LACONIA, N.H. (AP) — His credibility under attack, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney insisted on Friday that he had “no role whatsoever in the management” of a private equity firm after early 1999, and demanded that President Barack Obama apologize for campaign aides who persist in alleging otherwise.
“This is simply beneath the dignity of the presidency of the United States,” Romney said in an interview on ABC, one of several he granted to network and cable stations in hopes of extinguishing the controversy.
Under pressure from Democrats and even some Republicans to release tax returns going back several years, Romney indicated he wouldn’t do so. “You can never satisfy the opposition research team of the Obama organization,” he told CBS.
Romney said after he left Bain Capital he retained ownership “until we were able to negotiate a departure” from the company he had founded. “I had no role whatsoever in the management of Bain Capital after February of 1999,” he said, adding that officials at the company and independent fact-checkers had said the same thing.
He also said, “I was an owner, and being a shareholder doesn’t mean you’re running the business.” He said he couldn’t recall attending any Bain management meetings after he moved to Salt Lake City to oversee the Olympic Games.
The precise role Romney played at the firm between 1999 and 2001 is important not only because critics have raised questions about his truthfulness, but also because Bain was sending jobs overseas during that period.
That, in turn, goes to the core issue of the race for the White House in dreary economic times, Romney’s claim that as a former businessman, he has the ability to create jobs and finally pull the country out of a downturn that has lingered throughout Obama’s term. The Obama campaign has criticized Romney as running a firm that pioneered job outsourcing.
Some Securities and Exchange Commission documents have surfaced suggesting Romney played an active role in the Boston-based company through 2002. The filings with the SEC place Romney in charge of Bain Capital from 1999 to 2001, the period in which it outsourced jobs and ran companies that fell into bankruptcy.
“Now, my understanding is that Mr. Romney attested to the SEC multiple times that he was the chairman, CEO and president of Bain Capital. And I think most Americans figure if you’re the chairman, CEO and president of a company that you are responsible for what the company does,” Obama said in an interview with WJLA-TV in Virginia as he campaigned across the battleground state.
The president said the questions that have been raised in numerous media reports and highlighted by his own campaign aides were a legitimate part of the race for the White House.
“Ultimately, I think, Mr. Romney is going to have to answer those questions because if he aspires to being president, one of the things you learn is you’re ultimately responsible for the conduct of your operations,” the president said.
But Romney said that was “Chicago-style politics at its worst,” and accused the president and his campaign of trying to shift attention from the persistently sluggish economy and unemployment of 8 percent or higher for more than 40 months.
“Is this the level that the Obama campaign is willing to stoop to?” he responded on CNN. “Is this up to the standards expected of the presidency of the United States?”