WaPo: Three Pinocchios for Romney-is-a-felon attack

Only three?  Glenn Kessler gave Team Obama a 25% discount, in part because the SEC documents signed by Mitt Romney might suggest that his financial disclosures could use a little cleaning up.  Overall, though, the Washington Post factchecker sticks to his January assessment of Romney’s involvement in Bain — and suggests that Team Obama needs a lot more cleaning up:

Meanwhile, the weight of evidence suggests that Romney did in fact end active management of Bain in 1999. He stated that in a federal disclosure form he signed, under threat of criminal penalties. He said he was a “former employee” in a state disclosure form. A state commission concluded 10 years ago that he did, indeed, leave Bain in 1999.  Investors in Bain funds were told he was not part of the management team.

The SEC documents, especially the ones Romney signed, do raise some questions. One can certainly argue that because Romney did not fully extricate himself from Bain till after his Olympic sojourn ended, he should bear some responsibility for what happened in that period. But that is an entirely different matter than suggesting that he is a potential criminal. It is more of a PR problem, which the Obama campaign is trying to exploit to build a larger case that Romney is secretive.

We were tempted to award this claim Four Pinocchios, but the documents with his signature leave some room for inquiry.

Still, if the Obama campaign wants to put its money where its mouth is, it should immediately lodge a complaint about Romney’s financial disclosure form, filed just last year, rather than try to mislead people about potential violations in relatively unimportant SEC documents.

Kessler also points out that Democrats in 2002 tried making theopposite argument — that Romney had not only left Bain in 1999, but had also effectively left Massachusetts as well to work on the Salt Lake City Olympics.  They insisted that Romney had become a resident of Utah, not Massachusetts, and was therefore ineligible to run for governor.  The Ballot Commission agreed with Democrats at that time that Romney had left Bain Capital on February 11, 1999, after having been employed in Massachusetts from 1975 to 1999.

Furthermore, the commission noted that while Romney returned to Massachusetts for social and business events, none of the events had anything to do with Bain.  Romney attended board meetings for Staples, but Romney sat on that board, as well as others.  No mention was made of any Bain events or meetings attended by Romney — and in that case, Romney would have had an incentive to play up his involvement at Bain, in order to establish eligibility for the office he was seeking.

In other words, the accusation that Romney is an uncharged felon is pure demagogic tripe — which Team Obama seems anxious to deploy in large quantities these daysTeam Romney wants an apology:

Mitt Romney’s campaign manager Matt Rhoades has released a statement calling on President Barack Obama to apologize for his campaign’s attacks speculating that Romney could be accused of a felony following today’s Boston Globe report examining Romney’s separation from Bain Capital.

“President Obama’s campaign hit a new low today when one of its senior advisers made a reckless and unsubstantiated charge to reporters about Mitt Romney that was so over the top that it calls into question the integrity of their entire campaign,” Rhoades said. “President Obama ought to apologize for the out-of-control behavior of his staff, which demeans the office he holds. Campaigns are supposed to be hard fought, but statements like those made by Stephanie Cutter belittle the process and the candidate on whose behalf she works.”

Don’t hold your breath, but do take heart — if this is all they have left in July, Team Obama is completely out of gas.