Thursday, July 12, 2012

BAIN-LIE-GATE: I'M NOT FEELING IT

Yeah, yeah, I know: The Boston Globe uncovered smoking-gun documents -- government filings -- showing that Mitt Romney was ID'd as CEO and chairman of Bain Capital, and as sole owner, years after he says he left the firm (and during years when Bain was engaging in some truly stone-hearted business practices).

The problem is, Romney has a rebuttal that will probably sound plausible to Joe and Jane Heartland -- yes, he was still the Big Kahuna on paper, but he'd taken a leave of absence to (nobly) run the Olympics, and, well, you know those gosh-darn government documents! So confusing! Am I right?

Apologies for the buzzkill, but I think, for once in his life, something Romney is saying is going to be regarded as relatable by the average American.

Although I'll add this: that's true only if we never find documentary proof of his active involvement in Bain after 1999. And who knows? We've got four months to go here.

But for now, I think this is going to have much less impact than a lot of us are hoping. Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler, whose previous airy dismissal of Obama outsourcing accusations is called into question by the new revelations, has already become Romney's principal surrogate on this matter, attacking the Globe's source as a partisan (though why it matters if the documents say what they say is a question he fails to answer). And Fortune's Dan Primack also rides to Romney's rescue, stating flatly that "Mitt Romney did not manage Bain Capital's investments after leaving to run the Salt Lake City Olympic Games, according to confidential firm documents." Alas, that's going to be enough to give Romney cover -- at least for now.

Though you know what I never want to hear again from a right-winger? Whining about "voter fraud!!!" because it turns out that certain voters haven't done a proper address update with the Board of Elections, or are registered at multiple addresses, even though there isn't a shred of evidence that they've ever tried to vote more than once in an election. That's how ordinary people fail to manage government filings; dealing with it on their own, they don't keep the records updated, and it's innocent in almost every case. By contrast, Romney had a roster of high-priced lawyers -- if he mishandled the filings, what's his excuse?

15 comments:

Chris Andersen said...

If it were a question of whether Romney were in any legal jeopardy because of this story I would agree with you. But politics operates by different rules.

Consider this: Romney's main defense in this story is to say that he was only "technically" the head of Bain. In other words, Romney's is defending himself with legalistic quibbling.

Ask Bill Clinton how well that works.

Steve M. said...

Well, Clinton survived impeachment and spent most of his second term as a very popular president, and that popularity persists to this day.

Steve M. said...

Not saying anyone's going to like Romney for this, but I think he'll get a pass from a lot of people.

Danp said...

Let me see if I got this straight. Romney is a financial genius who knows how to read a balance sheet, but never looks his multi-billion dollar portfolio, or if he knows what is being done with his money, he simply has no responsibility for it. Would that standard hold if Bain invested in the narco-trade?

Tom Hilton said...

I don't know. I think the gap between CEO/sole shareholder and "no involvement" is so huge as to render Romney's version laughable even if it happens to be factually accurate.

Also: every day this is an issue at all is another day that people are reminded of the reasons it's an issue (outsourcing, plundered corporations, Stericycle).

Also, too, I think he just looks weasely here. And given the image of Mitt Romney that's already forming, he really can't afford to reinforce it by coming off as weasely in some new context.

Hurling Dervish said...

"only if we never find documentary proof of his active involvement in Bain after 1999."

We have all the documentary proof we need, right here, Steve. The SEC documents say that Romney was sole shareholder. That means that he had fiduciary duty toward all investors in Bain Capital. Fiduciary duty implies that he owed utmost good faith to the investors and was required to do due diligence to all its material decisions.

If this was a small company and Romney was unsophisticated, he might get away with saying, ahh, buncha legalese. But Romney is a Harvard Law grad and had been in this stuff for decades. He well knew what his duty was.

Steve M. said...

No, no, no -- active involvement. Like doing stuff. There's scant evidence of that. His name on a bunch of filings doesn't mean much to the average American.

Tom Hilton said...

But what does mean something to the average American: "CEO". Sole shareholder. Everything else is transparent bullshit, even if it happens to be (in some sense) true.

cat48L said...

HuffHo Says that Mittbot testified he came back for a few board meetings or something to which he was trying to get on the Ballot for Gov. He was a Boardmember of Lifelike; one of those Partnerships done during his disappear time.

It doesn't really matter anyhow as David Corn has one jobs to China that started in 1998. Can't wait to see what the EXCUSE is???

Victor said...

Maybe the right laid the groundword with Obama - two things in one:
Obama is Fascist Dictator - and a simpering pussy who bows to royalty.

So, why can't Mitt be, the competent SuperCEO, and Joe Citizen who forgot to file some papers?

I think the MSM will find some way to play along.

They have to provide cover for Mitt - they want and need a close horserace to the end.

If the have to whip one horse, while tripping-up the other one, well, that's a small price to pay for the billions that will be spent on this race in the MSM.

Rugosa said...

I'm at work and can't retrace my blog steps, but via David Corn at M Jones, LGM and others: Romney signed contradictory documents with the SEC and the FEC, so we know he lied to at least one agency. He also took salary from Bain during the time he supposedly had cut his ties with them, and worked out a back-dated separation agreement years later. So there's a whole lot of sleazy rich guy double-dealing going on. Even if he manages to skate by on some pretty thin ice of legality, he looks like a sleazy, double-dealing rich guy. I don't think he's going to get a pass on this from anyone but the true Republican believers.

Steve M. said...

I'm just going to keep saying what I'm saying: signing a document that's technically inaccurate is not going to be regarded as horrifying by anyone who's not already anti-Romney -- unless we see him actually making business decisions in the period when he said he wasn't active in the business.

Peter Janovsky said...

OK. How about this:

one 2000 document filed by Romney could prove particularly difficult to explain away. Among other things the Jan. 3 2000 SEC filing says, “W. Mitt Romney is principally engaged in the business of serving as sole stockholder of BCI VI, Inc. (Bain Capital Investors VI)” — and it contains his signature.

Peter Janovsky said...

Also, too, the other items in this Steve Benen post:

http://maddowblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/07/13/12727677-romneys-bain-story-unraveling-quickly

Steve M. said...

I'm going to keep repeating it: I think that as long as he can keep saying that he was only listed as the head guy on paper, but wasn't really the head guy, an awful lot of people will see that as plausible. I know I'm pretty much the only lefty in America who believes that, but there it is.

Show him doing something after '99 and it's a different story.