Tuesday, July 24, 2012

USA Today poll

I was corresponding with a right-winger last night (Using the comments section attached to a piece in our local paper) and he suggested that I check out a USA Today poll concerning the Obama campaign's attacks on Bain Capital and what people thought of Romney's  business experience as far as his economic expertise goes. Apparently, the news on that is good for Romney as the poll showed that the public thinks 63% to 29%, that Romney's business experience is a plus when it comes to dealing with our economy.
Slight problem, though. When the focus of the question is narrowed from the public at large to just independent voters who have been paying attention to the campaign in swing states (Where the Obama campaign anti-Bain advertisements have been airing), the result is far less pleasant to the Romney campaign. The polling there shows a significant movement towards Obama and against Romney when those particular voters hear about Bain focusing on "creat[ing] wealth for their investors" as opposed to "creat[ing] a stronger American economy."
Problem is, there's a difference between running a private, for-profit corporation, no matter how large it may be, and between running a democratic government. Democratic governments can't simply toss liabilities overboard and stick others with taking care of them the way private industries regularly do. Overseeing the budget for a private company is a relatively simple matter, you want to make sure that your bottom line is a positive number. If it is, you're a success and if it's a really big positive number, you're even more of a success. Governments are more multi-purposed and have several different mandates to juggle. As US News pointed out back in February, the idea that businessmen automatically make good presidents, well, that may be a great idea in theory, but once you start really examining that idea, it quickly falls apart.

Update: and yes, we've now confirmed that Obama's attacks on Bain Capital did indeed have their intended effect. Romney has now stopped talking about his business background and is now talking about his being Governor of Massachusetts!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

WaPo fact-checker needs to be sanctioned

There's a good summary of the Mitt Romney-Bain Capital "Who was leading Bain Capital during the time when Bain was a national leader in outsourcing/offshoring production from America to low-wage countries?" dispute. The years were 1999 to 2002 and Romney's story is that during those years, he was out of the loop and retired as the company's founder and chief executive. As the piece points out, Romney was receiving an annual $100,000 salary during those years. What was Bain paying him six figures for if all he was doing was standing around and acting as the figurehead, but not actually being involved in the operations of the company?

Also, as another blogger points out, where is the evidence that a new chairman took over in 1999?

And another thing. If Romney wasn’t the CEO for those three years, who was? Shouldn’t someone be coming forward to say they were in charge, not Mitt. Wouldn’t there be minutes from a board meeting detailing the line of succession? How about a mass email sent out to everyone at Bain congratulating the new CEO like you would get at every other company in America? These are arrogant fuckers, surely there has to be one Bain brochure with the new non-Mitt CEO standing in front of his office. Surely Bain must have an investor newsletter that would tell investors that Romney was out in 1999 and the new CEO was in charge. Where is all that stuff?

The WaPo Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler, states that:

We had examined many SEC documents related to Romney and Bain in January, and concluded that much of the language saying Romney was “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president” was boilerplate that did not reveal whether he was actually managing Bain at the time.

Erm. slight problem with the "boilerplate" theory is that lying to the SEC is a felony, and for very good reason. Such a situation would be

"Very, very serious. And in the normal course would subject somebody in this position to every manner of investigation with all the consequences that you can imagine that would follow."

The reason why it's so serious is that investors need full, complete and accurate information about a company that they might be investing millions of dollars into. As Romney was the “sole stockholder" in Bain Capital, that particular provision might not matter so much as nobody was investing directly in the company. But as Romney is running for President of the United States, to dismiss these misrepresentations as mere "boilerplate" holds Romney to an extraordinarily low standard of truthfulness and trustworthiness.

An amusing "rebuttal" Kessler makes is that: "To accept some of the claims, one would have to believe that Romney, with the advice of his lawyers, lied on government documents and committed a criminal offense." Problem is, we've now uncovered conflicting documents that say different things. Not only did Romney claim on official government filings that he was “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president,” but he also said, again, on official government filings, that "Since February 11, 1999, Mr. Romney has not had any active role with any Bain Capital entity." It's kinda difficult for both statements to be true. Seems to me that he had to have lied on at least one of those occasions. Romney's situation is now made even more difficult by the statement made several months after his alleged "retirement," that he was now a part-time CEO. Sure, he was running preparations for the Olympics, no one is making the claim that he retained day-to-day control of Bain Capital, but the quoted press release directly contradicts his assertion that he played no role in the company after  February 1999.

Regardless of how much a "hands-on" manager Romney was, the bottom line, no matter how many anonymous Democrats say otherwise,  is that

Look at it this way, guys like Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling also tried to say they didn't know what was going on and Enron and couldn't be held responsible for details. The law disagreed. That's not to say that Bain did anything illegal during that period, but the underlying principle is the same. If your name is on the legal paperwork, you're responsible.

One comment I found truly annoying was the assertion by Kessler that: "...in these partisan times, the backgrounds of sources should be disclosed." It's difficult to see why the backgrounds of any of the sources for the story are of the slightest relevance. The Boston Globe piece very clearly refers to documents, not just to people testifying. If you've seen the actual documents, why do you need to know the motivations of the people who brought those documents to light?

Perhaps Kessler doesn't need to be dismissed as a reporter entirely, perhaps he can simply be relieved of his duties as a fact-checker, but doing nothing will further degrade the esteem in which fact-checkers are held.


Romney responds

Romney responded to a particularly biting attack - that he may either be guilty of a felony or of lying to the American public - by asking in his CNN interview, "is that really what's expected from the campaign of the sitting president of the United States?"
"Is this the level that the Obama campaign is willing to stoop to? Is this up to the standards expected of the presidency of the United States," he asked. "It's disgusting; it's demeaning; it's something which I think the president should take responsibility for and stop."

If one reads the piece above, there is plenty of good reason to believe that Romney is either lying and/or a felon. If he wants to disprove that, he can begin by releasing all of his tax returns from 1998 onwards.

Update II:

Kessler backs down

With a lot of hemming and hawing and irrelevant asides, Kessler concedes the points made by the Obama campaign concerning Romney and his departure date from Bain Capital.

I found Kessler's following statement to be hugely amusing: "The years 1999-2002 are a gray period in Romney’s life." Gee, why would that be? Could it be because Romney himself has been vague and unwilling to produce documentation about that period? There is no inherent ambiguity here, The only questions are raised by the Romney campaign and its refusal to be open and honest about what Romney's status was.