Here’s What’s Wrong With The Latest Bain Ad

Fox and Friends has lowered more American IQs than lead-laden paint, and this morning was no exception.

Brian Kilmeade had the honor of introducing the controversial Priorities USA super PAC ad that attempts to tenuously connect Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital bidness with the death of the wife of a Kansas City steelworker, who definitely was a victim of Bain’s vulture capitalism.

Kilmeade introduced the video clip by calling it the,

Mitt-Romney-killed-my wife-and-gave-her-cancer ad

Now, one expects that sort of thing on Fox, where hysteria has a home and is used to keep the right-wing tribes all fired up for the November offensive, which they hope will produce the pigmented scalp of President Obama.

But Kilmeade’s comment demonstrates exactly why the Priorities USA ad was an ill-conceived venture. First, let’s look at the ad—which as far as I know hasn’t been aired yet—just in case you haven’t seen the entire thing:

As you can see for yourself, the ad did not explicitly claim Romney or Bain “killed” anybody. But it did implicitly link Romney to the unfortunate cancer death of Ilyona Rae Soptic, unfortunately by compressing the timeline involved. Mrs. Soptic died years after her husband lost his Bain-related job and insurance.

Priorities USA honcho Bill Burton defended the ad this way:

The point of this ad is to tell the story of one guy, Joe Soptic, and the impact on his life that happened for years, and to this day, as a result of decisions that Mitt Romney made. This is one of a series of ads in which we talk about the very long lasting impacts that Mitt Romney’s decision had on these communities, on these individuals and their families.

Yeah, except that’s not what we are talking about now. We are not talking about the very real effects that Bain’s bidness model had on folks, their families, and their communities. We are talking about the “Mitt-Romney-killed-my wife-and-gave-her-cancer ad,” an ad that can be easily refuted and easily caricatured as overreach.

In fact, such unseemly overreach is exactly what the other side does—you know, like “Obama wants to destroy America” and other such things—and it is contrary to Obama’s brand, which is exactly why he should himself declare the ad unworthy of this campaign.  Indeed, he should declare it as an unfair attack on Romney and completely separate himself from it.

That way, we all can concentrate on things that can be definitely connected to Romney, like this:

Mitt Romney Started Bain Capital With Money From Families Tied To Death Squads

That headline is no joke. Follow the link and find out the details. But given the unnecessary controversy over the “Mitt-Romney-killed-my wife-and-gave-her-cancer ad,” how many folks will simply tune this one out? How many will tune out all of the stuff related to Bain?

Yet all of the issues surrounding Bain Capital—including Romney’s willingness to do business with oligarchs tied to death squads—reveal something important about who Romney is. And since he hides so much from us, it’s just about all we’ve got to explain him to the undecided.

And that’s why Democrats shouldn’t screw up by deploying too-clever-by-half campaign commercials that end up making us look as hysterical as Fox and Friends and other Tea Party Republicans.

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What The Italians Know About Mittens

I suggest that if you are still not convinced that Mitt Romney’s past bidness life is unlike anything we have seen on the resume of a candidate in modern politics—that is, his practice of “vulture capitalism,” as Rick Perry would have it—then you should read the Bloomberg article,

Romney Persona Non Grata In Italy For Bain’s Deal Skirting Taxes

I will only quote an economics professor at Turin University about the sale of Italy’s government-owned telephone directory company to Bain Capital and Bain’s subsequent and relatively quick unloading of the same company for 25 times what it paid:

It was a mistake from the start, damaged by a lack of transparency and the use of offshore funds.

Lack of transparency? Offshore funds? Who, me? says Mittens.

“His Poor Father Must Be So Embarrassed About His Son”

 

The headline at HuffPo said it all:

Harry Reid: Bain Investor Told Me That Mitt Romney ‘Didn’t Pay Any Taxes For 10 Years’

Now, that kind of speculation about what Romney is hiding is inevitable and will only get worse, despite the fact that Mittens is standing strong against transparency.  The HuffPo story relates:

“His poor father must be so embarrassed about his son,” Reid said, in reference to George Romney’s standard-setting decision to turn over 12 years of tax returns when he ran for president in the late 1960s.

