Romney, Inc: First Blood

Jan 24 2012 @ 12:40pm

In a piece worth reading in full, Jonathan Last raises some good questions. First, Romney's work on the speaker's circuit is actually quite remarkable. In 2010, Romney accepted $35,771 from a non-profit tutoring and mentoring organization in Florida. He was also paid $29,750 to give a speech via satellite to a "Get Motivated Seminar" in Utah. Last: 

He does seem to have shown up to speak for Clark Consulting. Clark is a boutique operation: They consult for large financial institutions who are evaluating their business-owned life insurance programs. For this engagement, Romney was paid $66,000. The oddness of this booking was mirrored in two other speeches he gave. One was to Goldentree Asset Management, a New York hedge fund (they paid $68,000); the other was Barclay’s Wealth, an American division of Barclay’s Bank which does financial planning for high net-worth individuals and institutions (they paid $42,500). It’s not immediately obvious what a man actively campaigning for the presidency would have to say to any of these groups. Though it is easy to see why they would want to get in a room with him. None of it is improper, of course. Just unusual for a man worth $250 million who is presumably not in need of a spare $60,000.

He also scrutinizes Romney's advertised record as a job creator. For instance, do Staples' 89,000 employees really have Romney to thank? According to Last, who tells the impressive story of Staples founders Tom Stemberg and Leo Kahn, Bain was "neither the first investor in Staples, nor the largest":

[U]ltimately, it seems a little strange to credit Romney with being much more than a smart early investor. That’s not nothing. Investment and capital are a very large part of entrepreneurial success—which is why investors reap large rewards when a business pans out. But still. A group of investors ponied up the $2.7 million needed to buy a group of restaurants from Richard and Maurice McDonald. Banker Ken Langone led a group of 40 investors to raise $2 million to start the Home Depot. And Mike Markkula gave Apple Computers the $250,000 it needed when it incorporated in 1977. We don’t credit the jobs created by McDonald’s, Home Depot, and Apple to the money men. We credit them to Ray Kroc, Bernard Marcus, Arthur Blank, Steve Jobs, and Steve Wozniak. Because those men had the ideas, ran the operations, and assumed most of the risk. It’s unclear why we should regard Romney’s role with Staples any differently.