Newt Gingrich accuses Mitt Romney of ‘looting’ during Bain tenure

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) is renewing his attacks on Mitt Romney’s record as chief executive of Bain Capital, accusing the former Massachusetts governor and GOP frontrunner of “looting” start-up companies during his years atop the venture capital firm.

“I’m for capitalism,” Gingrich told Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity Monday night. “I’m for honest entrepreneurs investing, I’m for people creating businesses. Now, Callista and I have created four small businesses in the last decade, I get it. But I’m not for looting.”

As he did on Monday, Gingrich seized on a Wall Street Journal report digging into Bain’s track record, which includes some eye-popping returns for the venture capital firm but also some cases of bankruptcy and failure for some of the businesses it acquired.

“There’s a company in The Wall Street Journal today that Bain put $30 million into, took $180 million out of and the company went bankrupt,” Gingrich said. “And if you have to asked yourself, you know, was a six to one return really necessary, what if they only take $120 million out, will the company still be there with 1,700 families still have a job? I think there’s a real difference between people who believed in the free market and people who go around, take financial advantage, loot companies, leave behind broken families, broken towns, people on unemployment.”

(Gingrich’s financial figures don’t match those reported in the Wall Street Journal article, but he was apparently referring to the description of Bain’s deal involving a company called DDi. The Journal reported, “Bain nearly quadrupled the money its investors put into DDi starting in 1996, turning a $41 million investment into $157 million of value within a few years, according to the 2004 prospectus.” Bain then merged DDi with another company and took it public. The company later filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, the Journal reported.)

Gingrich reiterated his call for Romney to hold a news conference “to walk the country through the things that they did at Bain because in three or four cases, they don’t look like capitalism. They look like rich guys looting companies, taking all the cash and leaving behind all the unemployed.”

He added: “It’s not fine if the person who is rich manipulates the system and gets away with all the cash and leaves behind the human beings.”

Gingrich, along with Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), has been sharply critical in recent days of Romney’s tenure at Bain. Perry on Tuesday morning called such venture capital firms “vultures.”

Both have sought to make the argument that if Romney is unable to withstand scrutiny of his record now, he stands little chance of doing so against President Obama’s campaign operation in the fall.

But reactions from the other GOP hopefuls on Bain have been somewhat more mixed.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) has refrained from criticizing Romney on Bain and has said that the other White House contenders are “unfairly” attacking the former Massachusetts governor and don’t understand how the market works, The Post’s Nia-Malika Henderson reports.

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who is trailing in New Hampshire, is also defending Romney, saying in an appearance on “Hannity” Monday night that he agrees with the former Massachusetts governor that he would expect such attacks to come more from Democrats than from fellow Republicans.

“I tend to sort of agree with him, that this is capitalism,” Santorum said. “And if there are things that he did where he abused taxpayer dollars, if there are things -- and I know there’s one case where there’s some question about that, there was some money available -- but, the idea that we’re going to go out and say that destructive capitalism, as well as constructive capitalism, we’re only for one half? That’s not how capitalism works. I mean, businesses fail.”

He added: “I just don’t think as a conservative, and someone who believes in business, that we should be out there playing the games that the Democrats play, saying somehow capitalism is bad. If he did a bad deal, that’s one thing, let the press handle that.”

Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, meanwhile, has given conflicting messages.

In an interview with Fox News Channel’s Greta van Susteren Monday night, Huntsman defended his campaign’s criticism of Romney’s remark that he likes to “fire people,” a comment that Romney’s camp argues has been taken out of context.

“Well, if you’re talking about your enjoyment in firing people, if you’re talking about pink slips during a time when we need to be talking about jobs and expanded economic opportunity for people, that would seem to be problematic,” Huntsman said. “But just look at the political dimension. When you’re up against the Chicago political machine that’s going to have a billion dollars to spend on goofy statements like that -- give me a break. That’s going to make electing a Republican very difficult.”

But on Tuesday morning, Huntsman said on MSNBC that he would refrain from attacking Romney on Bain.

“Well, I’m not gonna quibble with Bain Capital because you can quibble with my record in manufacturing in business,” Huntsman said during an appearance on “Morning Joe.” “But I will quibble with what he did as governor because I think that’s more germane and relevant. How did he govern his state from an economic development standpoint when he had four years to do it? ... I think it is a whole lot more germane to the voters what he did when he was an elected official.”

Gingrich, for his part, has been strongly critical of Romney on Bain but also has said that he believes the “fire people” remark has been taken out of context.

“I think it’s totally unfair to suggest that when he said, ‘I like firing people,’ he meant literally firing people,” Gingrich told Hannity. “He meant I like having the right to choose which company I go to for services and I think that’s something I would not use and would not make a commercial about because it’s so misleading.”

More New Hampshire primary news from Post Politics:

Mitt Romney under attack as New Hampshire vote looms

Dana Milbank: Mitt Romney's money problem

The Fix: Is Jon Huntsman a one-state wonder?

Newt Gingrich veers from nice to nasty

New Hampshire primary: pre-game analysis

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