Nobody From Nowhere (@i8dc)

Occasional Common Sense

When Did Romney Really Leave Bain? And Who Cares?

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The best explanation for the timeline of Mitt Romney’s separation from Bain Capital comes from Salon’s Steve Kornacki and goes like this:

  • In 1999, Romney was asked to take the helm of the struggling Salt Lake City Olympics, and very quickly (within a week or two) agreed and left Bain.  This was a leave of absence, similar to ones he had taken in 1991-2 (to temporarily run Bain and Company, which was in financial trouble) and in 1993-4 (to run for U.S. Senate against Ted Kennedy).
  • When (or as) the Olympics job was finishing up, Romney saw an opportunity to run for governor of Massachusetts; then acting Governor Jane Swift (R) was enormously unpopular and chose not to run for re-election.
  • During 2001 and 2002, Romney was paid a salary by Bain of at least $100K.
  • Either during or after the campaign, Romney finalized his departure from Bain.  After his term as governor, Romney would be 59, and clearly had eyes on a run for President.

How do I know that Romney’s departure became “real” around 2001 rather than around 1999? Well, I don’t.  But it makes more sense.

This was his company, that he had built, in which he had an enormous financial stake, and which would be his legacy in business. Given all that he had invested, both financially and personally, is it likely that he would have decided to leave forever in a matter of weeks?

It’s much more likely, in my opinion, that he quickly decided to take a leave of absence, set up a temporary management structure that would require far less of his direct involvement but would still report to him, and headed to Utah. Then, a couple of years later (and once the internal power struggles at Bain had settled down), when presented with a golden opportunity to become governor and springboard to the national political scene, he made his leave of absence permanent.

And so, in the interim period, when Romney was still the head of the company and I contend maintained a top-level steering hand, he was listed in various places as CEO, president, etc., because he was. And he was not listed as an investment manager, because he wasn’t.

Don’t think that my logic is solid enough? How about Romney’s own words, as quoted by Kornacki, to the Massachusetts State Ballot Law Commission in 2002?

When I left my employer in Massachusetts in February of 1999 to accept the Olympic assignment, I left on the basis of a leave of absence, indicating that I, by virtue of that title, would return at the end of the Olympics to my employment at Bain Capital, but subsequently decided not to do so and entered into a departure agreement with my former partners.

There. Romney giving a reasonable description of his departure from Bain. Was that so hard?

Here’s the most important point: none of this is a big deal.  Romney was in business to make money for himself and his investors, period. Unfortunately for Romney his aversion to any dirt on his facade has made him enormously weaselly in explaining this time period, because some of Bain’s investments in 1999-2002 didn’t turn out so well, at least for some people. Big deal.

Now, can we get back to talking about each candidate’s plans? Can we start with Romney explaining what will happen to the budget deficit if he cuts tax rates by 20% off the current 50-year-lows? Please?

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Written by David Clayton

July 16, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Posted in Punditry

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