Mitt Romney’s unnecessary lie

For a candidate who surely doesn't actually oppose outsourcing, getting caught misleading about it must be a pain

Topics: 2012 Elections,

If you’re planning on running for president, here are a few quick things you should probably do:

  • Make sure your tax returns and finances are in order
  • Make sure you’re not blatantly lying about some major portion of your biography.

Mitt Romney seems to have decided to do neither, I guess because he thought no one would check? Maybe Romney should have taken his fortune out of the various offshore tax havens where he stores it before he decided to run for president, because the thing is every presidential candidate is going to be prodded to release his tax returns and financial information. If you don’t want to be criticized for a Swiss bank account and a mysterious $102 million IRA, either don’t run for president or don’t have those things!

But much, much more important than not looking like a shady tax-dodger is “not telling a fairly easily disprovable lie.” Like “I quit Bain Capital in 1999,” a thing Mitt Romney says all the time when he wants to respond to criticism of various awful things Bain Capital has done since 1999. Except the Boston Globe (and Mother Jones and TPM) have now reported that Romney continued to be Bain Capital’s “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president” until a couple years after 1999. Romney was drawing at least $100,000 a year from Bain Capital and was still listed as the guy in charge on SEC documents and financial disclosures through 2002.

What’s worse is that his resigned in February 1999 line was even apparently contradicted by multiple contemporary news accounts, with two from August of 2001 saying Romney had just or was about to quit Bain. The New Yorker’s Andrew Prokop says, “It seems clear there was a period 1999-2001 where Romney was retaining the CEO job because he thought he might return to it after Olympics,” which flatly contradicts Romney and Bain’s statements. Romney’s best defense, as Andrew Sullivan points out, is that he was drawing a massive salary for doing nothing — like a “no-show” at a mob front.



The only reason Romney wanted everyone to think he quit Bain completely in 1999 to begin with was in order to avoid being accused of being responsible for “outsourcing.” Now, I am 100 percent positive that Romney, as a rich conservative former financial professional, does not consider outsourcing a bad thing. He almost definitely considers it a net positive for the American (and world) economy. The fact is, most elected Democrats support policies that encourage outsourcing — on this there is basically universal consensus among the political and economic elite. Romney — and plenty of others! — believe that companies like Bain Capital perform a public good, even though to some it just looks like parasitic capitalism at its worst. But: Outsourcing and closing down factories and slashing wages and busting unions and laying people off are all things Mitt Romney supports on a philosophical level, and I’m sure it’s galling to him that he has now been caught in a lie designed to cover up actions he feels were totally right and beneficial for the nation as a whole.

How much will it hurt him, that everyone now knows he is a liar? I am guessing “Swiss bank account” actually “hurts” him more, because the Romney campaign was smart enough to call Obama a liar at the exact same time as the national media was getting ready to call him a liar, and for your average person, that just sounds like two politicians saying mean things about each other.

Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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