BAIN DRAIN: Worse than feigned confusion!

MONDAY, JULY 16, 2012

Kornacki’s claim seems untrue: Tomorrow, we’ll be looking at the recent wave of feigned confusion regarding Romney’s tenure at Bain.

However you judge it, the story just isn't all that confusing. That said, feigned confusion has been the life blood of our failing "journalistic" culture for the past thirty years.

At any rate, some things are worse than feigned confusion. In this new piece at Salon, Steve Kornacki makes a claim about Romney’s that seems to be simply untrue.

In his report, Kornacki is assuring us rubes that Romney really was active at Bain when he says he wasn’t. This is one example:
KORNACKI (7/16/12): A 2002 Globe story quoted Marc Wolpow, a Bain employee, saying that “I reported directly to Mitt Romney” while Romney was in Utah and that “You can’t be CEO of Bain Capital and say, ‘I really don’t know what my guys were doing.’”
Somehow, that sounded unlikely to us. And so, we looked it up.

Kornacki seems to misrepresent what Wolpow told the Globe. Wolpow was quoted by columnist Joan Vennochi (no link available)—and he didn’t seem to be talking about Romney’s tenure in Utah, which started in 1999.

In her column, Vennochi discussed the Ampad matter, the pivotal episode in the Kennedy-Romney Senate race of 1994. Rather plainly, Wolpow seems to say he “reported directly to Romney” during the 1994 leave of absence when Romney ran for the Senate:
VENNOCHI (10/24/02): Is Ampad relevant in 2002? Yes, according to Marc B. Wolpow, a former Bain Capital executive. Wolpow and another Bain partner sat on Ampad's board of directors and carried out the brutal downsizing that cost hundreds of workers their full-time jobs and benefits.

"Mitt's employees executed that transaction. We carried out the business plan. He was CEO of the firm," says Wolpow, a registered independent voter who now runs a private equity firm, Audax Group.

In 1994, Romney tried to distance himself from the Ampad controversy, since he was on a leave of absence during the initial downsizing. But Wolpow, who came to Bain in 1990 from Drexel Burnham, the infamous junk bond company, says: "I reported directly to Mitt Romney . . . You can't be CEO of Bain Capital and say, 'I really don't know what my guys were doing.' "

And what were Romney's guys doing? "My job was to maximize the profits to Bain Capital's partners from the Ampad transaction," says Wolpow, who left Bain in 1999 when Romney left for the Olympics.

To maximize profits at Ampad, Wolpow says, "we implemented an aggressive plant closing and cost-cutting program."
The deletion belongs to Vennochi.

Rather plainly, Wolpow seems to be discussing “the initial downsizing” at Ampad, the downsizing which became a crucial topic in 1994. Wolpow seems to be saying that he was reporting to Romney during that earlier leave of absence, when Romney ran for the Senate.

Wolpow “left Bain in 1999 when Romney left for the Olympics,” Vennochi wrote. If so, he didn’t report to Romney “while Romney was in Utah.”

Did Wolpow report to Romney in Utah during the period now in dispute? In context, that doesn’t seem to be what he told Vennochi.

Lizard brains all over the land are trying to make the Bain story perfect. Young scribes are eager to tell the story the way we liberals want it.

If you care about true as opposed to false—and admittedly, some people don’t—we advise you to be very careful.

Kornacki’s claim struck us as odd. It looks to us like the fiery scribe misread what Wolpow said.

Maybe he's spending too much time swapping quips with S. E. Cupp! Those quips are well-compensated, it's true. But sometimes, the work product suffers!


  1. "If you care about true as opposed to false—and admittedly, some people don’t—we advise you to be very careful."

    We confess to not caring, in the context of a national campaign. Why? Because there is no way, in a country of 300 million, and with at least $1 billion devoted to actively misinforming on the Republican side alone, to commit a campaign to the truth. As the "Krugster", as Somerby so unfortuantely calls him -- how much longer before Krugman is also on the Somerby enemies list? -- points out, most people get their information from TV snippets.

    For that matter, there are loads of things we'd like to know the truth about Obama, as well: for example, what he intends to do about "entitlement", since credible news reports have it that he actually tried to give away the store to the Republicans, effectively nullifying any reason for the Democatic party to exist, since they've conceded just about every other issue.

    We'd love to live in a world where the truth prevailed -- for both candidates. Failing that, persuasive lies by the lesser evil, which get the contours right are about the best we can do.

    And really now, does anybody but Somerby care whether a company Romney created and of which he was sole shareholder, was under his day-to-day control or not? Is he any less responsible for Bain's action because he wasn't sitting in the executive suite? It was his company. He hired his own replacement (if he was a replacement). Who the hell else but Romney is responsible for what went on?

