It's All Politics
Thu September 27, 2012
In 1980s Romney Video From His Bain Days, Profits, Not Jobs, Were Focus
Originally published on Mon October 1, 2012 5:30 pm
From the magazine that brought you the infamous, secretly recorded "47 percent" video comes a new one about Republican candidate Mitt Romney — this one offering a very different objective for Bain Capital than the one he brags about on the campaign trail.
In stump speeches, Romney explains that he can fix the U.S. economy because of his experience at the company he founded, Bain Capital, investing in companies to create jobs. In a video made for a company function unearthed by Mother Jones magazine, Romney comes off sounding less altruistic.
In the 1985 clip, a much younger Romney says:
"Bain Capital is an investment partnership which was formed to invest in startups and ongoing companies, then to take an active hand in managing them and, hopefully, five to eight years later, to harvest them at a significant profit."
Romney defended his 47 percent remark with the explanation that it was not elegantly presented. He can very likely make the same argument with the new tape.
Indeed, many private-equity experts have long explained that the goal of Bain and similar companies was never to create jobs per se — but to generate profit for itself and its investors.
If this new tape again causes Romney problems, though, it is likely to be because of its tone. His 47 percent language was seen as labeling nearly half the country as moochers who would never take responsibility for their own lives.
This time, it's that word "harvesting," which brings to mind, for instance, organ harvesting from the recently deceased.
Even some of Romney's primary foes tried to make an issue of Bain's business model earlier this year, pointing out that that Bain and Romney made money whether the companies they purchased thrived or were driven into bankruptcy.
The arguments never got traction in a Republican primary, where the criticism was seen as an attack on capitalism itself, but have been worked to better effect by President Obama and his allies.
Not long after the Mother Jones article and video were posted Thursday, the Obama campaign put out a statement from Randy Johnson, who lost his job with Ampad, an Indiana company purchased by Bain in 1992.
"Today's video confirms what I and other workers fired by Mitt Romney's Bain Capital already know: that Romney's business experience was never about creating jobs. Any other explanation Romney puts forth about this 'private sector' experience or understanding of the 'real economy' are just empty words from a man desperately trying to rewrite the past in order to win an election."
The Romney campaign had this response:
"In addition to starting new businesses, Mitt Romney helped build Bain Capital by turning around broken companies, creating and saving thousands of jobs," said campaign spokesperson Amanda Henneberg. "The problem today is that President Obama hasn't been able to turn around our economy in the same way."
S.V. Dáte is the congressional editor on NPR's Washington Desk.