The Washington Post's political "fact checker" Glenn Kessler is turning the concept of his job inside out by defending Republican Mitt Romney from criticism that is factually accurate and may even be understated.
On Sunday, Kessler gave "four Pinocchios" -- his worst rating reserved for "whoppers" -- to the Obama campaign's characterization of Romney as "a corporate raider" who "shipped jobs to China and Mexico." Yet, to do so, Kessler relied on his own narrow interpretation of "corporate raider" and then airily dismissed the findings of an investigative article by veteran journalist Tom Hamburger about Romney's role in job outsourcing, a story that was the Post's lede just two days earlier.
After studying Securities and Exchange Commission filings, Hamburger reported that Romney's Bain Capital "owned companies that were pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to overseas call centers and factories making computer components."
In other words, Romney's venture capital firm wasn't just investing in companies that shipped jobs overseas, Bain owned companies that were trail-blazing the practice of outsourcing American jobs.
You might think that after Hamburger's article appeared on Friday, Kessler would have junked his idea for a "fact-checking" column denying that Romney was a job-outsourcer. Instead, Kessler just mentioned Hamburger's article in passing, downplaying it as "an interesting area for inquiry," but supposedly irrelevant to the question of whether Romney was involved in outsourcing American jobs.
Kessler, the "fact-checker," is equally disingenuous regarding the characterization of Romney as a "corporate raider." He insists on a very narrow definition of the term, saying it should be applied only to someone who engineers a hostile takeover of a company and then breaks it apart for short-term profits.
But "corporate raider" can also apply to a private equity firm that swoops in on a vulnerable company, secures a controlling stake and then bleeds it of resources, which is what led Texas Gov. Rick Perry to famously describe Romney as a "vulture capitalist."
Curiously, Kessler's interpretation of "corporate raider" doesn't even fit with the definition he cites from a Web site called Investopedia, which defines the term as:
"An investor who buys a large number of shares in a corporation whose assets appear to be undervalued. The large share purchase would give the corporate raider significant voting rights, which could then be used to push changes in the company's leadership and management. This would increase share value and thus generate a massive return for the raider."
Everything in that definition would apply to what Romney's Bain Capital did with the companies it took over. It assessed the potential value of the beleaguered companies, bought substantial amounts of their stock, forced management changes designed to raise share value, and achieved big rewards for Bain.
Missing the Plunder
In his Sunday column, Kessler also appeared ignorant of a front-page New York Times article from Saturday that examined Bain's record of plundering vulnerable companies after Romney engineered their takeovers.
The Times reported that Bain, under Romney, took majority stakes in more than 40 U.S.-based companies from 1984 to 1999 and "at least seven eventually filed for bankruptcy while Bain remained involved, or shortly afterward. ... In some instances, hundreds of employees lost their jobs. In most of those cases, however, records and interviews suggest that Bain and its executives still found a way to make money."
Romney's private equity firm extracted hefty fees and other payments from the companies even amid layoffs and bankruptcies, the Times reported.
Kessler ignores these findings and is even more dishonest in his defense of Bain on its record for shipping American jobs overseas. Kessler essentially buys the spin that the Romney campaign has put on this issue, that Bain did very little in the way of outsourcing to foreign countries when Romney was in control from 1984 to 1999.
Yet, Kessler's decision to carry water for Romney was jaw-dropping for anyone who had read the Washington Post just two days earlier when it published Hamburger's detailed account of how some Bain companies developed, promoted and facilitated outsourcing of American jobs. Bain wasn't just doing the outsourcing; it was involved in helping other U.S. corporations ship U.S. jobs overseas.