Bain scrutiny picks up
Politico // ALEXANDER BURNS 12/19/11 2:41 PM EST
There have been a smattering of important stories so far this cycle about Mitt Romney's background as head of Bain Capital, but given Romney's standing in the polls the scrutiny has been relatively light.
That may be starting to change, with three stories on a single day building up the perception of Bain as a genuine liability for Romney in the general election. First, there's this from the wire in South Carolina:
The Associated Press reviewed Bain Capital's little-known investments at The Holson Burnes Group. Bain doubled its $10 million investment into the clock and photo supply company. But workers in South Carolina and New Hampshire lost their jobs as the company consolidated and expanded its operations overseas.
Then, there's this, from WPRI in Rhode Island:
Sensata Technologies, the former sensors-and-controls division of Texas Instruments spun off in 2006 by Mitt Romney's old company, will freeze its pension plan and scale back 401k contributions next month, WPRI.com has learned.
And most importantly, there's this story from the New York Times, establishing the fact that Romney still draws financial benefit from Bain and its investments:
Though Mr. Romney left Bain in early 1999, he received a share of the corporate buyout and investment profits enjoyed by partners from all Bain deals through February 2009: four global buyout funds and 18 other funds, more than twice as many over all as Mr. Romney had a share of the year he left. He was also given the right to invest his own money alongside his former partners. Because some of the funds and deals covered by Mr. Romney’s agreement will not fully wind down for several years, Mr. Romney is still entitled to a share of some of Bain’s profits.
During his political career, Mr. Romney has promoted his experience as a businessman while deflecting criticism of layoffs caused by private equity deals by noting that he left Bain in 1999. But records and interviews show that in the years since, he has benefited from at least a few Bain deals that resulted in upheaval for companies, workers and communities.
The Times story is the most significant because it gives Democrats a way of arguing that the window of accountability for Romney -- the time frame in which he can be held to account for Bain's conduct -- extends to the present day. He's obviously no longer involved in the operations of the company, but as the founder and longtime CEO of the private equity firm who still draws substantial personal income from the company, Romney may have a tougher time washing his hands of Bain's ongoing activities.
So far, Romney's answer on all things Bain has been that not every deal worked and some of them involved making painful choices, but on the whole he is a net creator of jobs who understands the private sector. That has worked in the GOP primary, but it'll be a tougher sell in the general election, and each story about Bain-related layoffs and benefits cuts will make it more so.