President Barack Obama said Mitt Romney’s record at the private-equity firm Bain Capital LLC deserves scrutiny because the Republican is basing his campaign on the premise “I’m Mister Fix-It on the economy.”
“If you’re the head of a large private-equity firm, or hedge fund, your job is to make money,” Obama said in an interview that aired today on “CBS This Morning.” “It’s not to create jobs.”
“It’s entirely appropriate to look at the record and see whether, in fact, his focus was creating jobs and he successfully did that,” Obama said when asked about the presumptive Republican nominee’s work at Bain.
Romney is named as one of two managing members of Bain Capital Investors LLC in annual reports filed in Massachusetts as late as 2002, adding a new corporate entity to a growing number of Bain-related investments and funds that list the Republican presidential candidate as controlling the company three years after he said he left it.
Separate documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, reviewed by Bloomberg News, also show Romney in 2000 as the sole stockholder of Bain Capital Investors Inc.
Romney and Bain say he retired in 1999 and ceased all management responsibilities to run the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
A report yesterday in the Boston Globe identified nine SEC filings that named Romney as the chief executive, among other positions, of Bain Capital three years after he took the Olympics job. The paper said documents filed with the commission through 2002 listed Romney as “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer and president.”
The reports dominated the campaign yesterday, with Obama’s re-election team calling the documents a “big Bain lie.” Obama, in an interview today with Washington television station WJLA, said Romney “attested to the SEC multiple times” that was at the head of Bain.
“I think most Americans figure if you are the chairman, CEO and president of a company that you are responsible for what that company does,” Obama said. “That’s probably a question that he’s going to have to answer and I think that’s a legitimate part of the campaign.”
Romney’s campaign charged Democrats with being dishonest. A release this morning was titled, “With no record to run on and no plan to fix the economy, the Obama campaign unravels amid false and debunked attacks.”
Romney’s campaign also released a television ad saying Democrats were using “misleading, unfair and untrue” attacks to vilify his record in business. Television interviews with the former Massachusetts governor were scheduled to air today on CNN and Fox News, as well as the newscasts of ABC, NBC and CBS.
This morning, Obama said that Romney’s experience running Bain required a different set of skills and priorities than those needed for serving as president.
“That doesn’t necessarily make you qualified to think about the economy as a whole, because as president my job is to think about the workers,” he said. “My job is to think about communities where jobs have been outsourced.”
Former President Bill Clinton agreed that Romney’s Bain background was relevant to the election.
“It’s just as relevant as the going over my record as governor got when I ran for president,” Clinton said in an interview on NBC’s “Today.” “He’s put it at the forefront. He’s said, basically, ‘I’d be a better president ’cause I know how to create jobs, ’cause that’s what I did.’”
Bain said in a statement yesterday that it took a while to transfer ownership to Romney’s successors “due to the sudden nature” of his decision to run the Olympics. Until the ownership situation was resolved, Romney continued to be listed as the sole stockholder and in various executive positions in SEC filings, the company said.
“Mitt Romney left Bain Capital in February 1999 to run the Olympics and has had absolutely no involvement with the management or investment activities of the firm or with any of its portfolio companies since the day of his departure,” the company said.
In August 2001, Bloomberg reported that Romney was quitting the firm and would be a “special limited partner,” with passive investments in Bain funds. His voting rights were parceled out to the managing directors without any financial payment, according to the Aug. 23 report.
“I will look for political opportunities in Massachusetts and Utah,” Romney said in an August 2001 interview with Bloomberg. “My family has a history of political involvement.”
He was elected governor of Massachusetts in 2002 and served a single four-year term.
Obama’s re-election campaign has zeroed in on Romney’s business background in ads, linking him to the outsourcing of U.S. jobs. Romney has said that voters are tired of politicians’ “petty” attacks.
The Obama campaign was out with a new online ad this morning, highlighting recent reporting on Romney’s Bain tenure and saying it was his “turn to explain” any discrepancies.
The period in dispute -- 1999 to 2002 --- has become an issue because investments managed by Bain during that time shipped jobs overseas and fired workers. Romney’s campaign has said he wasn’t part of that decision-making as he was no longer at the firm.
“There are serious questions that have been raised about what information has been public, what information has been released and what the American people don’t know,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said today. “When you run for president, people deserve to know you are who you say you are.”
Obama led Romney, 50 percent to 43 percent, in a nationwide poll released yesterday by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The survey gave Obama a 48 percent to 42 percent lead on who would do a better job of improving economic conditions, and a 46 percent to 42 percent edge on improving the job situation. The June 28-July 9 survey of 2,373 registered voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.
Romney “consistently claimed he couldn’t be blamed for bankruptcies and layoffs from Bain investments after February 1999 because he departed for the Olympics,” Obama’s deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, said in a statement yesterday. “Now we know that he wasn’t telling the truth.”
A Romney campaign spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, said Romney “had no input on investments or management of companies” after leaving Bain in February 1999.
Romney’s personal financial report filed in June carried the notation that “since Feb. 11, 1999, Mr. Romney has not had any active role with any Bain Capital entity and has not been involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way.”
Romney, 65, is worth as much as $250 million, according to financial documents his campaign has released.
To contact the reporters on this story: Lisa Lerer in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org; Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at email@example.com
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