Romney’s Bain Asset Turns Into a Liability

Sunday shows were tough for Mitt Romney as conservative commentators and elected officials alike blasted Mitt Romney for not releasing his tax returns. Romney advisors scrambled to reason when exactly the candidate retired from Bain Capital. The chorus of calls for Romney to release his tax returns is growing louder nationally – and it’s certain that this was not the morning his campaign was hoping for.

And while the Romney campaign said throughout the primary season that Romney “retired” from Bain Capital in February of 1999, top advisor Ed Gillespie walked it back on “Meet the Press” by suggesting that he actually “retroactively retired.” (Gillespie’s comment is between the 1:45 and 1:55 mark)

This sparked a twitter backlash, with #retroactively becoming the top twitter trend in the US by noon.

Sunday show highlights: 

FACE THE NATION: Cutter:  What World is Romney Living in That He Wasn’t in Charge?
On “Face the Nation”, OFA Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter highlighted the contradictory reports on the date of Mitt Romney’s departure from Bain Capital and said that as the President, CEO, Chairman of the Board, and 100% owner of Bain, the buck stopped with Mitt Romney.

STATE OF THE UNION: Axelrod: Romney Believes The “Buck Stops There” 
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Obama for America senior strategist David Axelrod said that if Mitt Romney were elected, he’d have a placard on his desk that reads, “the buck stops there.” Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that Romney signed attest to the fact that he was CEO, Chairman, President, and sole shareholder of Bain Capital through 2001, yet he is attempting to evade responsibility for the job losses, outsourcing, and bankruptcies that occurred under his control and that he continued to profit from.

FOX NEWS SUNDAY: Kristol: Romney Needs To Release Additional Tax Returns “Tomorrow”
On “Fox News Sunday,” conservative commentator William Kristol said that Mitt Romney must release additional years of tax returns, and he must do it “tomorrow.” Romney has broken with the precedent set by his father, who released 12 years of tax returns when he ran for President. Romney has said he’d release only two years worth of returns.

THIS WEEK: Emanuel: As President, You Can’t Have A Sign On Your Desk That Says “Gone Fishing”
On ABC’s “This Week,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel discussed Mitt Romney’s attempts to evade responsibility for the outsourcing, job losses, and bankruptcies at Bain Capital. Mayor Emanuel said that as President, you can’t have a sign on your desk that says, “gone fishing.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel also talked about Mitt Romney’s refusal to disclose additional tax returns, breaking with the precedent set by his own father, who released 12 years worth of returns when he ran for President.  The Romney campaign has decided they’d rather face criticism for a lack of transparency than reveal what’s in his tax returns. So, what is Mitt Romney hiding?

THIS WEEK: Will: Romney Must Have Calculated That There Are “Higher Costs” in Releasing Returns
On “This Week,” columnist George Will highlighted the high costs of Mitt Romney not releasing his tax returns and concluded that it must mean there are “higher costs” in releasing them.

MEET THE PRESS: Durbin: Romney Fails to Meet GOP’s Minimum Disclosure Requirement for Cabinet Nominees
On “Meet the Press,” Senator Dick Durbin highlighted how Mitt Romney’s flouting of decades of precedent of presidential candidates releasing multiple years of tax returns, which was set in motion by his father in 1968, falls short of disclosure requirements that Republican Senators have demanded for President Obama’s cabinet nominees.

In a memo to interested parties Obama for America National Press Secretary Ben LaBolt outlined “Unanswered Questions About Mitt Romney’s “Retroactive Retirement”:

Romney surrogates are now arguing that Romney “retroactively retired” from Bain by unwinding his ownership and relinquishing his executive titles years after he claims he left in 1999, failing to mention he remained legally responsible for its actions during that period as well as compensated for both investments and his work as an executive.  Leading Republicans, from Governors Barbour and Bentley to NRCC Chairman Congressman Pete Sessions to Former RNC Chairman Michael Steele to Bill Kristol have called for Mitt Romney to release additional years worth of returns to clear up questions about his continued involvement in Bain Capital when American jobs were outsourced and companies went bankrupt.

Forbes has listed 35 questions Mitt Romney must answer:

A few of the critical questions Romney must answer include:

  1. Are you contending that an individual can simultaneously be the CEO, president, managing director of a company, and its sole stockholder and somehow be “disassociated” from the company or accurately classified as someone not having “any” formal involvement with a company?
  2. You have stated that in “Feb. 1999 I left Bain capital and all management responsibility” and “I had no ongoing activity or involvement.” It depends on what the definition of “involvement” is, doesn’t it? Clearly you were involved with Bain to the extent that you owned it. Are you defining “involvement” in a uniquely specific way that only means “full-time, active, 60-hours-a-week, hands-on manager?”
  3. You earned at least $100,000 as an executive from Bain in 2001 and 2002, separate from investment earnings according to filings with State of Massachusetts. Can you give an example of anyone else you personally know getting a six figure income, not dividend or investment return, but actual income, from a company they had nothing to do with?
  4. What did you do for this $100,000 salary you earned from Bain in both 2000 and 2001?
  5. In 2002, you are listed as one of two managing members of Bain Capital Investors LLC in its annual report. What does this mean?
  6. If, in fact, you did not veto any major investment decision during your 1999 though 2002 ownership, doesn’t that imply your broad consent of management’s decisions?
  7. According to the Boston Globe, “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.” You testified that while running the Olympics you took a number of business trips to Massachusetts and for board meetings for companies including Lifelike Co. Bain had a stake in this company until 2001. Are you contending that you could attend board meetings for Lifelike Co at the same time Bain Capital had a stake in Lifelike Co and at the same time you owned the stock of Bain Capital, but that somehow your attending a board meeting for a company partially owned by Bain had nothing to do with Bain because you were on the board as Mitt Romney the individual, not as the representative of Bain?
  8. When asked “did you attend board meetings for Bain after 1999″ you responded by saying “I did not manage Bain after 1999,” or that you didn’t attend any meetings involving things like firing people. This seems to suggest the possibility that you did attend Bain meetings in 2000 and 2001 that did not involve hiring or firing people or where you made the final decisions on investments. Is that possible?

Romney has been unable to explain how he accepts no responsibility for what happened at Bain after February 1999 while remaining CEO, President, and Chairman of the company.  Confronted with this fact in his interview with CBS, Romney explained his role at Bain Capital through 2002 in this way:

“I was the owner of a, of the general partnership but there were investors which included pension funds and various entities of all kinds that owned the, if you will, the investments of the firm. But I was the owner of an entity which was a management entity. That entity was one which I had ownership of until the time of the retirement program was put in place. But I had no responsibility whatsoever after February of ’99 for the management or ownership – management, rather, of Bain Capital.”

Most Americans would find that explanation to be incoherent. And while Romney has repeatedly tried to distance himself from Bain’s decisions after February 1999, he has also hypocritically taken credit for jobs created well after the 1999 end date that he cites. He can’t have it both ways.

If Romney followed decades of precedent set in motion by his father, who released 12 years of tax returns, as well as the minutes from Bain Capital board meetings, the American people could finally learn to what extent Mitt Romney was involved with the actions at Bain Capital following 1999.

This week, Mitt Romney has the opportunity to provide a full accounting of his tenure at Bain Capital, the central premise of his campaign and the opportunity to demonstrate whether or not he was the job creator he claims to be.

But my favorite comment of the day was from Illinois Senator Dick Durbin: “Why is Mitt Romney running away from Bain Capital like a scalded cat…”?

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