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Axelrod: Solyndra loan not as bad as Romney work for Bain Capital

Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod hit at Mitt Romney over his tax returns and work at Bain Capital on Sunday and dismissed comparisons between the government’s investment in failed solar firm Solyndra and bankruptcies at Bain-backed companies.

"Leverage buyouts of the sort that Governor Romney profited off of are quite different," said Axelrod on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.

“Where you buy a company, load it down with debt, strip it down, let it go bankrupt and then make money off of fees on the bankruptcy. That's quite different. That's a different approach.”

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Romney's business experience at venture-capital firm Bain Capital has been the focus of attacks by both Democrats and many of his GOP rivals. The firm specialized in turning around struggling businesses but the moves sometimes resulted in layoffs or bankruptcies. Critics say Romney personally profited by shuttering American businesses and firing workers.

Congressional Republicans have hit the White House for a failed $535 million loan guarantee to a solar energy firm which later went bankrupt leaving taxpayers on the hook.

Romney "has a great track record of creating wealth for himself and his partners, and he's done it by closing 1,000 plants and stores and offices around the country," alleged Axelrod. "He's done it by outsourcing jobs. He's done it by profiting by loading companies down with debt and then putting them into bankruptcy, on which he and his partners made hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Axelrod said that Romney's emphasis was on "creating profit for himself and his partners and his investors, not creating jobs."

The Obama campaign strategist also hit at the GOP front-runner on taxes, one week after Romney released tax returns showing he owed less than 15 percent of his income in federal taxes and held holding offshore investment accounts in the Cayman Islands.

Axelrod said Romney’s returns highlighted problems with the tax code, the administration hopes to reform.

 “I'm not saying he didn't play by the rules,” he said.  “The rules allow you to have Swiss bank accounts. The rules allow you to put your money in the Cayman Islands and to set up businesses in Bermuda and so on. The rules allow all of that. The question is, are the rules right?”

The Democratic National Committee has criticized Romney for "not paying his fair share" after he released the returns last Tuesday. Romney supporters though argue that much of Romney's income is from investments which have already been taxed at the corporate level.

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Obama reiterated calls to implement the “Buffett rule” named after billionaire investor Warren Buffett and which would ensure that wealthier Americans did not pay a lower rate than middle-class taxpayers.

Axelrod also handicapped the GOP race, calling Romney "a weak frontrunner." 

"He's overpowered Gingrich in Florida with a, you know, five-to-one spending advantage and a very negative campaign," he said. "But the nature of the process is you have to accumulate the delegates necessary to win. And I believe this will go on for a while."

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