Romney Defended By…Romney Policy Aide Who Worked for Bain

<a href="">Gage Skidmore</a>/Flickr

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Over at National Review Online, Avik Roy takes issue with my scoop on Romney’s investment in a Chinese appliance-manufacturing firm that sought to profit from US outsourcing. Roy says he used to work at Brookside Capital, the Bain-affiliated entity that made this investment, but he doesn’t indicate whether he was around (or in a senior position) at the time of this particular deal in 1998. (On his Google+ page, by the way, Roy notes he was at Bain Capital, not Brookside. Yeah, I suppose, this stuff can be confusing.) Moreover, Roy now serves on Romney’s health care policy advisory group. Thus, he has a stake in this venture.

His argument is basically this: Romney did not make the decisions regarding Brookside’s investments, and, consequently, cannot be held accountable for these deals.

If Roy was not an eyewitness to internal Bain/Brookside deliberations in the late 1990s, his testimony is less than compelling. Can he say that Romney took no interest in how Brookside was being managed? Had no discussions with those Bain colleagues who were in charge of these decisions?

All that aside, Roy is promoting a classic corporate dodge. He writes:

Which of Bain Capital’s investments is it fair to hold Mitt Romney accountable for?

The answer: He is accountable for the investments in which he actually made the decisions. If I have my 401(k) invested in the Fidelity Select Health Care Fund, am I responsible for every decision made by the portfolio manager at Fidelity? Obviously not. The same goes for Mitt Romney.

This was hardly equivalent to a retirement fund investment. Romney “wholly owned” Brookside, according to a SEC filing. He created this entity. No doubt, he had a say regarding who was managing it. It was part of the Bain world he oversaw. He bears a degree of responsibility—perhaps Romney can calculate the precise percentage—for this venture.

Imagine this scenario: Romney owned a coal mining company. He decided to open a particular mine. He placed that project in the hands of other executives. Would he hold no responsibility if the mine generated profits because the execs he put in charge operated it well—or if the mine became the site of a horrendous accident because those same execs purposefully overlooked safety rules?

Did Romney literally have nothing to do with Brookside—a $559 million venture by early 1999—though he owned it? Did he never look at its lists of investments? Never have a chat with the guys running it? Or did he just let them run free and not pay attention to the direction of their investments—which in itself would be significant?

The Romney camp keeps insisting on a narrative that allows Romney to take credit for the positive aspects of his Bain days (thousands of low-wage Staples jobs!) and to sidestep all else (outsourcing, bankruptcies, politically-inconvenient investments). But in the world of high-and-complicated finance, it’s not that simple.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend