9/11, he said this (video here and here):

    I worked at one company, Bain, for 25 years.

    His campaign must think that number is solid, because they recycled that statement and made it part of a commercial. Sounds like he was carelessly admitting that he didn’t leave Bain until 2002. He started at Bain in 1977. 1977+25=2002.

    This is the statement he made to the FEC, twice, in 2011 and 2012: “Romney retired from Bain Capital on February 11, 1999.” If that claim is true, then he was at Bain for 21-22 years. An honest person would describe that as ‘over 20 years.’ Not “25 years.”

    I thought he’s supposed to be data-oriented, disciplined, cautious, and a careful planner. So it’s remarkable that he made this blunder, contradicting the date he gave FEC, and it’s remarkable that he then amplified the blunder by putting the same statement in a commercial. But I guess he has so many fictitious narratives that it’s hard for him to make sure that they don’t collide with each other.

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  83. Buzz Buzz says:

    Is the next step for you Bainers to put up some YouTube videos proving that fire can’t melt steel?

    Or maybe you could film an entire Bainer documentary exploring the whole vast dark conspiracy. You could call it Loose Bain.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  84. An Interested Party says:

    Best line I’ve seen so far about this story…

    “I did not have a business relationship with that company, Bain Capital!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  85. jukeboxgrad says:

    Is the next step for you Bainers to put up some YouTube videos proving that fire can’t melt steel?

    No, the next step is for Mitt to put up a video explaining how it’s possible to be the Chairman, CEO and President of Bain Capital while also having “no role with regards to Bain Capital.”

    Also how it’s possible to have “no responsibility whatsoever” for what the company did even though he was the sole owner.

    Also how it makes sense for him to take credit for jobs allegedly created by Bain long after 2002, while denying responsibility for certain bad things Bain did before 2002.

    I’d really like to hear someone explain this. Since Mitt can’t, maybe you can.

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  86. al-Ameda says:

    @Buzz Buzz:

    Or maybe you could film an entire Bainer documentary exploring the whole vast dark conspiracy. You could call it Loose Bain.

    or maybe … just maybe … Mitt could provide a simple explanation of his tenure at Bain Capital without retracting, contradicting, or re-explaining it to us soon thereafter?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  87. Barry says:

    @john personna: The equivalent here would be if Obama had said that he had ‘left the presidency’. And then ‘retroactively left it’. While his signature was on bills during that time.

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  88. Barry says:

    @mattb: “Ironically, beyond a firm belief that I’d hate his appointee’s to a number of key agencies and his Supreme Court Nominees, I tend to think that he actually would be an OK president (far better than anyone else in the primaries after Huntsman dropped out). And a lot of that has to do with the fact that he isn’t an “Average American” (for better or worse). ”

    I disagree. He was a ruthless SOB as a businessman; as a president (with a GOP Congress) he could get away with vastly more.

    Think of Dubya with drive, ambition and solid business experience. But with no more conscience.

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  89. Barry says:

    @Drew: “Governance and economics are clearly delineated, in great detail. And it is not uncommon at all for founding partners to retain residual economic interests through ownership, while forgoing all governance rights or influence. ”

    (1) Since when does ‘residual economic interests through ownership’ include 100% ownership? Not 10%, 100%.

    (2) As has been pointed out, Romney was the sole director and the CEO and the president. ‘Governance’ here meant Romney.

    (3) As has been pointed out, Romney’s story is different, depending on which set of documents one believes.

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