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UPDATE: It seems the Romney campaign can’t help digging itself deeper into the Bain controversy as questions mount over when the Republican candidate left the company. Coming up with what Political Wire qualifies as the “worst talking point ever,” campaign adviser Ed Gillespie says that when Mitt Romney left Bain there “may have been a thought at the time that it could be part time, but it was not part time,” reports the Hill. Turns out, the Olympics were in much worse shape than expected and he ended up having to dedicate himself full-time to the Salt Lake City Games.
"He took a leave of absence and in fact he ended up not going back at all, and retired retroactively to 1999 as a result," Gillespie said, complaining that the Obama camp is trying to turn Romney’s move to “help a country he loves” into “something sinister.”
Saturday, July 14: Mitt Romney insists he had no role in the management of Bain Capital after February of 1999, yet that wasn’t always the case, points out the Boston Globe. Romney only cemented that narrative when he was running for Massachusetts governor in 2002. Before then, Romney had repeatedly characterized his role at Bain as a “leave of absence,” saying he would have a part-time role in the company. Indeed, Romney collected at least $100,000 as a Bain “executive” in 2001 and 2002, notes the paper. He finalized a severance agreement with Bain in 2002.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that Romney is named as one of two managing members of Bain Capital Investors in annual reports filed with 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.”
Although he avoided some of the harsh language used by allies, Obama insisted Friday that Romney needs to answer lingering questions about Bain, reports the New York Times. “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 on WJLA-TV in northern Virginia.
Thursday, July 12: Thursday's top political talker: Exactly how long Mitt Romney remained as CEO and chairman of Bain Capital.
The Boston Globe (with the help of a few other outlets, which the paper initially failed to credit) stirred up trouble for the presumptive GOP nominee with a story Thursday that showed that the private equity firm had listed Romney as its top executive on SEC documents up until 2002—three years after the date which the former governor has repeatedly said he left the company to focus his efforts on the Olympics hosted by Salt Lake City.
The reason why a possible 2002 departure from Bain is so newsworthy is that it would rather drastically undercut Romney's claims that he played no role in a series of bankruptcies that occurred after 1999 at Bain-owned companies. As would be expected, Team Obama quickly jumped on the report, with a top campaign official accusing the GOP challenger of being "the most secretive candidate to run for president since Richard Nixon."
In the wake of the report, both Bain and the Romney campaign issued statements backing the candidate's previous depiction of his tenure at the firm. "The article is not accurate," said Romney press secretary Andrea Saul. "As Bain Capital has said, as Governor Romney has said, and as has been confirmed by independent fact checkers multiple times, Governor Romney left Bain Capital in February of 1999 to run the Olympics and had no input on investments or management of companies after that point."
In a follow-up interview with Politico, Romney adviser Matt McDonald said that Romney's name appeared on the SEC filings "because he was still technically the owner but hadn’t transferred ownership to other partners.”
Independent fact checkers appeared to largely agree. "We see little new in the Globe piece," FactCheck.org's Brooks Jackson told Politico. "So far, nobody has shown that Romney was actually managing Bain—even part-time—during his time at the Olympics, or that he was anything but a passive, absentee owner during that time, as both Romney and Bain have long said."
But, as the Washington Post points out, that nuance might be a tough sell to the average American:
Even if you accept that there’s no evidence Romney had direct involvement in Bain’s investment decisions, is this really the type of argument that’s going to fly with voters? My guess is that the distinction the Romney campaign is making here will be lost on them. They are unlikely to buy the argument that Romney bears no responsibility for the activites of a company during a period in which he is listed as the “chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president” of the company.
If nothing else, the Globe story is the latest to raise questions about the former Massachusetts governor's business dealings since he launched his presidential run last June. Earlier this month, for instance, Vanity Fair published an investigation of Romney's myriad offshore bank accounts, the details of which continue to remain opaque.