The fraternity of "independent fact-checkers" is digging in to defend Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney against accusations that his Bain Capital participated in shipping American jobs overseas despite, ironically, acknowledging that Romney did invest in and profit from such operations.
The core of this Romney defense, which has now become a centerpiece of a new Romney attack ad labeling President Barack Obama a liar, is Romney's claim that he was not responsible for what Bain Capital did after he took a partial leave of absence to oversee the Winter Olympics in February 1999.
The "fact-checkers" uncritically accept this Romney departure date despite contrary evidence contained in dozens of Securities and Exchange Commission filings from Bain Capital entities after February 1999.
For instance, one summary of Bain investments via Bain Capital Fund VI, dated Feb. 13, 2001, lists Romney as "the sole shareholder, sole director, Chief Executive Officer and President of Bain Capital and thus is the controlling person of Bain Capital."
Yet, the Annenberg Center's "FactCheck.org" gives Romney a pass on everything that happened after February 1999, declaring that Romney had stated twice on official federal disclosure documents that he "has not been involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way" since leaving for the 2002 Olympics. FactCheck.org notes that "a falsehood [on these forms] could draw a federal felony charge."
However, it's also true that filing fraudulent SEC reports can be a felony, including telling investors that Romney was the "controlling person" if indeed he had nothing to do with the company. Either Romney was "the controlling person of Bain Capital" or he "has not been involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way." It's hard to square the circle on how both could be true.
It's also a curious argument from "independent fact-checkers" that Romney, who decided to invest in companies that promoted themselves as facilitators of outsourcing and off-shoring jobs for American companies, had no responsibility for these actions just because he took a partial leave of absence from Bain Capital, a firm that he still owned and surely influenced.
Yet, that is what FactCheck.org argues, despite acknowledging:
"There is no question that Bain invested in some companies that helped other companies outsource work and that some of that work went overseas. That was the core business for Modus Media and SMTC Corp. -- two outsource companies featured in a June 21 article in the Washington Post that has been the basis of recent Obama TV ads.
"Bain also invested in U.S.-based companies that sold goods manufactured here and abroad, and some of those companies closed U.S. facilities and eliminated U.S. jobs. But ... we found no evidence to support the claim that Romney -- while he was still running Bain Capital -- shipped American jobs overseas."
However, FactCheck.org insists -- in defiance of the SEC filings and other evidence -- that the cutoff of Romney's responsibility came in February 1999, not when he actually resigned and became a passive investor more than two years later. His disclosure forms even show him receiving executive compensation of more than $100,000 as late as 2002.
In its argumentative reply, FactCheck.org insisted that you must even disregard contemporaneous news accounts in which Romney and other insiders described his plans to continue part-time control of Bain Capital. For instance, a Boston Herald interview with Romney in February 1999 described Romney's plans to "stay on as a part-timer with Bain, providing input on investment and key personnel decisions."
But FactCheck.org chooses to accept later self-serving accounts about Romney working 16-hour days, seven days a week, after he arrived in Salt Lake City to oversee the upcoming Winter Olympics.
Yet, if he actually were working that many hours, who's to say that he didn't spend a few of those 112 hours each week checking in with his Bain Capital subordinates back in Boston? Are we to believe that none of his underlings called the boss about major decisions that would have impacted Romney's personal wealth?