Gingrich SuperPAC’s Anti-Romney Film Fails The Fact Check Test

The Washington Post’s Fact Checker took a look at “King Of Bain,” the 27 minute film released yesterday by the pro-Gingrich SuperPAC attacking Mitt Romney’s career at Bain Capital, and found it wanting:

Newt Gingrich, meet Michael Moore!

The 29-minute video “King of Bain” is such an over-the-top assault on former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney that it is hard to know where to begin. It uses evocative footage from distraught middle-class Americans who allege that Romney’s deal-making is responsible for their woes. It mixes images of closed factories and shuttered shops with video clips of Romney making him look foolish, vain or greedy. And it has a sneering voice-over that seeks to push every anti-Wall Street button possible.

Here’s just a sampling of what Romney and Bain Capital, which he once headed, is accused of: “Stripping American businesses of assets, selling everything to the highest bidder and often killing jobs for big financial rewards . . . high disdain for American businesses and workers . . . upended the company and dismantled the work force; now they were able to make a handsome profit . . . cash rampage . . . contributing to the greatest American job loss since World War II . . . turn the misfortune of others into their own enormous financial gain.”

The video ends with a crescendo of images of despair, with voices of the victims adding emotional punch: “A lot of lives were ruined . . . he took away our livelihoods . . . he took away our future . . . he destroyed a lot of homes . . . it all gets back to greed.” (Irritatingly, few of these ordinary citizens are identified.)

First, as Joe Friday used to say, just the facts ma’am:

First of all, it is a stretch to portray Romney as some sort of corporate raider, akin to Carl Icahn (whose image is briefly seen).  Bain Capital initially was in the business of providing venture capital — seed money — for start-ups, such as Staples. Then it moved to the more lucrative business of private equity, in which Bain won control of firms, reorganized them and then sold them for profit. (Our colleague Suzy Khimm earlier this week did an excellent job of explaining the two sides of Bain Capital.)

Private equity deals, such as leveraged buyouts in which the company borrows lots of debt, can be more rewarding but also more risky. Some of those deals went bad for Bain, which sometimes happens in finance, though the company usually made money anyway. New York magazine, which the film cites as a source, recently ran an excellent profile of Romney in which it explored Romney’s pioneering role in the then-emerging field of private equity. Private equity revolutionized American business, demanding efficiencies (which can mean layoffs) and helping place much more emphasis on increasing shareholder value.

The movie pejoratively claims that the “Bain Way” was shorthand for being able to “turn the misfortunes of others into their enormous financial gains.” Bain Capital was actually an offshoot of Bain & Company, a consulting firm, and the “Bain Way” refers to its heavily analytical and data-driven approach to problems.

The article goes on to review each of the four transactions that were covered in the film, and it’s very clear the the film distorts the truth about the deals, and leaves out any mention about the positive benefits that the injection of private equity had for each of these company. As the article goes on to note, whether or not the private equity business as a whole is a good thing is an entirely different question, but it seems fairly obvious that this attack film is full of distortions and outright lies. Hence, it gets the lowest rating possible:

Romney may have opened the door to this kind of attack with his suspect job-creation claims, but that is no excuse for this highly misleading portrayal of Romney’s years at Bain Capital. Only one of the four case studies directly involves Romney and his decision-making, while at least two are completely off point. The manipulative way the interviews appeared to have been gathered for the UniMac segment alone discredits the entire film.

Wasn’t Gingrich complaining about unfair SuperPAC ads in Iowa just two weeks ago?

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Quick Takes, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Fiona says:

    Wasn’t Gingrich complaining about unfair SuperPAC ads in Iowa just two weeks ago?

    Why yes, he was but, with Gingrich, hypocrisy is simply a given.

    I’m not sure that the “facts” will matter nearly as much as the emotional impact of the film. Romney already has a compassion gap; he comes across as less than human and less than sympathetic to the concerns of ordinary people. This film will reinforce an image a lot of people already have of him, plus point out that he made his millions on the misery of a lot of laid-off workers. Whether the practices of his company were good or bad for the economy and whether the case studies presented are completely accurate aren’t going to matter too much to people who can identify with the laid-off workers as opposed to the Harvard-educated elitist candidate.

    This ad campaign has the potential to do real damage to a front runner of last resort, even if it doesn’t derail his nomination.

  2. mantis says:

    I think we need a special IOKIYAR for the salamander. IOKIYAN: It’s OK if you’re a newt.

  3. mattb says:

    I suspect, that if this discussion keeps going, that once the general public begins actually understand how a private equity firm works — including the fact that they often go after businesses with large reserves of money and, after taking that business over, convert that surplus into debt (under the theory that money that is sitting is money that either is wasted or should be returned to investors) — that there will be a real discussion about is all capitalism good for the nation.

