Spin and stonewall

    Here’s where the ever-burgeoning Bain story stands today, courtesy of Politico:”The Bain cloud now hanging over the former Massachusetts governor is growing daily, and the Romney campaign still hasn’t found a compelling way to respond to what’s becoming the driving narrative, fairly or unfairly, of the 2012 campaign….Republicans are worried that their soon-to-be nominee hasn’t sufficiently answered numerous questions swirling around his Bain tenure.”As well they should be.Mitt Romney has long been reflexively secretive about the private equity firm, because secrecy is a staple of Bain’s corporate culture; indeed, Romney has tried to stonewall questions about his Bain tenure since 1994, when he ran unsuccessfully for the Senate. But the main reason for his reticence is this:If he came clean about everything, he would likely look even worse.Consider what we already know. As reported yesterday in The Boston Globe, Romney filed papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission indicating that, according to the SEC document, he was Bain’s “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president” as late as 2002. He also filed a Massachusetts financial disclosure form which indicated that he still owned 100 percent of Bain as of 2002, and that he was still drawing a six-figure income, apart from any investment earnings.That’s all very interesting, in light of Romney’s recent statement that he left Bain in February 1999.The discrepancy is important. Romney floated the 1999 claim during the primary season, when several Republican rivals assailed him for the layoffs and plant shutdowns that occurred at several Bain-owned companies in 2001. Romney basically said: Hey, don’t blame me, I left in 1999 before that stuff happened. Now it turns out he was still in charge. But wait, Romney insisted anew yesterday that he was not in charge, that even though he still listed himself in federal documents as the firm’s official master of the universe, he really “had no involvement in management or investment activities of Bain Capital, or with any of its portfolio companies” after February 1999.Which is also very interesting, because last week another SEC document surfaced, and it listed Romney as a member of the “management committee” for the disbursement of Bain funds. And corporate documents filed in Delaware describe him as having managerial control of five Bain entities created in 2002.None of that should be surprising, because it was clear, according to contemporaneous press reports in 1999, that Romney was not really leaving Bain. Here’s the Boston Herald, Feb. 12, 1999: “Romney said he will stay on as a part-timer with Bain, providing input on investment and key personnel decisions.” (The italics are mine.) And as late as July 19 of that year, a Bain press release said that Romney was merely taking “a part-time leave of absence” to helm the Olympics in Utah.Indeed, Romney insisted again, in 2002, that his Olympics adventure was just “a leave of absence” from Bain, that he was still tethered to Bain. Such was his testimony to the Massachusetts Ballot Law Commission. And why was he talking to that commission? Because he wanted to run for governor, and in order to do that, he had to demonstrate that Massachusetts (not Utah) was still his primary residence, and that his ties to Boston-based Bain were still undiminished.See the pattern here? This guy will say – or sign – whatever the circumstance requires. When he was taking heat for Bain a few months ago, he distanced himself from Bain. But when he sought to run for governor, he tethered himself to Bain. Now he’s saying that, OK, he did sign federal documents attesting to his post-1999 leadership of Bain, but he really had no role in the decision-making at Bain.At worst, Romney has a metastasizing credibility problem. At best, he’s now insisting that he sat at the top of the corporate pyramid, reaping financial rewards, without having to actually do anything or take any responsibility for what the underlings were doing.Wow, what a sweet deal! I bet the average working stiff can really relate to that.Meanwhile, there’s fresh evidence that the ongoing drip-drip about Bain (and the unreleased tax returns, and the off-shore tax accounts) are damaging his presidential bid. Romney has hung his hat on the proposition that he, not President Obama, would be the better economic steward – but the latest nonpartisan Pew poll, released yesterday, featured this eye-popping item:When registered voters were asked which candidate “would do the best job of improving economic conditions,” Obama led by six percentage points, 48-42. I quickly flagged Pew’s June poll, and, sure enough, the numbers were virtually reversed. Back then, on the core question of the campaign, Romney led by eight points, 49-41. Why had Romney suffered a 14-point swing to his opponent in only one month? Pew – which typically stays in the field for 10 days and takes a national sample that’s twice the size of most other polls – didn’t offer a reason. But the reason is obvious. Romney’s credentials as an economic savior are being steadily undercut, not just by the nature of the work he did, but by his propensity for spinning and stonewalling. ——-In a change-of-pace newspaper column, I suggest that The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin’s latest liberal fantasia about media and politics, would be a whole lot better if he stopped depicting women professionals as ditzy whack jobs. I anticipate that Political Animals, which debuts in cable Sunday night and stars Signourney Weaver as a kickass Hillary type, will do a far better job on that front.  ——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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