Saying he had “no problem with somebody being really, really wealthy,” Reid sat up in his chair a bit before stirring the pot further. A month or so ago, he said, a person who had invested with Bain Capital called his office.

“Harry, he didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years,” Reid recounted the person as saying.

“He didn’t pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that’s true? Well, I’m not certain,” said Reid. “But obviously he can’t release those tax returns. How would it look?

How it looks now is increasingly becoming a problem for Romney, who is still running strong on the idea that he was a “sterling” bidnessman—his latest ad quotes Bill Clinton as saying so—but refuses to let the light shine on the whole of his business career and how he benefited from it and from America’s skewed tax system.

In any case, Harry Reid, who at times is frustratingly kind to his Republican colleagues, also said some other stunning things about money and politics. Although he said he is optimistic about the Democrats’ chances of keeping control of the Senate, he accurately summed up what’s wrong:

We feel comfortable in the Senate. Where the problem is, is this: Because of the Citizens United decision, Karl Rove and the Republicans are looking forward to a breakfast the day after the election. They are going to assemble 17 angry old white men for breakfast, some of them will slobber in their food, some will have scrambled eggs, some will have oatmeal, their teeth are gone. But these 17 angry old white men will say, ‘Hey, we just bought America. Wasn’t so bad. We still have a whole lot of money left.’

Give ’em hell, Harry!

 

The Outsourcing Pioneer Gets His Due

In case you haven’t seen it, here is a clip of Big O getting a standing O as he slams Romney for being a “job creator”:

We have not found any serious economic study that says Governor Romney’s economic plan would actually create jobs — until today.  I’ve got to be honest.  Today we found out there’s a new study out by non-partisan economists that says Governor Romney’s economic plan would, in fact, create 800,000 jobs.  There’s only one problem:  The jobs wouldn’t be in America.  (Laughter and applause.)  They would not be in America.  They’d be in other countries.  By eliminating taxes on corporations’ foreign income, Governor Romney’s plan would actually encourage companies to shift more of their operations to foreign tax havens, creating 800,000 jobs in those other countries. 

Now, this shouldn’t be a surprise, because Governor Romney’s experience has been investing in what were called “pioneers” of the business of outsourcing.  Now he wants to give more tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas. 

So I want everybody to understand, Ohio, I’ve got a different theory.  We don’t need a President who plans to ship more jobs overseas, or wants to give more tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas.  I want to give tax breaks to companies that are investing right here in Ohio — (applause) — that are investing in Cincinnati, that are investing in Hamilton County.  (Applause.)  I want to give incentives to companies that are investing in you, the American people, to create American jobs, making American goods that we’re selling around the world, stamped with three proud words:  Made in America.  (Applause.) 

That’s why I’m running for President of the United States.

Romney Brings Out The Best In Us

Politics is an amazing intellectual sport, one that requires skillful mental gymnastics. On one day the honcho running the National Republican Senatorial Committee needs to sound interested in someone’s tax returns, then on another day he needs not to sound interested in someone’s tax returns:

_________________________________

 Speaking of tax returns, CNN’s Erin Burnett chimed in:

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Turns out there is some humor in Bain Capital and Romney’s tax returns:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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The serious stuff:

Romney The Beautiful

O beautiful for heroes proved 
In liberating strife. 
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life! 
America! America! 
May God thy gold refine 
Till all success be nobleness 
And every gain divine!

—America the Beautiful

o matter what date Mitt Romney actually left Bain Capital, there are two questions that he should be forced to answer:

1. Do you now approve of the deals that Bain made regarding outsourcing between February of 1999 and 2002? 

2. If Americans were allowed a more extensive look at  your tax returns, would they learn that you paid little or no taxes on your income some years?

You can see that any answer to the first question poses even more problems for Romney. If he says he doesn’t approve of what Bain did, the follow-up question would be:

But you were variously listed in filings with the SEC during that time as Chief Executive Officer, president, managing director, sole director, and sole shareholder. Additionally, you have profited from Bain holdings, including holdings involving outsourcing.  Do you regret doing so?

A “yes” answer to that follow-up, or if Romney says he does approve of what Bain did during the period between 1999 and 2002, would generate a final question:

3. What do you plan on doing with your free time after November 6?

As for question two above regarding Romney’s tax returns, if he said his returns would not show that he paid little or no taxes some years, he would then be asked to show them to us to prove his claim. If he said they would show that some years he did pay little or no taxes, see question 3.

