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Jan. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Mitt Romney is depicted as a financier “more ruthless than Wall Street” and a son of privilege responsible for firing thousands of workers in a film bankrolled by Newt Gingrich supporters set to be released today in South Carolina.
“Make a profit,” a laughing Romney is shown saying in the 28-minute film, obtained by Bloomberg News. “That’s what it’s all about, right?”
Release of the film, which attacks Romney’s record as the chief executive officer of the private-equity firm Bain Capital LLC, comes after the former Massachusetts governor’s victory in yesterday’s New Hampshire Republican presidential primary.
With Romney taking wins in the first two nominating contests into South Carolina’s Jan. 21 primary, his rivals will seek to shake his frontrunner status in a state with a history of negative campaigning.
The film highlights the stories of people who say they lost their jobs after their companies were acquired by Bain, without naming the workers. And the video, while often relying on news accounts, at times stretches the truth and takes some reports out of context or selectively edits them, a review by Bloomberg News shows.
Money for Air Time
Entitled “When Mitt Romney Came to Town,” the film produced by Jason Killian Meath, a former Republican National Committee aide, is being funded by Winning Our Future, an organization run by longtime aides to Gingrich. Sheldon Adelson, chairman and chief executive officer of Las Vegas Sands Corp., and a Gingrich supporter, has given Winning Our Future $5 million to help air the film in South Carolina.
Among the film’s allegations, it potentially overstates Romney’s net worth and the number of homes he owns and misstates how active a role he played in Bain during a period the company owned KB Toys Inc.
“It’s absolutely brutal in its depiction of the activities of Bain Capital under Governor Romney,” said Stephen K. Bannon, a conservative filmmaker and radio host who said he had no connection to the Romney film.
Bannon, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker, interviewed Barry Bennett, a supporter of Texas Governor Rick Perry who commissioned the film, on his show at KABC Radio in Los Angeles.
“It wouldn’t be an issue except for the fact that Governor Romney’s made it the central part of this thesis for why he should be elected,” Bannon said.
Swift Boat Comparison
The attacks on Romney’s tenure at Bain are similar to criticism Democrat John Kerry faced over his service in the Vietnam War in his unsuccessful presidential bid, said political analyst Matthew Dowd on the Charlie Rose show.
Kerry’s military service was his main asset in the 2004 election that was about national security. It became a liability when an outside group ran advertisements critical of Kerry’s record, Dowd said.
“That’s the problem with Bain,” Dowd said. “It’s the main asset that Mitt Romney has to sell in an election about the economy.”
The film focuses on four companies acquired by Bain that later suffered difficulties or filed for bankruptcy -- UniMac, KB Toys Inc., America Pad & Paper or Ampad, and DDI Corp., an electronics company.
‘Filling in the Gaps’
“We’re filling in the gaps of the 20 years of Bain that nobody knows about,” said Rick Tyler, a former Gingrich campaign spokesman and senior adviser to Winning Our Future. “People can look at it and decide for themselves.”
The film says that Romney’s financial statement shows his personal fortune to be “at least a quarter billion dollars.”
That figure is a top range of Romney’s worth. Romney filed a public financial disclosure report with the Federal Election Commission last year that lists his investment holdings, which are valued using a range. Using lower figures in the range, Romney could have assets valued at $190 million.
An unidentified woman in the film says Romney owns 15 homes. According to published reports, Romney owns three, one in Massachusetts, one in California and one in New Hampshire.
In another instance, the film said the Boston Herald newspaper called profits that Romney and his firm made from KB Toys “disgusting.”
The quote is incorrectly attributed. The Boston Herald quoted a fired KB Toys employee saying top executives made “disgusting” profits after the 2000 takeover.
The film includes a procession of purported fired workers describing their struggles to cope with the ensuing job losses.
An unnamed woman recalls how she lost her home after she says she was fired by Ampad and had to pack her belongings into a moving truck. The identities of the people portrayed couldn’t be immediately independently verified.
In his presidential campaign appearances, Romney has cited jobs created by the private-equity firm where he worked for 25 years.
Romney has stated that, while some business ventures failed, a net gain of 100,000 jobs were created by Bain’s successes. Neither the Romney campaign nor Bain provided data to support that figure.
The film’s interview with the purportedly fired worker is juxtaposed with a clip of Romney saying, “For an economy to thrive, there are a lot of people who will suffer as a result of that.”
Others depicted in the film include a woman describing how she was fired when eight months pregnant, a mother who had difficulties feeding her family after her alleged job-loss and several women who lost homes to foreclosure. Throughout the film, Romney and Bain are presented as having caused, and profited from, their hardships.
“Under Romney, Bain was making billions,” a narrator says. “At the same time, contributing to the greatest American job-loss since World War II.”
“It is sad when any American loses their job,” Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Romney’s presidential campaign, said in a statement responding to the film. Under President Barack Obama, “25 million Americans are out of work, under-employed or have stopped looking for work. It’s puzzling to see Speaker Gingrich and his supporters continue their attacks on free enterprise.”
“This is the type of criticism we’ve come to expect from President Obama and his left-wing allies at Moveon.org,” Saul said. “Unlike President Obama and Speaker Gingrich, Mitt Romney spent his career in business and knows what it will take to turn around our nation’s bad economy.”
‘Rich Beyond Imagination’
Tyler refused to authorize Bloomberg to show the film ahead of its official release.
The film also depicts Romney as “rich beyond imagination” and out of touch with most Americans as a result of his wealth. Two of Romney’s homes are featured, described as “a $3 million home in New Hampshire with a private beach and a $12 million beachfront property in California.”
Twice in the film, Romney is also shown speaking in French. The two-time presidential aspirant was a Mormon missionary in France as a young man.
--With assistance from Jonathan Salant, Catherine Dodge, Brian Faler, Robert Schmidt, Jesse Hamilton, Seth Stern, Greg Giroux and Brian Faler in Washington. Editors: Robin Meszoly, Justin Blum
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