Rick Tyler, head of the Gingrich super PAC Winning Our Future, e-mailed me in response to my post this morning citing the Gingrich onslaught against Mitt Romney and Bain. He wrote: “I’ve not so much said there is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ as I am saying there are high-flying eagles who create value and jobs by innovating and growing a business. Then there are low-flying vultures who pick the carcasses of companies who fail to innovate. My contention is not a criticism of capitalism (as Romney would have us believe) but of Romney’s claim that he is a high-flying eagle creating jobs but a vulture firing people. Vultures are good but they should not pretend to be eagles. The Romney campaign now admits the 100,000 jobs-created claim is not NET NET as Romney said in the ABC News debate but GROSS GROSS.” For starters, only a political hack would say that good/bad is different from vultures/eagles.
But let’s see what he is talking about. In the ABC News debate Romney said “net-net.” He’s continued to argue this point. In fact, I’ve never heard him or anyone on the campaign admit Tyler’s “gross-gross” point. The super PAC’s casual indifference to the facts is noteworthy. If Tyler is referring to the Romney ad released today that speaks about “thousands,” there’s no indication that Romney is backing away from his 100 thousand figure. He repeated his contention about 100,000 jobs yesterday.
I then asked Tyler a series questions: How is a private equity firm that buys up firms that would otherwise go out of business a vulture? If you read the Macey piece in the Wall Street Journal, why shouldn’t private equity firms be proud of their record? Was “looting” an accurate term for what Bain did? Has Sheldon Adelson or any representative contacted the PAC to express concern?
He wouldn’t answer those questions. Someone should ask them of Gingrich in one of the next two debates. Instead Tyler answered, “I don’t have a beef with private equity firms.” Gosh, you’d never get that from watching the film. He then accused me of “ignoring” the issue with Romney’s claims — which I guess was whether he helped create 100,000 more jobs — after tossing out the name GSI (a South Carolina firm that didn’t make it and received a federal pension bailout), accusing Romney of “shorting pension funds.” There is no evidence of that accusation that I have seen. He then pronounced, “We’re not backing down.”
Understand how far the Gingrich swamp has come. From “looting” and a hugely misleading film, which The Post’s Glenn Kessler easily debunked, his super PAC now says it’s got no problem with private equity firms. Switching from a bazooka to a peashooter, it identifies a single deal in which Bain invested where people lost their jobs.
Even that accusation seems half-baked. Forbes reports on GSI, which Bain formed by investing $24 million to “buy and merge several steel companies”in the 1990’s. (Bain must have been one of the few, since that was the era of U.S. steel companies’ collapse) Forbes explained:
Company managers cut jobs and benefits almost immediately,” says the [Los Angeles]Times, while Bain and other investors reaped management fees and dividends. In 2001, GSI went bankrupt and 700 workers lost their jobs and most of their benefits. But Bain had already made $50 million on its initial investment, reports the Times.
Bain declined to comment to the Times about GSI, but some 40 other steel companies did go bankrupt during the decade between 1994 and 2004. Romney has also taken credit for another, smaller steel investment that was a job creation engine. In 1994, Bain invested $18.2 million in a manufacturing start-up, Steel Dynamics, which now employs 6,000 workers. Another example of an employment hike at a Bain company: Epoch Senior Living, which grew from a few hundred when Bain invested $26.4 million in 1998 to more than 3,000 employees when it sold in 2007
Several things pop out. Had Bain not made its investment, presumably all those 700 GSI employees would have been out of work much sooner, just like most of the steel workers in the 1990’s. Moreover, Romney left Bain in 1999, two years before the firm’s bankruptcy. If he is responsible for losing jobs at a Bain-invested steel company two years after he left, doesn’t he at least get some credit for keeping an enterprise going that would have closed seven years earlier?
The enormity of Gingrich and his clan’s misrepresentations should disturb even his most indulgent fans. They created a firestorm, now say never mind and try to retreat to a tinier claim (which also ounds suspicious) and some weird bird analogy. (I await the Romney counterpunch: “Honey, I Shrunk the Baseless Allegations.”)
One person has come running to Gingrich’s side. The Romney team is eager to share a clip of AFL-CIO boss Richard Trumka riding to Gingrich’s defense. Thunk.
In the general election, the Romney team, as I noted before, better have plenty of data to back up its job-creation claims. Unlike Gingrich, the Obama camp knows what it is doing. The Romney team had better have its ducks in a row.