We Can’t Afford Another “Complicated and Quirky” Presidency

You’ve no doubt heard about the BoGlo piece that describes 9 different legal documents on which Mitt Romney was listed as CEO of Bain after the time–in 1999–when he now claims to have left the company.

Romney has said he left Bain in 1999 to lead the winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, ending his role in the company. But public Securities and Exchange Commission documents filed later by Bain Capital state he remained the firm’s “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president.”


Romney did not finalize a severance agreement with Bain until 2002, a 10-year deal with undisclosed terms that was retroactive to 1999. It expired in 2009.


The Globe found nine SEC filings submitted by four different business entities after February 1999 that describe Romney as Bain Capital’s boss; some show him with managerial control over five Bain Capital entities that were formed in January 2002, according to records in Delaware, where they were incorporated.

I’m envisioning Mitt Romney, in 2017, claiming the treaty he signed with China in 2014 doesn’t really count because he wasn’t really acting as President when he signed it, in spite of his legal status as President.

But I’m most interested in the scant response the Mitt campaign gave.

A Romney campaign official, who requested anonymity to discuss the SEC filings, acknowledged that they “do not square with common sense.” But SEC regulations are complicated and quirky, the official argued, and Romney’s signature on some documents after his exit does not indicate active involvement in the firm.

“Complicated and quirky” says a guy (or gal) now spending his time trying to get Mitt elected to an even more complicated and quirky office, the Presidency.

Frankly, though, there’s precedent for a President claiming “complicated and quirky” absolves him of responsibility for things that occurred under his presidency. After all, while Bush signed the paperwork in the first 6 years of his presidency, it wasn’t until he fired Rummy that Bush actually took over responsibility for the big decisions from Dick Cheney.

And I can’t help but harp on the “complicated and quirky” document–the “Gloves Come Off” Memorandum of Notification, effectively written by now Romney advisor Cofer Black–that has undermined the accountability Presidency more generally. Effectively, that MON pre-authorized the CIA (at least) to do whatever they wanted within certain general areas of organization. It served as Presidential authorization, but insulated the President from any provable involvement in torture and assassination and partnering with lethal regimes. When proof that the President had authorized all this torture threatened to come out via legal means, the current President went to the mat to prevent that from happening.

All the rest–the debates about what Congress authorized the day after this complicated and quirky document, the OLC memos, the repeated investigations that always end up in immunity for all (or almost all)–are just the legal facade that hides the fact that in fact even our Constitution has become “complicated and quirky.” And while Obama at least admits his involvement in these issues–while still hiding them from legal liability–he has chosen to keep the structure in place and has relied on the plausible deniability it gives.

The thing is, as damning as this revelation may prove to be for Mitt, it is in fact quite unsurprising that a man can run for President on a resumé for which–his advisors say, behind the veil of anonymity–he can simultaneously claim credit but no responsibility.

That’s the way this country increasingly works. Even–perhaps especially–the Presidency.

23 replies
  1. Starbuck says:

    Complicated and quirky is the methodology of attempting to assert the primacy of the individual’s position with respect to a give and take environment, something in which we all participate. You can see it which children who are caught with the proverbial hand in the cookie jar. It is the stuff of detective stories. It’s ultimately the lack of willingness hold oneself accountable. It is the principal reason to incorporate.

  2. Bay State Librul says:

    Front page on Romney quickly got my attention.
    The Globule however failed to source that David Corn and TPM originally broke the story….
    Romney has got to clear this up, and maybe Willard will call on Cheney tonight for sound advice.

  3. Gitcheegumee says:

    Excellent piece if I may say so,ew.

    One small “revision”:

    just the legal facade that hides the fact that in fact even our Constitution has become “complicated and quirky.” ew

    just the legal facade that hides the fact that in fact even our Constitution has become complicated and quirky and quaint.

    This discussion brings to mind the George Carlin rant on the “real owners” of society- The BIG club that you and I and other non one- percenters are in. Great stuff.

