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ThePlumLIneGS whorunsgov plumline
Posted at 08:09 AM ET, 07/20/2012

The Morning Plum: Bain won’t detail Romney’s post-1999 role

First off, our thoughts are with the victims of the horrific shooting in Colorado and their families. Mitt Romney’s and Barack Obama’s reactions are right here. This tweet seems worth thinking about:

We don’t have to accept mass shootings as an inevitable part of our culture. We can change this if we discuss it as more than just politics.

And now, on to other news...

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Much of the battle over Mitt Romney’s Bain years turns on a simple question: Is it fair to hold Romney partly responsible for — or associate him with — the deals that took place at Bain after 1999, when he continued to be listed as the company’s CEO and chairman, but severed his direct managerial role at the company?

Here’s something that will add to the discussion: Bain is refusing to detail whether Romney played a role in company board meetings during the disputed period.

Post fact checker Glenn Kessler, one of the toughest critics of Obama’s Bain attacks, has taken another deep look at the situation, and has concluded that there’s no basis for saying Romney had no role whatsoever at the company or bears no responsibility at all for its activities. Here’s the key bit:

Our position has been that he effectively stopped managing Bain when he left for his Olympics job. Most important, without direct evidence, we have been reluctant to grant carte blanche to the Obama campaign or Romney’s GOP rivals to assert that Romney had a direct role in Bain deals between 1999 and 2002 (“Romney closed 1,000 stores…”).
However, a case could be made that, with his ownership role shown in SEC documents, he still bore some responsibility. (As far we can tell, Romney has never said that the Bain deals done in that period had problems.) ...
While we cannot definitely prove that Romney did not play a role in Bain deals in 1999, neither can the Obama campaign prove that he did. Our general position has been that the burden of proof rests with the campaign.
But Romney has failed to provide sufficient evidence that he had “no role whatsoever” at Bain. Over the past few days, we have repeatedly asked Bain Capital whether the firm could provide a statement that a review of Bain board meetings had shown that Romney did not attend any such meeting, either in person or by phone. We are still waiting for a response.

No evidence has emerged to directly link Romney to the deals in question, so it’s wrong to say that Romney himself outsourced jobs or was directly involved in store closings or firings. But that does not answer the broader question of whether it’s nonetheless fair to hold Romney partly responsible for Bain’s activities during the disputed period, given that he was listed as its CEO and given that the true nature of his releationship to the company remains unclear.

Bain refuses to undertake a detailed accounting of whether Romney was involved in company discussions or decision-making after 1999. That’s the company’s right, of course. But as Kessler notes, now that some evidence of continued ties has emerged, the result is that it’s not unreasonable to suggest that Romney bore “some responsibility” for what happened during that period.

* Romney up on the air with bogus “didn’t build that” attack: As predicted, the Romney campaign is now going up on the air with a paid TV spot that hits Obama with the out-of-context quote. It concludes with a business owner saying: “It’s time we had somebody who believes in us, someone who believes that achievement should be rewarded, not punished. We need somebody who believes in America.”

The ad underscores again that a highly dishonest use of Obama’s quote is required to bolster Romney’s case that Obama is “attacking success,” as Romney likes to put it. That’s because the idea that this is what he’s doing — when taking note of the broader role of society and government in helping to enable prosperity — is, well, crazy.

* What the battle over “didn’t build that” is really about: Paul Krugman notes that when Romney accuses Obama of attacking success, he’s really talking about himself, and his outrage over having his Bain years and lack of transparency about his finances scrutinized so closely:

what’s now apparent is that the campaign was completely unprepared for the obvious questions, and it has reacted to the Obama campaign’s decision to ask those questions with a hysteria that surely must be coming from the top. Clearly, Mr. Romney believed that he could run for president while remaining safe inside the plutocratic bubble and is both shocked and angry at the discovery that the rules that apply to others also apply to people like him.

* Obama to hit back against “didn’t build that” attack: Per MSNBC’s First Read crew:

according to a campaign official, Obama is expected to “counterpunch” this Romney charge. “As he has many times before, the president will talk about his longtime belief in the drive and ingenuity of the American worker and his ongoing commitment to ensuring entrepreneurs and small businesses have the tools they need to succeed,” the campaign official says. “He will also highlight how Mitt Romney’s economic agenda would be devastating for small businesses.”

Of course, in the wake of the shooting, both candidates will likely turn down the volume today.

* Obama allies hit Romney on immigration: Priorities USA Action and the SEIU are going up with a new ad that links Romney’s offshore accounts and unreleased tax returns to his immigration policies, with a line (first used by Joe Biden) that’s likely to become a classic of the campaign: “He wants us to show our papers. But he won’t show us his.”

The ad’s depiction of Romney as untrustworthy could have special meaning for Latinos: He won’t say whether he’d repeal Obama’s deportation ban policy, and has said he’d veto the DREAM Act while vowing some other short-on-detail “bipartisan” solution.

* National war on voting intensifies: Ethan Bronner has a useful overview of all the Republican state-based campaigns to crack down on voting, er, “vote fraud,” and what voting rights advocates are doing to hit back. Taken together, the battle is extraordinary in scope and — if voting advocates are right — could have an untold impact on the outcome of the presidential election.

This quote from one advocate is worth saving: “What about all the people prevented improperly from voting? Doesn’t that undermine the integrity of the election?”

* More on Romney and offshoring: Mother Jones:

When [Romney] was running the private equity firm, he invested tens of millions of dollars in a pair of companies that specialized in outsourcing high-tech manufacturing and that developed offshore production facilities in Mexico, China, and elsewhere to build electronics for US firms.

* Obama not yet alienating upscale voters: Must-read from Nate Cohn on how Obama’s supposed “class warfare” rhetoric isn’t necessarily alienating the voters Obama needs to maintain his upscale version of the Democratic coalition.

* And is the 2012 election 2004 all over again? Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake chart the astonishing similarities between the two elections, recalling that the challenger actually led George W. Bush for much of the summer before slowly passing him in the fall.

Remember: It is too soon to tell whether the Bain attacks did or didn’t work. If they are (or aren’t) successfully eroding Romney’s image underneath the head-to-head toplines, we will discover this when undecided voters actually begin to make their decisions, based on impressions that have built up over months.

What else?

By  |  08:09 AM ET, 07/20/2012

 
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