Mitt Romney’s relationship to Bain Capital in 1999-2001 (when he abruptly agreed to take over management of the Olympic Games to be held in Utah) is producing media orgasms. It’s a great story, has it all, huge riches, politics, lies, good hair. Hardly gets better.
I went reading around the intertubes this morning to see what is being said in the more sober environs of news and opinion, and am not finding any blog love for the ‘felony’ claim. But what I did find is that there are other questions about unsavory practices in tax compliance, questions that could hurt Romney just as much.
Two columns at Business Insider this morning and one at FactCheck.org provide some fascinating reading. All three rely mostly on SEC filings, since Romney’s own tax returns have still not been released.
The FactCheck story, as usual, leaves speculation to others and is the result of their own reporting. Their conclusion is cautious and conditional, baring new information – they say no felony, not even a lie, allowing that two things can be true at one time and that his transition from his day job at Bain to full-time at the Olympics meant a great deal of legal and financial arrangements had to be reorganized and that took time. Lots of time. And not all documents were filed at the same time, allowing for what – unexamined – appear to be conflicting claims.
None of the SEC filings show that Romney was anything but a passive, absentee owner during that time, as both Romney and Bain have long said. It should not surprise anyone that Romney retained certain titles while he was working out the final disposition of his ownership, for example.
The two columns at Business Insider (here and here) take a different tack. Neither of them supports the ‘felony’ charge. They examine Romney’s tax compliance and very un-Presidential determination to pay the lowest legal tax, staying within the letter – certainly not the spirit – of the law by paying tens of thousands to tax attorneys and estate planners.
I believe – and there’s just no evidence otherwise (Berlusconi anyone?) – that ruthless pursuit of personal profit is incompatible with the obligations of a President. Running a successful business, however, is not incompatible (although Herbert Hoover sure proved otherwise) nor is being fabulously wealthy.
I look at Bush’s first Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill, and see an exemplary public servant from the private sector. He was enormously successful as CEO of Alcoa and deeply honorable in his business practices. And rich. Really rich.
Over many years, O’Neill served a number of Presidents in various capacities. I’ve always admired him; Ron Suskind wrote a terrific book, The Price of Loyalty, about O’Neil’s brief time in Bush’s cabinet. It’s brief and a very enjoyable read.
Thanks to Suskind’s book, I know all about Paul O’Neill. Romney is no O’Neill.