Monday, July 16, 2012

Pundit Pie - Political Food for the Soul

Romney and Bain Capital: Was he or wasn’t he? (reprinted from )

The Romney/Bain Capital scandal is a delicious soap opera, getting more juicy by the day.  Now we learn that not only were they busily outsourcing jobs, during the period Romney claimed not to be involved, but they invested in an aborted fetus dumping company, which the right wing anti-choice crowd compares to the Nazis.  The contentious issue is whether he, as chairman of the board, CEO and owner, listed on the SEC filings as late as 2002, after claiming to have left control in 1999, to go to the Olympics (No, he wasn’t in the competitive hair-gel category), was actually responsible for these decisions, or at least had knowledge of them.

The consensus seems to be, ”Duh, well of course!”  At least among the Democratic pundits.  Romney’s own camp says, well, he was much too busy pulling the Olympics’ fat out of the fire to be concerned with the day to day trivialities of his own company.  
If a recent down ticket race in California is any indicator, the Democratic consensus will win out in the mind of the electorate, anyway.

Stacey Lawson and the California Second Congressional District Race:

In this race, neophyte wannabe Stacey Lawson touted her credentials as a “job creator,”  claiming she was the only one who had created hundreds, thousands, or maybe 50 (depending on what day it was) jobs in various start-ups she worked with.  She was maddeningly vague about her roles and it became clear that she was exaggerating her importance to any jobs created, at the least. 

Soon enough, information surfaced about one of her more recent start-ups, of which she was actually held the title of Chair of the Board. (or to use a food analogy, Head Chef.) This company, Chelsey Henry, had failed to remit its payroll taxes, collected from employees for a number of quarters, to the government, both State (Washington) and Federal.  Additionally, it was learned that the business outsourced its product production (high end women’s handbags) to China. 

This information emerged in a key debate and was quickly picked up by major news outlets in the District, as well as an anonymous website entitled “Who is Stacey Lawson?”   (Which itself sparked a mouth-watering buzz in the blogosphere.)  Ms. Lawson compounded her culpability by making several contradictory and misleading statements about her relationship with the company.  First she claimed it filed bankruptcy after the discrepancies were discovered.  Later she had to correct herself when confronted with the fact that the company was actually taken over by one of its many creditors. 

Then she claimed she and the other board members “rectified” the errors in reporting once they learned of it. (They did not and sums owed were still outstanding when the company was acquired by the creditor).  She showed a remarkable lack of understanding of the role of Chair of a corporate board, and these failings, along with a dismal voting history,  led to her being seen as a less than credible candidate. Instead of being the runner up in California’s first open-primary, which would have pitted  two Democrats against each other,  she finished a weak fourth, despite an incredible war chest filled by investment bankers and venture capitalists.

A Lesson for Democrats in the Presidential Election:

Even though her role with Chelsey Henry was not as great as that of Romney in Bain, the lessons are the same.  As Chair, it was her responsibility to know what was happening with the company.  Romney, as Chief Cook and Bottle Washer and sole shareholder of Bain, is even more culpable for these shortcomings.  His claims to have kept out of the kitchen when the sausage was being made will not play well with the electorate, so long as the story stays alive. That should be the Democrats number one job between now and the election.  Keep the Bain Capital story in the press and in the minds of the voters.   
Maybe in the heady world of venture capital and money management, it’s no big deal, but to the average American, who has to watch every penny, every transaction, and every loaf of bread, it’s  majorly huge.  Or it should be  If a business man claims his way of doing business is good for the country, make darned sure you know what his way is.  Pink Slime in a béarnaise sauce is still just as bad for you.

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