Since the Obama campaigned opened a line of attack in the past few weeks over Mitt Romney’s departure time from Bain Capital, the private equity firm he helped launch in 1984, the responses and opinions have been all over the map. Here is a taste of the various extremes of opinions on all sides of the question.
First, from CNN, political analyst David Gergen, no fan of Romney himself, defends Romney’s tenure at Bain and his timeline of departure:
(CNN) — There may be a number of good reasons to vote against Mitt Romney, but based upon what we know so far, his honesty about his tenure at Bain Capital does not seem to be one of them.
Let me acknowledge upfront what I have said several times on CNN: I have a past relationship with the top partners at Bain that is both personal and financial. I have worked with them in support of nonprofit organizations such as City Year. I have given a couple of paid speeches for Bain dinners, as I have for many other groups. I was on the board of a for-profit child care company, Bright Horizons, that was purchased by Bain Capital. It was a transaction with financial benefits for all board members and shareholders, including me.
Has Romney basically lied about when he actually departed Bain? Has he tried to mislead the public or investors? Here we come to the heart of the recent controversy. I may be wrong but based on what we know so far, I would conclude that we do not have persuasive evidence to show that he has.
Romney has argued for years that after he was called in to rescue the Salt Lake City Olympics in February 1999, he turned his full attentions there and no longer exercised active management at Bain. The story is a complicated one because Bain was a complex partnership and because the company filed various SEC papers after February 1999 still listing Romney in various key roles, including CEO and chairman. But if one takes time to look behind the SEC filings, what emerges is much more supportive of Romney’s statements.
Gergen also said in the article that Romney has not handled these attacks well and is partly to blame for the poor response and media inquiry into this topic. Gergen also would like to see Romney’s tax returns from more than just 2 years.
On the flipside of this argument, The Caucus blog from the New York Times sums up the Obama campaign’s position on this issue which essentially doubled-down on the Sunday political shows this past weekend:
Top surrogates for President Obama on Sunday shrugged off Mitt Romney’s demand for a presidential apology for campaign attacks and instead hammered at Mr. Romney’s business record, accused his former firm of shipping American jobs overseas, suggested he might be hiding damaging information and renewed demands that he release more back tax returns.
The withering attacks appeared to knock the Romney campaign off stride, at least temporarily, as it seeks to shift the national discussion back from a debate about the former governor’s business instincts, extensive wealth and complicated tax history to the tepid growth of jobs and the economy under Mr. Obama. And even some Republicans called for Mr. Romney to release more tax returns.
One Obama surrogate, Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, a former White House chief of staff, offered a blunt suggestion to Mr. Romney, who said on Friday that the attacks on him and the private equity firm he once headed, Bain Capital, were “beneath the dignity of the presidency.”
“I give him his own advice,” Mr. Emanuel said on ABC’s “This Week”: “stop whining.”
Romney personally took to the airwaves last Friday to respond, here is his interview with Bret Baier on the Fox News Channel:
This story is murky in all directions but I don’t think there is enough kindling here to start a fire. The most plausible explanation may be that Romney left Bain to manage the Olympics while leaving open the option to return within a couple years. During that time, he did not have any direct involvement with Bain and obviously did not return to his former position following his time managing the Salt Lake City Olympic games.
This explanation is found in The Caucus blog post mentioned above:
Mr. Gillespie said that after Mr. Romney took a leave of absence from Bain in 1999 to head the troubled Salt Lake City Olympics organization, he had nothing to do with Bain management. The Olympics effort was a “16-hour-a-day job,” Mr. Gillespie said, and Mr. Romney “retired retroactively to February of 1999 as a result.”
Mr. Romney’s insistence that he had no decision-making role at Bain after 1999 drew vocal support on Sunday from a former managing director there, Edward Conard.
Because Mr. Romney was so intimately involved in the company’s founding and development, Mr. Conard said on MSNBC, “we had a very complicated set of negotiations that took us about two years to unwind” the Romney role.
“During that time, a management team ran the firm, and we could hardly even get Mitt to come back to negotiate the terms of his departure, because he was working so hard on the Olympics,” he said.
While conceding that Mr. Romney “legally” remained the firm’s chief executive, Mr. Conard said he did not remember Mr. Romney’s taking part in any meetings.
The truth here may be Romney’s poor explanation and poor response to this line of attack since a close examination, even from those who don’t support him for President, seem to find no wrongdoing on the part of Romney other than poor communication on this topic.