Mitt Romney has long claimed that he left Bain Capital, the lucrative private equity firm he founded, in 1999 to run the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. However, documents filed by Bain with the Securities and Exchange Commission show that he remained the company's "sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president" well after that date, say Callum Borchers and Christopher Rowland at The Boston Globe. Another disclosure form says Romney "owned 100 percent of Bain" as recently as 2002, and earned at least $100,000 from the company as an "executive" in 2001 and 2002. Mother Jones and Talking Points Memo also broke news on this front earlier this month, and together, the reports have potentially serious implications for the presumptive GOP nominee, who has consistently said he can't be held responsible for actions taken by Bain after 1999, including alleged instances of outsourcing and worker lay-offs. Team Romney says that the Globe report is "inaccurate," and that Romney had "no input on investments or management of companies" after 1999. However, the Obama campaign says the report means Romney either lied to the SEC — a federal offense — or to the American people. Has Romney been dishonest about his tenure at Bain?
Yes. He clearly ran the company after 1999: "The American public has every right to feel misled," says Henry Blodget at Business Insider. It's simply not possible that Mitt could be chairman, CEO, and president of Bain and simultaneously "disavow any responsibility for what the firm did." The Romney campaign is trying to walk a "very fine rhetorical line here," and it has "the potential to destroy Romney's credibility."
"Sorry, Mitt Romney, you can't be chairman, CEO, and president of a company and not be responsible for what it does…"
Actually, it all depends on semantics: In a case that hearkens back to the Monica Lewinsky scandal, "it depends upon what the meaning of the word retired is," says Peter Cohan at Forbes. Bill Clinton once famously tried to parse the definition of the word "is," and Romney will have to perform similar verbal jujitsu to explain how he could have "retired" from Bain if his name was still on the company's books three years after he left. At best, Romney's account of his Bain tenure could be "charitably referred to as stepping into 'gray areas.'"
"Did Mitt Romney exit Bain Capital in 2002 or 1999? It depends on the meaning of the world 'retire'"
Forget semantics. Voters will think Mitt lied: Nuances will be lost on voters who are "unlikely to buy the argument that Romney bears no responsibility for the activities of a company during a period in which he is listed" as the chief executive, says Greg Sargent at The Washington Post. "My guess is that even some Romney supporters are going to start expressing discomfort over this."
"New Bain revelations put Romney in a tough spot"
More evidence is needed: The appearance of Romney's name "on securities and partnership documents does not necessarily prove his active involvement in running the company," says Michael D. Shear at The New York Times. "No one has come forward to produce notes of meetings" that Romney attended, and there is no indication that he participated in any conference calls or partnership meetings. When confronted with this dearth of evidence, the Obama camp has only "hinted that something like that might emerge."
"Romney's Bain tenure seized on again by Obama camp"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The Obama era is over. The presidency continues.
- America created the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria? Meet the ISIS 'truthers'
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- How Harry Houdini escaped death
- How American businessmen are ruining American business — and the U.S. economy
- What is Molly? Everything you need to know about the party drug
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- On ISIS, neocons and liberal hawks have a 'boy who cried wolf' problem
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- 9 delightful recipes from the 1950s you should make with your kids today
Subscribe to the Week