  4. klynn says:

    Ah, it is all starting to make sense, this Democracy stuff…

    Just look up the definition of Pixie Dust and one of the new definitions will be:


    (a) a substance or influence with an apparently magical effect that brings great success or luck: the folks who live there still seem to believe that they’ve been sprinkled with pixie dust,
    (b) an effort to change Executive Privilege to Pixie Dust via suggestion,
    (c) complicated and quirky


    1950s: from the magic dust that enabled humans to fly in J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan

    It’s coming to America. Today.

    Great post EW.

  5. pdaly says:

    On Boston’s WBUR this morning, this story ended with a Romney campaign response that this issue of being CEO on paper but not in practice is merely a “legal technicality” (cannot find a link yet).

    Mere legal technicality. Right.
    Funny thing is, I was a juror on a criminal case in Massachusetts several years ago. The CEO/president of the company was charged with not renewing his company’s workmen’s compensation insurance despite being reminded by the government to pay up after it had lapsed.

    His claim was going to be, as the judge told us later after he settled out of court (or is it a plea bargain since the jury had already been picked and heard opening statements by the government?), that he was not responsible for paying for it because he had turned over the reins of the company to his brother and therefore was no longer its president.

    Unfortunately for him, he never followed up that decision with action. He never removed his name from the company’s registration with the state of Massachusetts. The attorney general’s office made it very clear in their opening statement that as president of the company, he was responsible for keeping insurance up to date. As part of his settlement he had to pay a fine and agree that he shall not be the head of any company (not sure for how long). Now that’s a mere legal technicality.

  6. klynn says:

    Just have to say that I imagine the Romney campaign official, who requested anonymity will be out of a job soon.

    What a gift to the O campaign…the words “complicated and quirky” are words that will harm Romney’s campaign. The word association alone is…funny in a bad way.

  7. lefty665 says:

    We are getting an idea why Mittens doesn’t want to release more tax returns. Wonder how many millions of dollars can dance on the head of a “legal technicality”?

    Is “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president” in the running for Mother of all legal technicalities?

  8. Garrett says:

    I liked the defense, in the David Corn piece, from the Romney camp, that Obama outsources too, because he’s got some Vanguard 500 shares in his IRA.

    A.k.a. the “Common as Dirt” fund.

    Middle-class America collectively rolls its eyes at that defense. Or at least, what portion of them will read David Corn in Mother Jones.

  9. What Constitution? says:

    Yeah, it would probably be pretty fun to allow a guy who can’t understand whether he is affiliated with a company for which he signs off to the SEC as “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer and president” to be President of the United States — so he could decide “how much ‘process’ is ‘due'” to “bad guys” before having them killed.

  10. PeasantParty says:

    Hmm! Isn’t it illegal to be a one man corporation?

    I know it is in at least three states. He probably also used every single exemption possible and then some for small businesses. The SEC needs to do it’s job and investigate thoroughly, especially since one man alone is responsible for the entire operation!

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Mr. Romney left Bain & Co. when he says he did the way Haley Barbour left his DC lobbying firm, even though Barbour, for old time sake, frequently visits DC – by privately-paid private jet and limo service – while serving as governor of Mississippi.

  12. P J Evans says:

    Making it more interesting, when Romney was officially in charge of the SLC Olympics, he listed his Utah mansion as his primary residence (for three years), and had to tapdance his way through legal thickets when he decided to run for governor of Massachusetts – because having his primary residence in Utah for those three years should have made him ineligible.

  13. lefty665 says:

    *FLASH* The non denial denial rises from Nixon’s crypt to obfuscate and mount a righteously indignant slime attack. Note how carefully Rhoades avoids saying Cutter has the facts wrong. He must have read the FEC and SEC filings too. This is first class sewage.

    UPDATE, 3:45 p.m. — Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades responds in a statement: “President Obama’s campaign hit a new low today when one of its senior advisers made a reckless and unsubstantiated charge to reporters about Mitt Romney that was so over the top that it calls into question the integrity of their entire campaign. President Obama ought to apologize for the out-of-control behavior of his staff, which demeans the office he holds. Campaigns are supposed to be hard fought, but statements like those made by Stephanie Cutter belittle the process and the candidate on whose behalf she works.”

