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Do Republicans Wish They Retroactively Had Let Newt Sustain His Bain Attacks?

Two soundbites from the Sunday shows have made a big stink: Mitt Romney’s former Bain partner, Ed Conard, admitting that Mitt was legally CEO of Bain until 2002. And GOP fixer Ed Gillespie, distancing Mitt from the outsourcing Bain did by insisting Mitt had “retroactively retired” before all the bad stuff happened but while (Conard confirmed) he was legally CEO.

All that’s on top of the fact that Mitt was profiting mightily from this vulture capitalism and siphoning the money to his offshore havens in Bermuda and Cayman Islands, which we’re not yet really talking about.

More telling, though, is the list of Republicans now calling on Mitt to release more his tax returns:

  • Columnist Bill Kristol
  • AL Governor Robert Bentley
  • Lobbyist and former MS Governor Haley Barbour
  • Columnist George Will
  • Strategist Matt Dowd
  • Strategist Ana Navarro
  • Strategist John Weaver

Now, none of these people–with the possible exception of Barbour–are big insiders who have any leverage over Mitt. Moreover, I can’t think of any way that any of them would definitely know the content of Mitt’s tax returns.

But what if they do? What if they know or suspect that those tax returns would expose not just Mitt’s role in Bain (including how much they paid him in salary in 2001 and 2002 to do, Mitt claims, absolutely nothing), but how much money he siphoned away to tax havens so as to avoid paying his fair share to the country he now wants to lead? What if they know the tax returns will doom his campaign, and want to force him to release them now, while they can still replace him with Chris Christie or someone else? (To be fair, with such a diverse mix of GOPers, I suspect they’ve got different motives for their comments, including–some of them–good faith belief releasing the forms would be best.)

Which makes me think back to the week in January when the GOP had the chance to fully expose what Mitt did at Bain–with the video Newt’s SuperPAC released above–but backed off that chance. (h/t ZachBeauchamp for finding a working copy)

Newt released the video on January 7. By January 10, Newt accused Mitt of undermining capitalism. But then, on January 11, he reversed himself, claiming he overstepped and asking his SuperPAC to edit the video, using the same claims of inaccuracy advanced by fact checkers that have foundered on the obvious facts included in SEC filings now. But by January 17, he was calling on Mitt to release his tax returns. Newt won the South Carolina primary on January 21. On January 24, Mitt released a single tax return, showing he paid very little in taxes and had tax shelters in Switzerland (now closed), Bermuda, and Cayman Islands, but revealing nothing about what he did in the key years in 2001 and 2002. Since Mitt won the nomination, Newt has even warned Democrats not to attack Mitt on the same terrible Bain record he himself did.

I sort of get the feeling Newt knows what’s in Mitt’s tax returns. Indeed, I’ve seen oblique tweets from a few Republicans this weekend saying “I told you so” and paying off debts, leading me to believe more than a few Republicans tried to warn their party that this Bain thing would blow up and are now being vindicated.

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Where Is this Killer Instinct in Governance?

I confess I am thoroughly enjoying the Obama campaign’s attack on Mitt Romey’s Bain experience. Contrary to DC pundits’ beliefs, the outsourcing story really really resonates in those parts of the country where outsourcing has devastated the country–which just happen to include a bunch of swing states. Yet with the squabble over when Mitt left, the pundits have catnip to keep them interested while the Obama campaign really builds the narrative about Mitt. If the economy crashes again–which is, I think, the biggest threat to Obama’s reelection–he will have already cemented the idea that financial vultures like Mitt are the problem, not the solution. And heck, the campaign’s focus on tax havens like Bermuda and Cayman Islands might actually get society to focus on them generally.

Plus, as ads like this show, the Obama campaign is showing a wonderful cutthroat instinct rarely seen among Democrats.

But as big a mystery as who ran Bain Capital for the three years when Mitt was legally CEO but purportedly doing nothing with the company is this: where has this killer instinct been the last 3 years?

Imagine how effective such ads would be targeted at the obstructionists in the Senate? Mocking the 33rd time House Republicans repeal ObamaCare rather than doing something about jobs? And while I understand that such killer attacks are more effective directed against one villain who personifies evil, the GOP has villainized Pelosi effectively–there are ways to do it.

Obama’s right: Corporatist vultures like Mitt are part of the problem (though Obama’s fondness for trade deals is too). But so are the people in Congress who would rather see the economy fail just to have the President fail too.

Republicans in Congress truly are villains (many Democrats are too, of course). It’s time to start treating them like it.

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.”

[snip]

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.

[snip]

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.