  4. murray says:

    “Film Fails The Fact Check Test”

    Since when do facts matter in political campaigns?

    We even went to war on pseudo Ton-kin Gulf incidents and non-existent WMDs.

  5. Jim Henley says:

    Doug, you could do a real service in a post like this by quoting the part where the reporter actually shows the film gets facts wrong. Your second blockquote, for instance, is just gauze: it makes literally no factual case. The third at least makes a factual claim or two, but it’s thesis statements rather than supporting paragraphs.

    I know you’re not in the business of re-quoting the entire article, but the parts you quote don’t inspire confidence that there’s anything to the article.

  6. Hey Norm says:

    Imortant to note that what Romney claims he did at Bain isn’t accurate either…so it’s a wash.

  7. Eric says:

    Kind of weird that Gingrich is using a class war kind of tactic to use against Romney. I thought there wasn’t a class war and Obama is just using that for votes.

    Me confused.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    Nice try, Doug, and I know you’ll write many, many more posts defending your nominee. But it won’t work any more than this worked. Romney may be the best you guys have got, but that’s just proof of how far the GOP has fallen. This is what you’ve got: a desperate weathervane of a man, un-liked, unloved, with nothing but a pocket full of demonstrably failed policy ideas, and a howling void inside him.

  9. He’s not my nominee, Michael. I suggest you read the linked article, which discusses in detail the misrepresentations in this film

  10. An Interested Party says:

    Considering the disingenuous way that Romney has tried to paint the President as “apologizing” for America, all of this couldn’t be happening to a more appropriate person…

  11. DRS says:

    The thing is, what’s really happening is two visions of capitalism colliding head on. For people who get laid off from jobs they’ve worked for many years, capitalism means you go to work, work hard when you’re there and don’t slack off, don’t steal company property, take pride in not needing welfare and paying off your mortage in the appropriate time, joining the company volleyball league, knowing your kids are going to the same Scout meetings your fellow workers’ kids go to, and eventually retiring with a nice party on your last day and maybe a cake, if your spouse promises faithfully not to tell your doctor who wants you to lose weight that you had the biggest slice. Then you go into retirement knowing that you did your best at all times.

    Capitalism for Romney and other big-picture types is what he was doing at Bain. I am fully prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was an honest businessman who didn’t cut corners. I’ll even say he would never deliberately harm another human being (although he does seem to have a lack of imagination about other peoples’ lives that can make you wince and I certainly wouldn’t describe him as naturally empathetic.)

    But what does that matter to the 55 year old factory guy who worked at one of the three major employers in his town, has stills that are now outmoded and is too old to start over again? This guy votes – spreadsheets don’t vote. Romney can’t have it both ways: a few weeks ago he was gung-ho middle class and the wealthy can take care of themselves; now it’s “envy” if the wealthy are criticized. Make up your mind, Mitt. People are paying attention.

  12. Pug says:

    Facts, shmacts. Nobody cares about facts in politics.

    Al Gore never said he invented the Internet and John Kerry was a decorated war hero.

    Gore became a liar and a braggart and Kerry became a conniving coward.

    We’ll see what Romney becomes. My guess is a lot of those “envious” little people are not going to like the guy one bit.

  13. Pug says:

    And by the way, it’s Republicans bringing this up. His own party.

  14. mattb says:

    @DRS:
    This is a really astute statement. The two systems have entirely different logic and expression.

    Unfortunately the Bain version — like other forms of Capitalism that emerge out of the financial industry — are pretty complex. I’d argue far more complex that most people in the “go to work, punch the clock” version realize. And once folks in the prior begin to understand the later category… well, perhaps an important discussion will finally take place (and I expect this to happen sometime around September, btw).

  15. DRS says:

    Thank you, Mattb, for your kind remark. I could have summed it up better if I’d said that for many Americans capitalism is a cultural thing, not the economic thing it is for Romney. If you work hard in this country, generations of people believed, you’d prosper. But what happens if you work hard all your life and someone or some company you’ve never heard of rips the rug out from under your feet? Are you prepared to just resign yourself to being part of the creative destruction that is capitalism? I’m guessing not.

  16. LaurenceB says:

    What Jim Henley said.

  17. An Interested Party says:

    I’m sure the Swiftboating campaign used against John Kerry would also have failed the Washington Post’s fact check test, but the results of that campaign speak for themselves…

    Make up your mind, Mitt.

    He isn’t called Multiple Choice Mitt for nothing…