Chamber president calls Gingrich attacks on Romney's private-equity work ‘foolish’

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue said Thursday that it was “foolish” for Republicans to attack GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney over his record at Bain Capital.

At a press conference, Donohue told reporters that he was disappointed in attacks on Romney for his time spent at the private equity firm. Republican presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry have criticized Romney heavily for the way he ran Bain, which took over and attempted to turn around distressed companies, often leading to layoffs and bankruptcies.

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“I was very disappointed with the intramural carrying-on in the Republican Party in attacking one of the candidates, Romney, who has extraordinary business experience. Anybody who looks at private equity would have to say he formed a great firm and had a pretty good track record,” Donohue said.

Donohue noted during the press conference that the business group doesn’t endorse candidates in presidential races. But the business group leader also defended the private equity industry and said such attacks would provide election-year fodder for Democrats.

“This economy is about risk. If you don’t take a risk, you can’t have a success. I think it has just been foolish for the Republicans to carry on that line of attack because they are not doing anything other than setting up the ads for their opponents and I think you’re going to see it quiet down,” Donohue said.

Bruce Josten, the Chamber’s chief lobbyist, would later defend private equity as well, saying attacks on the industry would not help move the United States forward.

“They represent the largest sources of private liquidity and capital in the country who invest in primarily troubled companies, failing companies. They have a pretty good track record of saving, turning around, selling, whatever it may be,” Josten said. “Attacking the private enterprise system is not going to move this country forward.”

Donohue believed Romney had a “pretty good track record,” though not perfect, at Bain.  

"We were disappointed in that but we think it will slow down," Donohue said. "We think Romney has a pretty good track record. Perfect? Hell no, but damn good."