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Romney Dogged by Questions on Bain Tenure, Tax Returns as Obama Deems Him "Outsourcer-in-Chief"

StoryJuly 18, 2012
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Records revealed last week show Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney remained at the helm of the private equity firm Bain Capital three years longer than he had previously disclosed. Romney maintained he left Bain in 1999 to run the Winter Olympics in Utah. But the Boston Globe reported last week that Romney retained control of Bain and earned a salary through 2002. The three-year period in question saw Bain shuttering a number of U.S. companies, leading to layoffs and the outsourcing of American jobs. We’re joined by Chris Rowland, Washington bureau chief for the Boston Globe. [includes rush transcript]

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: President Obama’s re-election campaign is keeping alive the controversy over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s tenure at the private equity firm Bain Capital. Records revealed last week show Romney remained at the helm of Bain Capital three years longer than he had previously disclosed. Romney maintained he left Bain in 1999 to run the Winter Olympics in Utah. But the Boston Globe reported last week Romney retained control of Bain and earned a salary through 2002. The three-year period in question saw Bain shuttering a number of U.S. companies, leading to layoffs and the outsourcing of U.S. jobs.

This is President Obama speaking over the weekend in the battleground state of Virginia.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Now, Mr. Romney’s got a different idea. You know, he invested in companies that have been called pioneers of outsourcing. I don’t want to pioneer in outsourcing. I want some insourcing. I want to bring companies back.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama’s re-election campaign says the Boston Globe report suggests Romney may have lied to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission about his final years at Bain. On Sunday, senior Romney adviser Ed Gillespie said Romney had "retroactively" retired from Bain in 2002 but had effectively stepped down three years earlier. Gillespie defended Romney’s economic views on NBC.

ED GILLESPIE: What he believes is that American companies and, you know, private shareholders and CEOs should be free in our economy to make decisions. What we need to do as a policy is to make policies that make those decisions easier to say, "I’m going to invest in here in the United States. I’m not going to move my jobs overseas." The Obama policies are forcing jobs overseas.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Ed Gillespie speaking on Meet the Press this weekend.

To find out more about the significance of these revelations, we go to Washington, D.C., to speak with Chris Rowland, Washington bureau chief for the Boston Globe.

Chris, welcome back to Democracy Now! Talk about the significance of this missing three years, 1999 to 2002. Why does it matter how long Romney was actually CEO and chair of Bain?

CHRISTOPHER ROWLAND: Well, the thing to keep in mind and to remember is that, you know, Mitt Romney’s first line of defense, when confronted with allegations or charges that Bain outsourced or had forced companies into bankruptcy while profiting or, you know, laid off workers to wring efficiencies out of companies—one of his first lines of defense has been that, "Hey, after 1999, I wasn’t there. I had nothing to do with the company." And he’s been really saying that for many years.

And the thing that’s come to light now, that we reported last week, and this has been elsewhere, is that from 1999 to 2002 Mitt Romney was in fact the CEO and president and chairman of Bain Capital. That had not—actually not been revealed previously. It’s included in a variety of Securities and Exchange documents, where they disclose this, when Bain Capital, which is a private company, it has to buy stocks and invest in a public companies, so they disclose that information to the SEC.

Now that it’s come to light, it’s raised the question: well, how could he have retired in 1999 but then have remained CEO? So far, Bain Capital and Mitt Romney haven’t explained this discrepancy very well. There has been some information coming out about how he—well, he was legally CEO, but he turned everything over to a management committee. I think it is true that he did indeed turn things over to a management committee, but the level of control or legal authority he had over the company and how he delegated still hasn’t really been explained.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Is what Romney did then illegal, by not disclosing his association with Bain from ’99 to 2002?

CHRISTOPHER ROWLAND: From everything we can tell, it doesn’t appear that there’s any—if there’s any violation, it’s a fairly minor violation. We haven’t seen anything smoking gun that would trigger a major felony investigation or anything like that. The standard for felony investigations for discrepancies or—it has to be a willful act to hide information, but it also has to be that your intent is to defraud investors. There’s no allegation like that here, so it really seems highly unlikely that there would be any felony investigation. Also, these types of reports, they’re called 13Ds, where they—companies have to disclose the amount of shares that they’re buying in public companies if they own more than 5 percent of a public company. It’s called a 13D form. We’re told that the SEC almost has never charged anybody for 13D violations, so that’s extremely unlikely.

AMY GOODMAN: Chris Rowland, this period of time, 1999 to 2002, some of the issues raised about Bain swooping down on the companies that it bought, sending jobs overseas or just shuttering corporations and moving them overseas, Romney defended himself by saying, during this period, he wasn’t in charge. Now his name appears in all these SEC documents. That’s—the significance of this?

CHRISTOPHER ROWLAND: Well, Mitt Romney’s story has changed about this time period a couple of times. When he first departed, he told the press that—so, as part of our reporting, we went back and actually documented every single—every single statement that we could find that was public, and as well as looking at, you know, what was filed in the corporate records and those sorts of things. When he first left, it was really billed as a part-time leave of absence in 1999. He left suddenly to go to Salt Lake and run the Olympics. At that time, he told reporters, and the Boston Herald included, we are—this is going to be a part-time arrangement. Then, subsequently, it was more called a leave of absence. And then, in 2002, when he was running for governor and he was back in Massachusetts, he called it a leave of absence in the beginning of 2002, but then later, towards the end of the campaign in 2002, when he was confronted by the Democrat who was running against him with a number of outsourcing and bankruptcy practices by Bain, that’s when he said, "Hey, I wasn’t there. I left in 1999." He was much more definitive. And—

AMY GOODMAN: Christopher Rowland, last question, and that has to do with taxes, since you cover Romney for the Boston Globe, very quickly, whether you think he’ll be releasing more than two years?

CHRISTOPHER ROWLAND: I’m sorry, I can’t hear you. I think you said something about taxes. Yeah, he’s facing extreme pressure to release more than two years. It really is reminiscent of the primary when he was under extreme pressure, if you remember, in South Carolina to release tax forms. He had several bad days and finally did release some tax forms. And they’re sort of having a difficult time grappling with the whole issue of tax forms and his wealth, you know, his extraordinary wealth. He’s not very good at talking about it. And you’re seeing that again.

AMY GOODMAN: Chris, we’re going to have to leave it there. We thank you very much for being with us.

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