Mitt Romney, on the defensive after a fresh round of criticism over his record as a Bain Capital LLC executive, struck back against the Obama campaign and called the attacks “disgusting and demeaning.”
Under pressure from Republicans who want him to be more forceful in responding to President Barack Obama and his allies, Romney said he had no management role at the private equity firm after February 1999 and demanded that the president apologize for aides who claim he is lying about when he resigned his position.
“I had no role whatsoever in managing Bain Capital after February of 1999,” Romney said from Laconia, New Hampshire, in an interview with CNN yesterday. “This is all an effort on the part of the president’s campaign to divert attention from the fact that the president has been a failure when it comes to reigniting America’s economy.”
Romney, who grants interviews sparingly, made the circuit of five television newscasts last night. He is seeking to change the narrative of the presidential race after a challenging week in which he saw his economy-focused message largely drowned out by Democratic charges that he had a hand in layoffs and job outsourcing at Bain.
A July 12 report in the Boston Globe identified nine Securities and Exchange Commission filings that named Romney as the chief executive, among other positions, of Bain Capital three years after he said he left the firm to run the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games. Those were years in which Bain completed a series of deals that resulted in relocating jobs overseas and bankruptcies that led to worker firings. Romney’s campaign has said he wasn’t part of that decision-making as he was no longer at the firm.
The Globe report said documents filed with the SEC through 2002 listed Romney as “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer and president.”
Obama campaign aides pointed to the report as evidence that Romney committed a felony by misrepresenting his role in the company in federal documents. In the interviews, Romney called on Obama to apologize for those attacks.
“He ought to disavow it and rein in these people who are running out of control,” Romney said on ABC News. “He sure as heck ought to say that he’s sorry for the kinds of attacks that are coming from his team.”
Romney also said he doesn’t plan to release additional years of tax returns beyond those for 2010 and 2011, though officials in both parties have called on him to disclose more of his filings. “Those are the two years that people are going to have,” he said on CNN. “That’s all that’s necessary for people to understand something about my finances.”
His media offensive came after several weeks of grumbling among Republicans that Romney isn’t answering attacks about his record from Obama and his allies, or presenting a compelling enough case for his election.
“This man has a success pattern in his life,” said Mel Sembler, a Romney fundraiser in Florida. “We had better start talking about it.”
Romney’s campaign has taken steps to bolster its messaging operation, recently elevating longtime adviser Kevin Madden, his 2008 spokesman, to a more prominent role in dealing with the media and announcing yesterday it has hired two experienced communications aides, Danny Diaz and Kevin Sheridan.
And Romney’s team sought his week to answer the Bain criticism with a fresh round of television advertisements that cast Obama as a desperate candidate making dishonest charges about Romney’s Bain background.
A new ad uses a clip of Obama’s own words from the 2008 campaign. “If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from,” Obama says in the spot, his words interspersed with assertions that the recent Bain reports had been found to be untrue.
Earlier yesterday, Obama said it is proper to scrutinize Romney’s record at 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 in an interview with Washington television station WJLA. “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 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, 65, is worth as much as $250 million, according to financial documents his campaign has released.
Bain said in a statement this week 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 led Romney, 50 percent to 43 percent, in a nationwide poll released this week 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.
To contact the reporters on this story: Lisa Lerer in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org; Julie Hirschfeld Davis in Washington at Jdavis159@bloomberg.net
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at email@example.com