Even if Romney's answer could be technically true -- and it contradicts what Romney told the Boston Herald when he headed off to Utah with his stated intent to "stay on as a part-timer with Bain, providing input on investment and key personnel decisions" -- there are many other business-related topics not covered by Romney's narrow denial.
Romney also is hair-splitting when he references Bain "entities" in his federal campaign disclosure. While the average reader might think Bain's investments would fall under this "entities" rubric, Romney apparently is excluding his board membership on behalf of Bain at companies in which Bain held major interests, such as Staples and LikeLife.
On that point, Annenberg's FactCheck.org bends over backwards into a protective crouch for Romney, saying, "We think the term 'Bain Capital entity' on Romney's disclosure forms could only refer to Bain's various investment funds, not to companies in which it invested." Gee, how understanding of you!
These "independent fact-checkers" also show little curiosity about discrepancies over how much time Romney was allegedly working during this time period.
FactCheck.org accepted self-serving accounts about Romney working 16-hour days, seven days a week, after he arrived in Salt Lake City. But Kessler instead cites Romney's statement to a Massachusetts election board that -- as head of the Winter Olympics -- he "worked, on average, over 12 hours per day, 6 days per week." One might wonder where the missing 40 or so hours went.
But the two "fact-checking" teams appear more interested in shutting off lines of inquiry about Romney's work at Bain Capital than in getting to the bottom of the many mysteries. Kessler even takes the position that it's no big deal to file false SEC forms.
"There is a journalistic convention that appears to place great weight on 'SEC documents,'" Kessler wrote. "But these are public filings by companies, which usually means there are not great secrets hidden in them. The Fact Checker [i.e. Kessler], in an earlier life covering Wall Street, spent many hours looking for jewels in SEC filings."
Though it's hard to judge how inept Kessler was in examining SEC documents, I spent four years editing securities-regulation coverage for Bloomberg News and some of our reporters were quite adept at mining the filings for nuggets. It's also an area where companies must tell the truth, with minimum spin, or face serious consequences.
Many corporate executives, at places like Enron and WorldCom, went to jail, in part, for filing false or misleading disclosure documents. It is indeed a potential felony to knowingly sign and submit SEC records with materially false information, such as telling potential investors that a person is in charge when the person is not in charge.
One of the "great secrets" hidden in SEC filings should not be that the guy listed as CEO isn't really the CEO.
Whether a criminal case can be built upon Bain Capital's admittedly false filings may be open to question -- given statutes of limitations and other issues -- but it's hard to understand how "fact-checkers" would take such a forgiving view of a politician signing false and misleading documents.
What does it say about Mitt Romney that he would repeatedly sign legal documents that contained information that he knew to be untrue -- and why would "fact-checkers" defend him for doing so.
But FactCheck.org's Jackson and the Post's Kessler treat these transgressions with a "boys will be boys" casualness, almost as if one is supposed to rally to the defense of well-bred white men who run powerful private-equity firms and have lots of money.
Kessler wrote that he "concluded that much of the language saying Romney was 'sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president' was boilerplate that did not reveal whether he was actually managing Bain at the time." Yet, whether "boilerplate" or not, the filings were false and/or misleading.
Kessler even adds that "there is no standard definition of a 'chief executive,' securities law experts say, and there is no requirement for anyone to have any responsibilities even if they have that title." Oh, really? Here's how Investopedia (a reference source that Kessler has cited in the past) defines a "chief executive officer":