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Romney on the run

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney (Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

Ed Gillespie, spinmeister for the Romney campaign, was all over the Sunday morning talk shows today trying to explain how his boss was not working for and with Bain Capital after February 1999, even though a lot of official documents indicate he was. With an ingratiating chuckle and smile he deflected, spun, ignored, and counterattacked. He even coined the phrase “retired retroactively” to explain Romney’s actions: “He took a leave of absence and in fact, ended up not going back at all and retired retroactively to February 1999 as a result.” Still, it would have been so much more entertaining to see Romney himself trying to pull off the same tap dance.

What a disappointment. Based on the promos, I had somehow expected to see Romney show up personally to defend himself from all the scurrilous, baseless attacks on his reputation as a fine upstanding businessman, one who has fully and honestly disclosed his dealings to the SEC and IRS.

According to David Jones, writing for Mother Jones on July 13:

Numerous other SEC filings submitted by Bain in the years following February 1999 list Romney as a Bain executive and a member of its ‘management committee.’ (Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo found two SEC filings from 2000 and 2001 listing Romney’s ‘principle occupation’ as managing director of Bain.) And the Boston Globe made a splash this week when it reported that it had unearthed ‘nine SEC filings submitted by four different business entities after February 1999 that describe Romney as Bain Capital’s boss; some show him with managerial control over five Bain Capital entities that were formed in January 2002.’ The Huffington Post, meanwhile, reported on testimony Mitt Romney gave in 2002 in which he acknowledged that after he headed to Salt Lake City he still participated in board meetings for firms in which Bain had invested.

Yet Romney insists his relationship with Bain ended in February 1999 when he “retired” and left to run the Salt Lake City Olympics. And all this comes on top of previous reports revealing his financial dealings with a Swiss bank and holdings in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. Yes, yes, it’s complicated, and peons like me couldn’t possible understand the complex ins and outs of high finance. However, it would be a mistake to forget that peons vote.

Obama spokesperson Stephanie Cutter was succinct on this morning’s Face the Nation:

If you’re signing an SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] document with your own signature that you’re the president, C.E.O., chairman of the board and 100 percent owner of a company, in what world are you living in that you’re not in charge? …

… And the simple point is, if you’re telling the SEC you’re in charge but you’re telling the American people that you bear no responsibility, one of those things is not true.

Cutter, you’ll recall, said in a telephone conference with reporters last week:

Either Mitt Romney, through his own words and his own signature, was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the SEC, which is a felony, or he was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the American people to avoid responsibility for some of the consequences of his investments.

As is said so often, the appearance of impropriety matters as much or more than the facts. And with Romney, we have only appearances to go on; he’s been refusing to release the documentation, tax returns, etc. needed to refute them. That’s his right, of course; he needn’t release any more than is absolutely required by law. But he can’t have it both ways. He can’t keep insisting he’s honest and aboveboard without proving it. As a candidate for president, he doesn’t have that luxury. He should have learned a lesson from the Obama birth certificate debacle: Disclose immediately, if not well in advance of, any possible attacks on one’s truthfulness. Disclose not only what is required by law but whatever additional information is needed to forestall negative speculation and conclusions.

Romney may have released everything legally required of him, but it behooves him to release whatever additional documentation is required to dispel all doubt about the legality of his financial dealings — unless, of course, that documentation will reveal information far more damaging than the speculation itself.

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Draw your own conclusions. Gillespie talks to Candy Crowley on State of the Union:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

4 Comments »

  1. I’ve been watching the news on this, and I think it’s probably an issue that’s going nowhere. I also think it’s possible the Romney campaign knew they could show he wasn’t involved in managing Bain at that time, but that there was enough of a “hint” that he did to draw the Obama campaign into trying to make it into an issue. This has the result of causing the Obama campaign to go after something that will later make them appear to have been attacking incorrectly, allowing the Romney campaign to demand an apology. In short, it’s political bait, and it appears the Obama campaign has taken it. I don’t think they should apologize, but they should drop the Bain issue and focus on Romney’s tax returns. If there’s dirt, that’s where it probably is. On the other hand, he could be using that as political bait too. What we see of this battle is designed for us to see. Business is a nasty game, and Romney is used to playing it. It is possible that there’s something damning in his tax returns, in which case he will never release them. It’s also possible that there’s nothing damning about them and they’re a bag of fritos on a fishing hook, just waiting for the Obama campaign to case after them. If the bag is empty and the Obama campaign expends a lot of energy chasing after that bag, they’ll look like idiots. The same is true of the Bain issue. If you’re running the Obama campaign, you have the hard choice of deciding what to chase after. If you’re running the Romney campaign, you have the easy choice of deciding what to bait them with.

    If Romney gets elected without releasing any more tax returns, his tax returns will follow him like Obama’s birth certificate has. So what else has Romney got in his closet that he may use as bait? It’s hard to tell. Would it be surprising to find receipts to foreign banks pop up as bait? Will some other record or Romney’s show up as bait? Whatever it is, the Obama campaign has the hard job of figuring out what to do. Some issues could be legitimate mistakes on the part of Romney, and others may be empty frito bags. Bain, I think, is an empty frito bag, and he’s letting them chase it. Once it comes up empty, he’ll hold up the empty bag for the nation to see and demand the Obama campaign sheepishly admit that he didn’t do anything wrong. This will make it look like there’s probably nothing wrong with his tax returns either – a slanted riposte to a forward lunge.

    • There’s a lot of merit in the baiting theory. But it seems to me he’s played that for about as long as he can; it’s starting to hurt him. If he’s going to brandish the empty Frito bag, it should be soon. Even if the empty bag proves he’s done nothing illegal, as he’s insisted all along, he’s gaming the system in a way that the little guy never could, and I think the voters are going to resent it. People don’t appreciate an already very wealthy person taking his money offshore so that he can become even more wealthy. How much is enough? And if he’s elected, is that the way he plans to conduct the nation’s business? By investing in and hiding money in offshore accounts, where there’s no accountability and no oversight?

      Of course, he may figure that his supporters are all very wealthy individuals who understand exactly what he’s done and why he’s done it. But I don’t think there are enough people like that to outnumber all the little guys who work hard to make ends meet from one month to the next. The last time I looked, it was still one man, one vote.

      • It’s also possible I’m completely over thinking this and attributing far too much tactical intelligence to the politicians. One could go insane thinking about the what if’s and could be’s. And it’s all after-the-fact thinking, you know, retrospective. What’s really happening could be completely reactive and not planned at all. How many bites does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop? I’m sure each side has a different answer.

        • I find it disturbing that either side thinks negative and attack ads are the way to curry favor with or “inform” the voters. It’s gotten so deep here in Colorado, being a swing state and all, that I’m completely disgusted by both sides. I thought the nastiest ones would be from the PACs. Wrong. The candidates have backed some pretty distasteful stuff.

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