Mitt Romney said he had no management role at Bain Capital after February 1999 -- and, by the way, he'd release no more than two years of tax returns -- in interviews with five networks Friday night. The interviews were arranged to respond to President Obama's attacks on his record at Bain and reports that Romney was listed as CEO of Bain on Securities and Exchange Commission filings until 2002, even though he left to run the Olympics in 1999. That end date matters because Obama's ads blame Romney for outsourcing and bankruptcies at Bain-owned companies between 1999 and 2002. Romney says if he wasn't there, he can't be blamed for what happened. Here are the most important things Romney said Friday:
He will release no more than two years of tax returns, he told CNN. "The law requires us to put out a full financial disclosure and that I've done... And that's what we're going to put out. People always want to get more and we're putting out what is required plus more that is not required. And those are the two years that people are going to have and that's all that's necessary for people to understand something about my finances." Romney's father released 12 years of tax returns when he ran for president, and Romney turned over his taxes going back to 1985 to John McCain's campaign when he was vetted as a potential running mate in 2008. More important, the tax returns would provide a clear picture of his financial relationship to Bain once he left the firm.
He does not remember going back to Massachusetts for Bain meetings while he was running the 2002 Olympics. Romney told CBS, "I left Bain in February of 1999. People can point out how - I was in Salt Lake City for three straight years. I don't recall even coming back once to go to a Bain or management meeting. We were, I was out there running the Olympics and it was a full time job, I can tell you that." In 2002, he testified before a Massachusetts commission that was determining whether he met the residency requirements to run for governor that he came back four or five times a year for board meetings, though he did not mention Bain. Romney seemed to be referencing that when he said, "I had no involvement with the management of Bain Capital after February of 1999. If I had, I would have brought that up at other places where it would have been beneficial to me."
He made no management decisions after 1999 even though he was the owner till 2002. "I was the owner of a, of the general partnership but there were investors which included pension funds and various entities of all kinds that owned the, if you will, the investments of the firm. But I was the owner of an entity which was a management entity. That entity was one which I had ownership of until the time of the retirement program was put in place. But I had no responsibility whatsoever after February of '99 for the management or ownership - management, rather, of Bain Capital," Romney told CBS.
Condoleezza Rice will not be his running mate. Romney told Fox he stands by his pledge to pick a pro-life veep, and Rice has called herself "mildly pro-choice."
He wants an apology from Obama for the ads calling Romney an outsourcer based on outsourcing done by Bain-own firms after 1999, and for an Obama spokeswoman's assertion that he might have committed a felony. Romney told ABC that Obama "sure as heck ought to say that he's sorry for the kinds of attacks that are coming from his team. It's ah, it's very disappointing on his part. It's beneath the dignity of the presidency of the United States to go out and say the kinds of things that are being said and even Democrats are saying that."
Obama's campaign has made it clear no apology is coming. Obama told Washington-area station WJLA Friday, "My understanding is that Mr. Romney attested to the (Securities and Exchange Commission), multiple times, that he was the chairman, CEO and president of Bain Capital, and I think most Americans figure if you are the chairman, CEO and president of a company that you are responsible for what that company does."
Why is the Obama campaign making such a big deal of this? Romney explained it pretty well himself, in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune in 1999:
I'm not a powder puff…. By that I mean that it's not that I would never consider laying off workers or closing down a plant to save a company. Unfortunately in the business world I know, the world of troubled companies, many businesses can get better with medicine. But many others require painful, wrenching surgery. I have been involved with companies that concluded they had to close a plant in order to survive. And that's an awful, awful thing to have happen. And it's death for a politician to be associated with that.