    1. There are more important things, believe it or not, than Obama winning re-election. We have an entire culture awash in apathy and misinformation. Obama and the Democrats won big in 2006 and 2008 -- and the country has only slid further into the shithole. On a variety of topics, large segments of the public reveal, every day, that they have no clue what's actually going on in the world, and as a result of that, we get terrible government. Somerby is trying, in his own way, to establish standards. The one standard that ought to be an absolute is actual accuracy in what these people say -- but it isn't. And if you permit them to lie when you think the lie helps "your" side (does it really matter if Obama rather than Romney tries to cut your Social Security benefits?), then your ability to challenge their lies on other issues is vitiated.

      The Republicans are a horrible party standing for horrible, destructive things. But they are allowed to get away with it because the public isn't told the truth about their aims -- because there is no culture of truthtelling among journalism's elite. We, who don't have a vast pool of money to draw on for wingnut welfare-type messaging, need that culture.

    2. @TIL

      It should be no secret to readers here that elections are won and lost on narratives. You also deal with the reality at hand, which is corporate media ownership unfriendly to progressive interests, and a Democratic party which doubly hobbled, because it can't tell the truth for fear of offending its donors. Or, in your phrase, the Democrats don't dare tell the truth about Republican aims, and if they don't, the news media certainly won't.

      Meanwhile, as a sign of our virtue and devotion to truth, we're arguing over whether Romney really ran Bain at the time he was the sole shareholder, was listed on SEC filings as the CEO, received large amounts of income from the firm during the years he claims he had no management participation; and apparently never objected to what the company was doing (presumably he read the newspaper, even if he never consulted with his employees about what they were doing with the firm of which he continued to be the sole shareholder).

      Is this the way to build a truth-telling culture? How's it worked out so far?

      The fact that both political parties are depraved doesn't make the argument for duplicity or carelessness with the truth any more appetizing, but you deal with what you have. And, in this case, the narrative is fundamentally correct: Republicans are waging class warfare and have been for years. However the Democrats can best frame it, within the constraints of their own plutocratic whoredom, is the one they should go with.

    3. "When you don't have a record to run on, you make the election about small things" - someone once said.

    4. We aren't talking about class warfare here, but getting simple facts correct. Romney's time at Bain was pretty sordid no matter how it's diced up; making stuff up isn't needed. But making stuff up does further pollute an already toxic media environment. One other point I should have made but didn't: what happens if the lie is uncovered? Remember when CBS came out with the story on Bush's National Guard service? It was based on a probable forgery, as things turned out, and once that happened it killed the whole issue, even though Bush's NG tenure stank to high heaven, with or without forged documents.

      I'm all for talking about Bain, and Romney's time there, and framing things along class lines -- but it has to be done intelligently, and within the larger context of our rotted press corps. As long as our press corps is wed to money and sensationalism rather than accurately reporting facts, it will not serve our interests in the long run -- it can't.

    5. But isn't Bob's point that Gore lost because the press made things up about him? And how about the whole "swifboating" thing against Kerry? How many ways until Sunday was that lie "uncovered" and what was the backlash to the Bush campaign?

      But the alleged "forgery" cost Kerry big time? Something he and his campaign didn't even do? (Incidentally, the document couldn't be verified as authentic not because it was a forgery, but because it was a copy of the original.)

      The press is always going to get details wrong. Always have, always will. You can't ask for more reporting on Bain and expect the media to get every single detail right.

      What irks me is that Bob always wants it to reflect on the candidate himself when the media gets something wrong, while trying to set rules for a knife fight that apply to only one side.

    6. When the press corps at large makes something up, or goes along with the making up of things, it's different than if a partisan outlet does. When a partisan outlet does it, the press corps might, or might not, play along. If they don't play along, you've got a big problem. Ovfer the past few decades, they've generally been more than happy to play along with stuff made up by the right, while the left is new to the game, so we don't know what their reaction will be to that. Ultimately, given how corrupt and stupid our press corps is, I prefer not even giving them the choice of playing along or not; it gives them too much power.

      As for knives and knife fights and all that, I've been arguing with Bob, via e-mail, for several years off and on about just this topic. I want a hard-edged approach, I want to push the envelope every inch we can get, but making stuff up is too risky given the ultimate arbiters of what "made up" is. A world where posturing millionaires like Maddow are considered the extreme left isn't likely to judge things in your favor very often, which, again, argues in favor of giving them as little as possible to work with.

  2. "We confess to not caring."


    There will always be reasons why you can't afford to care and especially for why you can't afford to even care that you can't afford to care by blogging about accuracy.

    The reasons will always be dire. They always demand gray areas of compromise for their side and the starkest strictest black and white thinking about opponents.

    Vote for the candidate you wish, and scratch where it itches, just do NOT be taken in by these tyrants.

  3. That should read "We confess to not caring..."

  4. Romney can't say where he worked from 1999-2002. Why?
    He swore to the FCC that he was "sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer,
    and president" of Bain those years Plus Bain paid Romney at least $100,000 in salary in 2001 and 2002,

    So what's the problem?
    From 1999-2002, Bain was chewing up companies and spitting their bones out the window
    so Romney has to say, "Not when I was there," so he's sticking to his latest story.

  5. Shroter:

    We're hoping arguing about tenure will be useful.

    We've given up really arguing about what happened during the undisputed periods of tenure.

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