The Associated Press reports this morning that Mitt Romney “stayed in regular contact” with his partners at Bain in the months after the 1999 date that he has given as the time he left the company. The story also claims he “continued to oversee his partnership stakes even as he disengaged from the firm, personally signing or approving a series of corporate and legal documents through the spring of 2001.”
The story doesn’t move the ball too much, but it adds to the information that complicates his case that he bears no responsibility for any of the controversial Bain deals that took place during that period — and that he played “no role whatsoever” with the firm.
Factcheck.org, which has been among the toughest critics of Obama’s efforts to tie Romney to those Bain years, took a look at the latest revelations, and offered a mixed verdict. Factcheck.org director Brooks Jackson had this to say to TPM:
“None of this shows he actually did what the Obama camp claims he did,” Jackson said, referring to ads that say Romney shipped jobs overseas. “Where is the evidence that Romney had any part in managing these companies that Bain acquired or invested in after 1999? There isn’t any. There is none.”
As for whether Romney is ultimately responsible for decisions made while he was still head of Bain, Brooks says that’s not his business.
“Look, if someone wants to argue that Romney had moral responsibility for decisions someone else made while he retained corporate titles, fine. We’ll leave judgments about moral responsibility to others.”
As it happens, that is the argument that many Dems are making. Again: There are two separate questions here. The first is: Is there any evidence that Romney had a direct managerial role in the controversial deals in question? The second question is: Even if the answer to the first question is No, is it nonetheless fair to hold Romney partly responsible for — or associate him with — Bain’s activities during a period in which he was listed as the company’s CEO and chairman, particularly now that more evidence has emerged that he retained some kind of relationship with the company?
It’s hard to see how this association isn’t fair political game. But in any case, the point is that the question of whether it is or isn’t legit to hold Romney responsible for the company’s activities can’t be answered in a factual manner. It’s a matter of opinion; it’s a matter for a political argument. That’s really what FactCheck.org’s Jackson comes close to saying above. One side says he should be held responsible; the other says he shouldn’t. By the way: Both the Post’s Glenn Kessler and Politifact now agree with the judgment that a case can be made that Romney is at least partly responsible for Bain’s activities, even after 1999.
Romney can continue to argue, of course, that he had no direct role in the deals in question. But that argument is growing less relevant as more information about his ties to the company leaks out. The broader argument — that he isn’t at all responsible for the company’s activities and shouldn’t be associated with them in any way — is a tough political case to make. And the fact checkers seem to be moving away from him on it.