This Bain business keeps getting worse for poor old Mitt Romney. The latest, in case you hadn’t heard, is that the financial disclosure form he filed last month to run for president seems to be … well, “in tension,” shall we say … with what he was saying in 2002 when he successfully persuaded the State Ballot Law Commission that he was eligible to run for Governor in Massachusetts. David Corn at Mothers Jones has the details:
during that 2002 hearing—in a remark that has not been previously reported—Romney said that after he departed Bain in February 1999 he went through a transition period regarding his work in Boston.
When a lawyer challenging his eligibility asked Romney, “Did you remain more or less continuously in Salt Lake City from February ’99 to the end of the year,” Romney answered:
Actually, there was some transition away from my work in Boston for the first few months and then I pretty much stayed there after.
Trying to clarify this, the lawyer, after referring to this “transition,” asked, “So from February through the end of the year you were pretty much full-time out in Utah, right?”
Romney replied: “Well again, the beginning of the year was a good deal of time back and forth, but towards the last half of the year it was pretty much exclusively in Utah.” …
The problem for Romney is, he’s now insisting—and he signed a federal form declaring—he had no participation in Bain (besides owning the company and its various entities) once he headed to Utah. During this current controversy over his role at Bain, he has not said anything about a transition period.
The federal form Corn mentions is this one, on which Romney just last month said, next to a statement saying “I CERTIFY that the statements I have made on this form and all attached schedules are true, complete and correct to the best of my knowledge,” the following:
Since February 11, 1999, Mr. Romney has not had any active role with any Bain Capital entity and has not been involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way.
That, of course, is a far cry from a several-months-long transition involving “a good deal of time back and forth.” Yet eagle-eyed Globe reporter Callum Borchers has noticed that the message from Team Romney has shifted subtly but importantly in the last couple of days:
In recent days, Romney and his defenders have begun to say Romney left his “day-to-day” duties at Bain Capital when he took over the Salt Lake City Olympics in February 1999, seemingly absolving him of responsibility for any bankruptcies, layoffs or offshore outsourcing after 1999 by companies Bain had invested in…. But these statements address only the straw-man attack articulated by former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove — “that [Romney] didn’t take a leave of absence to go run the Olympic Committee and continued to run Bain.”
However, Romney established a much stricter standard of separation when he asserted on his most recent financial disclosure form that he “has not been involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way” since he took over the Olympics.
The real question is not about whether Romney had day-to-day involvement with Bain Capital but about whether he had any involvement at all.
First of all, a hearty bravo to Borchers for daring to call out Rove et al. on their BS, and to avoid the “on the one hand, on the other hand” kind of faux even-handedness that obscures reality yet too often passes for journalism these days, including at the Globe.
Second, as Borchers and Corn both observe, Romney may have a significant problem with respect to his extremely broad assertion in his federal financial disclosure form. Andrew Sullivan has gone so far as to declare that Romney has “perjured himself,” since he sees the two statements as utterly irreconcilable. I take no position on that question, but I do think that Romney may soon find himself in the incredibly embarrassing position of having to amend his financial disclosure form, since it seems all but certain (based on his own 2002 testimony) that he did actually continue doing some stuff, however minor or ministerial, for Bain after February 11, 1999.
If something like that happens, start looking for signs that GOP power brokers are quietly starting to assemble a Plan B.