Finally, Missouri isn’t considered a battleground state this cycle (so far), so we don’t get to see all that many political ads involving Romney and Obama and we’re missing a lot of the fun surrounding Bain Capital. But here is one of the finest campaign ads I have seen in ages:

Is Romney A Felon Or Will Obama Have To Apologize?

Thursday afternoon’s HuffPo Front Page:

The latest twist in the quest (say that three times) to understand the limits or lack of limits regarding Romney’s money-making during his private-sector years is a Boston Globe article:

Romney stayed longer at Bain
Firm’s 2002 filings identify him as CEO, though he said he left in 1999

The article makes clear why it is important when Mittens left his life in high finance:

The timing of Romney’s departure from Bain is a key point of contention because he has said his resignation in February 1999 meant he was not responsible for Bain Capital companies that went bankrupt or laid off workers after that date.

We all know the man is rich, many of us know at least some ways he got so rich, but an increasing number of us know there is still more to know:

Contradictions concerning the length of Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital add to the uncertainty and questions about his finances. Bain is the primary source of Romney’s wealth, which is estimated to be more than $25o million. But how his wealth has been invested, especially in a variety of Bain partnerships and other investment vehicles, remains difficult to decipher because of a lack of transparency.

The Obama campaign and other Democrats have raised questions about his unwillingness to release tax returns filed before 2010; his offshore assets, which include investment entities based in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands and a recently closed bank account in Switzerland…

One of those Democrats raising questions is a honcho on the Obama-Biden 2012 payroll. From The Guardian:

In remarks that took the campaign to a new, uglier phase, Obama’s deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter said Romney had either misrepresented his position to government regulators or had lied to the American people.

Now, I don’t know why The Guardian chose to characterize this as “a new, uglier  phase,” since wanting to get to the truth is neither new nor ugly.  But there is something strange stirring, as hints are popping up that there is more to come.

Politico’s reporting included this:

Deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter laid out the issue as the Obama team sees it: “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,” she said, “he was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the American people to avoid responsibility for some of the consequences of his investments,” including layoffs and the outsourcing of jobs.

Felony? Ouch. The use of that word ups the ante a bit, no? Presumably, Ms. Cutter did not make that comment lightly. Her head may roll, if it turns out there is substantial evidence against the notion.

Romney’s team has been in a feud with the Obama campaign and various newspapers over the charges that he was active at Bain after he said he wasn’t. The campaign keeps claiming that “independent fact checkers” have “confirmed” Romney “had no input on vestments or management of companies” after 1999. That is not true, of course. As far as I can tell, what those fact checkers have said is that up until now there has been no proof that Romney was actively involved in Bain’s business after 1999.

But one can fairly say at this point that there is a prima facie case against Romney’s version of events, and it is now up to him to offer more information (tax returns, maybe?) to rebut the accusations, if he can rebut them.

And speaking of accusations, another one appeared today courtesy of Mother Jones:

EXCLUSIVE: Romney Invested Millions in Chinese Firm That Profited on US Outsourcing
The GOP candidate decries China poaching US jobs. But at Bain he held a large stake in a Chinese company that did just that.

And that job-poaching of U.S. jobs occurred before Romney claims he left Bain in 1999, so the timing controversy has nothing to do with this latest charge that Romney invested in companies that he knew—knew—thrived on outsourcing American jobs to China.

Stay tuned.

Mitt The Marauder

None of what happened in Marion in the 1990s would be very interesting, if Mitt Romney had not built his entire political career on the claim that he’s a job creator.

—Randy Johnson, former employee of  a  company once owned by  Bain Capital

f you’ve ever scribbled on a yellow legal pad, you owe American Pad & Paper, which brought us the product in the late 19th century, your thanks.  Ampad, as the company was known, was quite successful as a manufacturer of paper products until “big-box” retailers, with their economies-of-scale profit plans, began to drive Ampad’s customers—much smaller, independent office supply stores—out of business.

