One would think that Team Obama would have learned a lesson from its previous attempt to demonize private equity, which flopped so badly that even its own surrogates defended Mitt Romney’s “sterling business career.” Instead, the Obama campaign shifted its attack slightly and called Romney a “corporate raider.” Apparently, everything Barack Obama and his team know about the investment community they learned from Wall Street, and every private-equity executive is simply Gordon Gekko in better attire. Glenn Kessler rips the charge in his latest fact-check at the Washington Post:
In a previous life, The Fact Checker covered renowned corporate raiders such as Carl Icahn and his ilk. We also have closely studied Bain Capital, and can find no examples that come close to this situation; its deals were done in close association with management. Indeed, Bain generally held onto its investments for four or five years, in contrast to the quick bust-em-ups of real corporate raiders. So calling Romney a “corporate raider” is a real stretch.
So how does the Obama campaign justify this phrase? It cites a single Reuters story from last August, about a campaign stop in New Hampshire, written by a stringer, Jason McLure, who was previously based in Africa. Buried in the article is a reference to Romney as a “former corporate raider.”
“Reuters typically refers to Romney as a ‘former private equity executive’ or something along those lines,” said Ros Krasny, the Boston bureau chief. “Of the hundreds of times we have referenced Romney over the past year or more, honestly, that example from Jason must have just slipped through the net — 10 months ago.”
Maybe Team O should have checked with its own surrogates first before making the Gekko argument … especially since one of them had already spoken explicitly against it:
A better source for Romney’s behavior as an investor might be someone who actually worked on Wall Street, such as former Obama auto czar Steven Rattner. “Bain Capital is not now, nor has it ever been, some kind of Gordon Gekko-like, fire-breathing corporate raider that slashed and burned companies, immolating jobs wherever they appear in its path,” Rattner wrote in Politico this year.
Kessler has a lengthy rebuttal to specific charges about Romney’s record in Massachusetts, which he had earlier given two Pinocchios, so be sure to read it all. He also explains that the Obama campaign heard that Kessler was about to rip them and tried to convince him to rethink his appraisal. Maybe they should rethink their approach to the campaign. They had an arguable point, at least, when they shifted the Bain attack to the idea that a sterling career in private equity isn’t a qualification for the presidency … but that left a huge opening about Obama’s own qualifications for the job, too, and at least Romney had a full term as governor under his belt before running for the office.
In the end, the pitch to Kessler to rethink his rating flopped rather spectacularly:
The Obama campaign fails to make its case. On just about every level, this ad is misleading, unfair and untrue, from the use of “corporate raider” to its examples of alleged outsourcing. Simply repeating the same debunked claims won’t make them any more correct.
No, but it keeps making Obama’s hostility and ignorance towards Wall Street and investors more and more plain. After watching this ad, any undecideds in the financial industry had to be thinking that Obama might be coming after Romney today, but tomorrow, it might be them.
Update: I changed the headline from “Obama” to “Team Obama” to make it more clear.