A group backing Newt Gingrich has purchased the rights to a documentary that flays Mitt Romney for his time as a "corporate raider" at Bain Capital and will run advertisements with the half-hour documentary's trailer in South Carolina.
The documentary, produced by a Republican consultant, is the harshest attack yet on Romney from within the party — and could do much damage to his campaign, either in the primary or general election.
"Nothing was spared, nothing mattered but greed ... Mitt Romney became CEO of Bain Capital the day the company was formed. His mission: to reap massive rewards for himself and his investors," the ad's trailer says. "For tens of thousands of Americans, the suffering began when Mitt Romney came to town."
The trailer features testimonials from workers whose jobs were allegedly downsized by Bain Capital while Romney led the company. "You're going to be on a hit list, you know that," says one. "It hurt so bad to leave my home because of one man who has 15 homes," says another.
The group, Winning Our Future, is run by Rick Tyler, a longtime Gingrich aide. Tyler confirmed that it has bought $3.4 million in advertising time in South Carolina, which will vote on Jan. 21.
Romney has led in polls of the state in recent days, but those hoping to stop him from becoming the party's nominee are banking on South Carolina as the place to slow his momentum and deliver the former Massachusetts governor his first loss.
Tyler said the group is vetting Romney's corporate career for the sake of a stronger Republican nominee.
"President Obama's reelection campaign and the Occupy Wall Street movement are not going to give Romney a pass on the Bain years," Tyler told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham on Monday morning.
"If he can survive this, and explain to the American people his role at Bain ... we will have advanced the ball and he will be a much stronger candidate," Tyler said. Later in the interview, he called Bain's work "predatory corporate mugging."
Democrats have been blasting at Romney for months over his time at Bain Capital, and the documentary makes use of some of the same footage as their attacks. One features a clip of Romney telling voters in Des Moines, Iowa, that "corporations are people," while another is a picture of Romney posing with other Bain partners with wads of money overflowing their suit pockets and in their hands.
The attack is the first real attempt any of the Republican groups has made to go after Romney's main argument for his candidacy: that he created jobs while working in the private sector. The direct testimonials are reminiscent of the "Swift Boat Vets for Truth" ads that wounded Sen. John KerryJohn KerryA new UN climate architecture is emerging focused on need for speed Xi says China will no longer build coal plants abroad Biden's post-Afghanistan focus on China is mostly positive so far MORE's (D-Mass.) 2004 campaign. Even if Romney is the nominee, the attacks could help play into Democrats' message that he is no friend of the middle class.
In a report published Monday, The Wall Street Journal found that 22 percent of the 77 businesses Bain invested in while Romney led the firm either filed for bankruptcy reorganization or closed their doors by the end of the eighth year.
According to Tyler, Bain's record "is not capitalism in the way people understand it."
"They were scavengers," he said.
This story was updated at 10:20 a.m.