The big-box behemoths, with their enormous purchasing power, had the ability to force manufacturers like Ampad to lower prices, which in turn led to downward pressure on American workers’ wages. Cheaper foreign paper goods made their way into the mix, also putting downward pressure on domestic wages.

In 1992, Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital acquired Ampad by putting up only $5 million of its investors’ money, and borrowing the rest of the $40 million purchase price, using the company’s future earnings as collateral (more debt would follow). As Paul Barrett of Bloomberg Business Week put it:

If all went well, the acquiring firm would whip the target company into shape, sell it in an IPO, repay the debt out of the sale proceeds, and clear a handsome profit for its investors. If things went less well, the acquired company might end up in bankruptcy proceedings—but the LBO firm would lose only its modest equity investment. In more recent years, image-conscious LBO financiers have rebranded their businesses as private equity firms.

Well, whether one calls them LBO firms or private equity firms, the deal involving Ampad didn’t go all that well for some folks. The bad stuff started with Ampad—now controlled by Bain—purchasing a hanging-file-folder plant in Marion, Indiana, owned by SCM (Smith Corona). Here is how Paul Barrett described what happened next, involving a man named Randy Johnson, a union steward at the plant:

At the time, Johnson worked the night shift making hanging files. “We come back from the July 4th holiday, and this is what we find posted,” Johnson says, producing from the Romney box a one-page notice: “As of 3 p.m. today, July 5, 1994, your employment with SCM Office Supplies Inc. will end.” Most of the 258 employees were allowed to reapply for jobs at reduced wages and benefits. Johnson’s pay fell 22 percent, he says, from $10.05 an hour to $7.88. Dismayed to see their old union contract torn up, the Marion workers negotiated with Ampad management for several months, then called a risky strike. In early 1995, Ampad called the union’s bluff, closed the plant, and laid off the remaining workers.

Johnson said:

We never heard of Bain. All we knew was that some company called Ampad took over the factory. … We were getting paid a lot less for working longer hours, and now we were paying big premiums we never paid before for health insurance.

That sad story had a happy ending for Bain, which reportedly made away with almost $100 million for its trouble.

Now, to some of you the story of Ampad is familiar, what with the Obama campaign using it to its advantage against Romney. But in its familiarity is lost the rather simple idea that never in our modern history have we had a man run for president with not only the instincts, but the practical experience of a vulture capitalist, a man whose business, at times, was to prey on the unfortunate.

And when Americans contemplate Romney’s wealth, some of it hiding far away from the shores of the country that enabled him to gain it, it would serve them well to think about how he amassed some of it.

And it would serve them well to think about that little factory in Indiana, that once provided jobs to Americans, jobs lost partly because a man running for president and bragging up his business savvy once had the soul of a marauder.

Mittens The Outsourcer

From The Washington Post:

Mitt Romney’s financial company, Bain Capital, invested in a series of firms that specialized in relocating jobs done by American workers to new facilities in low-wage countries like China and India.

During the nearly 15 years that Romney was actively involved in running Bain, a private equity firm that he founded, it owned companies that were pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to overseas call centers and factories making computer components, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

I can’t wait for high-profile Democrats like Bill Clinton (Romney’s bidness record is “sterling“) and Ed Rendell (Obama’s Bain attacks were “very disappointing“) and Cory Booker (the attacks were “nauseating“) and Deval Patrick (“Bain is a perfectly fine company“) and Harold Ford (“private equity is a good thing“) and Steve Rattner (“I don’t think there’s anything that Bain Capital did that they need to be embarrassed about“) to explain why Obama shouldn’t criticize Romney for specializing in shipping American jobs to China and India.

After all, such is part of Romney’s perfectly fine and and good and sterling record that he has absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about, right fellas?

Booker, Bain, Bull

Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey, and high-profile surrogate for the Obama campaign, opened his mouth on Sunday’s Meet the Press and showed why he’s not quite ready for national prime time.

Although he has since crawdadded on his comments, Booker said the following about the Obama campaign’s strategy of highlighting Mitt Romney’s career at Bain Capital:

This kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides. It’s nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity. Stop attacking Jeremiah Wright.

