If today is the Romney campaign's idea of how to get out of the box Romney is in, they're even less ready for prime time than I thought. This is, well, amazing:
"There may have been a thought at the time that it could be part time, but it was not part time," [Romney spokesman Ed] Gillespie said. "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," he added.
He ended up not going back at all? So I presume since he retroactively retired, he also paid back the salary he earned during that period. But apart from that, how does the Romney campaign explain the following claims made under oath by Romney and his lawyer testifying about his Massachusetts residence to qualify for the race for governor:
Romney testified that “there were a number of social trips and business trips that brought [him] back to Massachusetts, board meetings” while he was running the Olympics. He added that he remained on the boards of several companies, including the Lifelike Co., in which Bain Capital held a stake until 2001…
“He succeeded in that three-year period in restoring confidence in the Olympic Games, closing that disastrous deficit and staging one of the most successful Olympic Games ever to occur on US soil,” said Peter L. Ebb from Ropes & Gray, [his lawyer at the 2002 hearing].
“Now while all that was going on, very much in the public eye, what happened to his private and public ties to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts? And the answer is they continued unabated just as they had.”
So either Ed Gillespie and Romney are lying now, or Romney and his lawyer were lying then. Which is it? They were and are obviously trying to have it every which way to suit whatever purpose at the moment. But legally, CEOs are responsible for their companies, whether they are managing them full time, part time or even retroactively retiring while managing them. Period. The buck stops with the CEO, just as much as it stops with a president. As a Bain partner at the time said today:
“Mitt’s names were on the documents as the chief executive and sole owner of the company,” Ed Conard, who served as a partner at Bain Capital from 1993 to 2007, said in an exclusive interview with Up w/ Chris Hayes. Asked again if Romney was chief executive officer of Bain Capital from 1999 to 2002, Conard said, “Legally, on documents, I suppose, yes.”
Despite Romney's statements that he left in 1999, Conard's new remarks suggest that, in fact, Romney's continued ownership of the firm enabled him to negotiate a better exit deal. "We had to negotiate with Mitt because he was an owner of the firm," Conard said.
Romney, in other words, doesn't have a leg to stand on. He has been running a campaign against the "Obama economy" insisting that the president own every single month he has been in office in order to condemn his economic management all the more – despite at least a first year in which Obama cannot really be held responsible for the fallout of an economic collapse he inherited. So Romney insists on maximal responsibility for Obama and the economy.
But responsibility for Bain? Think about it. No one disputes that Romney co-founded Bain, hired most of its staff, and honed its methods and strategies from 1984 to 2002. No one can dispute that he was paid at least $100,000 from 1999 to 2002 for being CEO. There is no massive difference between the kind of strategies Bain pursued from 1984 to 1999 when Romney was managing full-time and from 1999 to 2002, when he was managing part-time and by his own lawyer's assertion that his Bain activities "continued unabated just as they had." Is Romney saying that nothing that happened at Bain after 1999 is his responsibility but that everything that happened after January 2009 is all Barack Obama's fault?
Yep, that's what he's saying. It's a pathetic double standard argument from a suddenly pathetic and panicking campaign. The only way he can dig out of this hole – yes, Bill Kristol is right – is to release 12 years of tax returns just as his father did. Until he does, the Obama campaign has every right to double and triple their insistent criticism of Romney's Bain record. And there will be more and more blood in the water.