The Obama campaign is challenging Mitt Romney to release more information about his taxes and time at Bain Capital in order to put to bed questions raised by SEC filings regarding his role at the company.
“If the SEC filings aren’t accurate, then prove it,” Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter told reporters on Thursday. “If he wasn’t investing millions of dollars in shell corporations, tax havens, Swiss bank accounts overseas to gain a tax advantage, then prove it. Prove it by releasing your tax returns.”
Romney said he left any managerial role at Bain Capital behind in February 1999, delegating all voting shares of stock to 26 managing directors and leaving day-to-day operations to focus on running the Olympics. But subsequent SEC filings list him as “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president.” A 2001 SEC filing first reported by TPM lists his “principal occupation” as “Managing Director of Bain Capital, Inc.” and the Boston Globe reviewed additional filings containing similar claims.
Media fact-checkers have dismissed a number of previous Obama attacks on Bain Capital by noting that various companies where layoffs or outsourcing occurred under Bain were acquired after 1999, thereby absolving Romney of responsibility. The Obama campaign claims that Romney’s presence in numerous SEC filings related to Bain and affiliated companies should push the window to 2001 and force a re-evaluation. Both the Washington Post’s blogger The Fact Checker and FactCheck.org said they were unmoved by the latest reports. The Post noted that there are no contemporary reports of Romney being involved with major company decisions during the period in question, despite being listed as owner, sole stockholder, CEO and “managing director.”
Cutter said Romney needs to show positive proof of his supposedly passive role, which was not borne out by his SEC filings.
“Romney actually has the ability to ask Bain to just release the minutes of meetings and other corporate records,” Cutter said. “Like his tax returns, he’s [in a] position to make sure they’re available for all of us to see.”
Cutter even suggested there were possible criminal implications for not disclosing the details of Romney’s departure from Bain. “Either Mitt Romney, through his own words and his own signature, was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the SEC, which is a felony, or he was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the American people to avoid responsibility for some of the consequences of his investments,” she said on the call.
The Romney campaign told TPM that his initial departure in 1999 was a quickly enacted leave of absence to run the Olympics and the company only officially transferred his voting stock to Bain’s managing directors in August 2001. The campaign also noted that Romney’s 2002 retirement package, which was calculated based on his 1999 departure, would have been more generous if Romney had claimed he had continued working in some capacity in the intervening years. Romney was, however, running for governor at the time, where Bain’s investments became a major issue in the campaign.
Romney surrogate John Sununu said in a statement that Romney would have been unable to handle both a role at Bain and his outside work at the same time.
“The Obama campaign must think Mitt Romney is Superman,” Sununu said. “He was, in reality, rescuing the Olympics by working in Utah 24/7 for the years the Obama campaign also alleges he was running Bain Capital. Even though the Obama campaign may be wrong about his involvement in Bain Capital, it shows that even they can admit Mitt Romney is a great leader.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.