Of firms like Bain Capital, Booker offered this:

As far as that stuff, I have to just say from a very personal level I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity…To me, it’s just we’re getting to a ridiculous point in America. Especially that I know I live in a state where pension funds, unions and other people invest in companies like Bain Capital. If you look at the totality of Bain Capital’s record, they’ve done a lot to support businesses [and] to grow businesses. And this, to me, I’m very uncomfortable with.

Hmm. Let’s, uh, gently, parse his nauseating discomfort.

First, there is no comparison between Romney’s job as honcho of Bain Capital and Barack Obama relationship with Jeremiah Wright. That’s just a dumb way to frame the two issues, but it does sound good to those who buy into the “both sides do it” bullshit.

And, by the way, that stuff sounds like it was hatched inside the polyped bowels of the Romney campaign, which is still smarting from vicious attacks on Romney’s Bain days from fellow Republicans Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry.

Second, the Obama campaign has not indicted “private equity” per se. What it has done is point out some of the job-killing in Bain’s biography. Is that not fair? If Mittens runs on his business savvy, on his job-creator pedigree, is it not fair to mention he has some skeletons—skeletons that used to have jobs and pensions—in his closet?

Third, just because “pension funds, unions, and other people” invest in something doesn’t make it right, does it? I mean if that were true, Nelson Mandela would still be in prison in South Africa and not enjoying retirement as the country’s former president.

“Pension funds, unions, and other people” were at one time invested in various enterprises in that authoritarian apartheid state, and the racist regime’s fall was largely due to a widespread disinvestment campaign that strongly urged “pension funds, unions, and other people” to stop doing business with the racists.

Finally, let’s get to the heart of the issue. Bob Drogin, a big-time reporter for the Los Angeles Times, wrote a story—way back in ancient times, December of 2007—in which he said:

From 1984 until 1999, Romney led Bain Capital, a Boston-based private equity group that earned jaw-dropping profits through leveraged buyouts, debt hedge funds, offshore tax havens and other financial strategies. In some cases, Romney’s team closed U.S. factories, causing hundreds of layoffs, or pocketed huge fees shortly before companies collapsed.

Closing factories and laying off workers—is that what Cory Booker means by extolling the virtues of “private equity”? Huh?

Drogin also quoted a former managing director at Bain Capital, Marc B. Wolpow:

They’re whitewashing his career now. We had a scheme where the rich got richer. I did it, and I feel good about it. But I’m not planning to run for office.

The old rich get richer scheme—is that what Cory Booker means by “stop attacking private equity”? Huh?

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! asked Bob Drogin to “lay out Mitt Romney’s business background.” I will quote Drogin at length just to show how dumb (however self-serving they may be) Cory Booker’s original statements were:

…the first thing is, it’s not an investment firm, as someone just said. An investment firm is something where you make an investment. It’s a buyout firm. In 1984, he was tapped to set up a — what began as a venture capital spin-off of a management consulting firm in Boston called Bain & Company. And Bain Capital began with these small investments in what were then startup companies, but very quickly, within a year or two, it became what’s known as a leveraged buyout company. They would put up a million dollars or so and borrow ten or twenty or fifty more and buy into troubled companies and then strip assets and lay off workers and close factories and do whatever they needed to do, charge enormous fees and sell it as quickly as possible.

Over the years, by the time he took a leave of absence in 1999, they had bought and sold more than a hundred companies. And it’s a little difficult to figure out how many jobs were lost or how many jobs were created, and I’m sure that overall there was probably a net gain in jobs in that period, but there are a number of cases that I was able to track where they did close companies, close factories, where they made staggering profits in the hundreds of millions of dollars, shortly before companies crashed off into bankruptcy.

You know, this was the so-called decade of greed, and these were guys who were very much in the model of the Gordon Gekko. I mean, these were — and it’s not illegal, it’s not improper; it’s — you know, it’s the way the system works. They went in, they bought up troubled companies. In some cases, they made them better; in some cases, they just, you know, shredded them and took the money and ran. So, that’s the broad background.

And that is why Cory Booker—who is somewhat compromised by his relationship with Wall Street—was wrong to go on Meet the Press and say dumb  and dumbfounding things like, “Stop attacking private equity,” and, “This kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides.”

His gastrointestinal distress should come as he contemplates the trickle-down damage that a Mitt Romney presidency can do to folks who aren’t living the life of Gordon Gekko.

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