Maybe there is something to the “inoculation” theory about the attacks on Bain Capital in the Republican primary. Since it’s Newt Gingrich and his supporters taking a page from the Occupy/big labor playbook for the upcoming general election, the media might feel freer to take a critical look at the centerpiece of their offensive, the 29-minute film called “King of Bain.” The Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler took a very close look at it — and ripped the film and Gingrich with a four-Pinocchio rating, and a particularly stinging rebuke:
Newt Gingrich, meet Michael Moore!
The 29-minute video “King of Bain” is such an over-the-top assault on former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney that it is hard to know where to begin.
Let’s begin with how the filmmakers present their case that Unimac went out of business thanks to the predatory nature of Mitt Romney. It turns out that not only did Romney have little to do with Unimac, the firm hasn’t gone out of business at all. It’s currently producing appliances in Wisconsin, having moved there long after Romney left Bain and actually as Romney was concluding his term as governor of Massachusetts:
Bain Capital bought the business from Raytheon in 1998, and Romney left Bain a year later to run the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. In 2005, Bain sold UniMac (also called Alliance Laundry) to a Canadian entity known as Teachers’ Private Capital. The factory was moved from Marianna to Ripon, Wisc., in 2006, after Bain’s involvement ended — a fact made clear on the Web site of a laundry repair business co-owned by the people featured in the film.
n fact, Mike Baxley, who was interviewed for the film, said that he and his partner had “absolutely no idea” that the interviews were for a film about Romney and Bain. He said they thought they were being interviewed for a documentary about the factory closing.
“They said they wanted to know what it was like when the factory closed down,” he said, and he, his partner and his partner’s wife agreed to interviews after “they flashed a little money at us.” (Baxley, a Republican who said he had not yet thought much about the nomination contest, declined to reveal the amount.)
After watching “King of Bain” at The Fact Checker’s request, he said: “We were pretty shocked. Our quotes were seriously taken out of context. There is a real lack of facts.”
Only one of the cases presented in the film actually involved Romney at all, the decline (not failure, as the film states) of Ampad. The company exists as a subsidiary to Esselte, as Kessler notes, but did close its Marion, Indiana facility, which left a lot of bad feelings among the former workers there. But why did Ampad decline? Its core business — business supplies — got undermined by cheaper retail competitors, like Staples — a company that grew because of the investment of Bain Capital and Mitt Romney.
Romney may have opened the door to this kind of attack with his suspect job-creation claims, but that is no excuse for this highly misleading portrayal of Romney’s years at Bain Capital. Only one of the four case studies directly involves Romney and his decision-making, while at least two are completely off point. The manipulative way the interviews appeared to have been gathered for the UniMac segment alone discredits the entire film.
Romney, however, isn’t sitting still. He has responded in South Carolina with an ad balanced between positive and negative, looking at his record of creating jobs in the private sector, but also slamming Gingrich for “taking the Obama line”:
If the rest of the media follows Kessler’s lead, would this tend to discredit the attacks that will come later from Obama himself if Romney wins the nomination? I’d tend to think that it would at least muddy the waters considerably, and if this gets reported as desperation tactics in the primary, it’s going to have that stink about it in the general election as well.