    They need to start eating some crow pretty quickly. Any predictions on how long it will take them to do amended FEC and/or SEC filings? How they change their story and reconcile the reports should help us figure out where more bodies are buried.

    Comments ()

  14. lefty665 says:

    @pdaly: “Looks like the ‘legal technicality’ phrase is from Bain (as per the link in the major post).”

    It’s hard to get good help these days. You can see why poor Mittens felt he had to do it all himself.

  15. rugger9 says:

    Well, according to Brad Friedman, one of the missing links is the 2010 state income tax return, which would definitively show whether Mittens was a resident in MA when he voted for Scott Brown. However, Mittens appears to have claimed a homeowner’s exemption in NH that same year according to the released federal return, so on top of everything else it seems we have another GOP voter felon, following Ann Coulter and Charlie White [IN Sec of State], the former voting twice and the latter voting outside his district.

    TPM had it, although I’m not sure whether the Globe or Corn had it first: the reason 1999’s “leave of absence” became critical is because the Commonwealth has a seven year residency requirement to stand for election as governor, and if Mittens was a UT resident running the Olympics, he couldn’t be a MA resident and therefore eligible for governor. Charlie Pierce skewers Mitt for this as well. The tax returns for those years should have this. I wonder if anyone has grabbed the VP set when McSame was vetting Mittens, maybe some of the answers are in there for this time period.

    Bottom line, there is no doubt some serious lying being done here, and whether it will involve prosecution by the SEC for false statements [they went after Martha Stewart, for crikey] which would be a true election year spectacle unprecedented in our times, or Mittens faces the music for Bain’s bad behavior leaving out Faux and CNN [who won’t cover it, natch] from all of the voters whose jobs were shipped overseas. The frantic flinging of poo from Mittens’ camp, where his minions were shot down twice now on retraction demands by different newspapers means some of the press is realizing how corrupt, unfeeling, and out-of-touch he is, and totally unsuitable for the Presidency.

    That means the VP pick will be hugely important, or it is possible that Mittens pulls the plug, allowing a brokered convention and a stealth candidate with no time for oppo research? I’m wondering whether that might be the end game here, since even the GOP doesn’t like Mittens.

  16. P J Evans says:

    Anyone they would put in as a stealth candidate would be even worse for them in November. Just pulling the plug on Rmoney should pretty much kill their chances with anyone outside their base.

  17. Gitcheegumee says:


    I was JUST saying the same thing,privately to close associates, about income tax returns being a revelation regarding Romney’s disclosures(or lack of them) to IRS.

    FWIW,some rudimentary net searches regarding Bain Capital and Carlyle Group,Bain Capital and Blackstone,and Bain Capital and and Stanford Group are most interesting,imho.

  18. brian_damage says:

    One more theme to deduce from the Romney campaign response is perhaps the most damaging. He claims to step down from Bain in 1999 mainly to distance himself from the decision to lay off a significant swath of employees. He is the great job creator after all. Others failed in his wake.

    If he continues with this narrative he can be proven a damn liar at a bad time in the campaign season. Alternatively he may now consider waffling a bit on that claim and affirm his active role in reduction in force measures, a.k.a. another millionaire who put workers on the street due to circumstances beyond his control as a limited hangout.

    Nah. These GOP staffers always recommend a bluff on every hand. It’s the only way to keep the extremists wide eyed and bushy tailed.

  19. Bill Michtom says:

    “how corrupt, unfeeling, and out-of-touch he is, and totally unsuitable for the Presidency.”

    There is much in this qute

  20. Bill Michtom says:

    “how corrupt, unfeeling, and out-of-touch he is, and totally unsuitable for the Presidency.”

    There is much in the quote that sounds like our current prez.

  21. P J Evans says:

    Gov O’Malley of Maryland said straight out that Mitt’s tax returns were why McSame picked Sarah. There must be some extremely interesting information in the ones he’s hiding.

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