More Bain headaches for candidate Romney

Questions continued to swirl Thursday night over the length of Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain Capital, with President Obama's campaign pointing to a new report that found the presumptive Republican nominee testified under oath about serving on the corporate board of a Bain investment after the date he claims to have left his firm.

But Romney's campaign said the testimony was further evidence that the Republican hopeful had left his firm in 1999, before Bain invested in companies involved in the offshoring and layoffs that have been highlighted by the Obama campaign.

ADVERTISEMENT
The latest in the developing controversy came with a report Thursday night in The Huffington Post that showed that Romney served through 2001 on the corporate board of Lifelike Co., a doll manufacturer that was a Bain investment. In fact, Romney testified to as much under oath in 2002, while arguing to a Massachusetts Ballot Law Commission that he had maintained sufficient residency status in Massachusetts to run for governor.

That's significant, because the Romney campaign and Bain Capital have steadfastly claimed that Romney ceased any work for the investment firm after leaving to run the Salt Lake City Olympics in 1999.

The Obama campaign said Thursday that Romney's involvement in Lifelike undermined the Romney campaign's argument that he was completely hands-off after taking a leave of absence.

"You know, a new report has emerged tonight in sworn testimony in 2002, Romney said that he left Salt Lake to travel back to Massachusetts to appear at board meetings. And so the suggestion that he's not involved in any of this — that he’s legally responsible, but not personally responsible — simply isn't credible," Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt told MSNBC.

But Romney's campaign said that just because Romney continued to serve on the doll company's corporate board didn't mean that he was active with Bain Capital. And Romney's team pointed to the report prepared by the Massachusetts Ballot Law Commission that found Romney had ceased working at Bain in 1999 as further evidence that Romney had left the firm.

"After extensive hearings the Ballot Law Commission came to the same conclusion as numerous independent fact checkers in finding that Mitt Romney ended his active employment with Bain Capital in 1999," said Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg in a statement. "Every public judgment, including a unanimous one from the Ballot Law Commission, has confirmed this fact. This is just another distraction from a desperate campaign that is willing to say anything to divert attention from President Obama’s failed record in office.”

Furthermore, Romney's campaign argued, if the Republican hopeful had remained active at Bain, he likely would have highlighted that fact while testifying in an effort to establish residency.

The dust-up was the latest in a day full of attacks and counter-attacks between the competing campaigns.

On Thursday morning, Romney released a new ad calling Obama a liar for his campaign ads and speeches criticizing Bain for funding companies that sent U.S. jobs overseas. The Obama campaign, meanwhile, held a conference call with reporters to highlight a Boston Globe story that reported Romney remained as the “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer and president."

The report contained no evidence to suggest that Romney was sitting in on meetings or devoting significant time to the deals and investments being made by his former firm, and independent fact-checkers said it did little to undermine Romney's arguments that he was not involved in the daily proceedings.

The Obama campaign argued, however, that it simply made sense that a company's president, CEO and sole owner would have some involvement in his multimillion-dollar firm.

“Either Mitt Romney, through his own words and his own signature, was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the [Securities and Exchange Commission], which is a felony, or he was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the American people to avoid responsibility for some of the consequences of his investments,” said Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter on a conference call with reporters Thursday. “And if that's the case, if he was lying to the American people, that's a real character and trust issue that the American people need to take seriously."

That charge prompted an angry call from Romney campaign Matt Rhoades for the president to apologize. Rhoades said Cutter's remarks were "reckless and unsubstantiated" and described the Obama campaign as "out-of-control."

But LaBolt, the campaign press secretary, said the president had no plans to apologize.

"Romney has said he had no authority or responsibility for managing Bain since February 1999, but that has been proven false. He remained CEO, President, Chairman, sole owner and sole shareholder through 2001. Governor Romney either misled the American people about when he left Bain or misled the SEC," LaBolt said in a statement. "Which one is it? The Romney campaign still won’t say.”

More in Presidential races

Poll: Romney, Bush top '16 GOP field

Read more »