Called a Liar, Obama Turns Tables on Romney, Bain Capital

Mitt Romney's narrative about when and how he left Bain Capital gets renewed scrutiny.

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On the very day Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's campaign unveiled a television ad directly accusing President Barack Obama of being dishonest, news reports revealed apparent discrepancies between federal filings and Romney's statements on his role leading Bain Capital.

The Boston Globe, building on earlier Web reports, wrote on Thursday that despite Romney's claim that he relinquished control of his investment firm in 1999, multiple filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission still list him as sole owner, president, and CEO of the company until February 2001.

"Either Mitt Romney through his own words and his own signature was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the SEC, which is a felony, or he was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the American people to avoid responsibility for some of the consequences of his investments," said Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for Obama, during a conference call with reporters on Thursday.

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The Obama campaign has been portraying Romney as a cold-hearted businessman who outsourced American jobs for profits during his tenure at Bain, running ads in swing states to reinforce the message. The narrative has been aided by reports in the New York Times and the Washington Post detailing how Bain often conducted business--buying struggling companies and at times making drastic workforce cuts or incurring bank loans all in the name of making a profit.

The Romney campaign has countered that Romney was extremely successful at achieving the business goals of Bain, which was to maximize returns for investors and, further, was not directly involved with any deals that outsourced jobs as he left in 1999. The campaign even took a meeting with the Washington Post editorial board to ask for a retraction of its outsourcing story, though the paper stood by its reporting.

Pushing back against the latest report, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said it was simply "not accurate."

"As Bain Capital has said, as Gov. Romney has said and as has been confirmed by independent fact checkers multiple times, Gov. Romney left Bain Capital in February of 1999 to run the Olympics and had no input on investments or management of companies after that point," she said in a prepared release.

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But because the Romney campaign has been particularly reserved when it comes disclosing the candidate's finances and Bain has declined to share records on Romney's employment, the Obama campaign has been able to pound away based largely on suppositions and innuendo.

The Romney campaign footnoted his June presidential campaign financial disclosure form stating, "Since February 11, 1999, Mr. Romney has not had any active role with any Bain Capital entity and has not been involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way."

The statement leaves open the possibility that Romney was somehow still CEO but not in an "active" capacity--but a lawyer with the Obama campaign said that could be problematic as well.

"If in fact he now claims that he was not active with the company, he was not the controlling person that is described here, that means that these statements are false and there are very, very serious legal consequences that would follow," said Bob Bauer, an Obama campaign attorney.

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"Romney is describing himself as an executive with Bain Capital and then all of a sudden--and this coincides with his political ambitions and pursuits--he tells the federal government in the financial disclosure form he in fact wasn't involved with Bain after 1999, directly contradicting the certified record before the Securities and Exchange Commission," Bauer said.

Obama campaign officials further pressed that if there was either something false about the news reports or their accusations, the Romney campaign could clear them up by revealing more financial records. So far, Romney has released only his 2010 tax returns and projections for his 2011 returns.

The controversy also overshadows the Romney ad attempting to portray Obama as untrustworthy.

"When a president doesn't tell the truth, how can we trust him to lead?" the Romney ad asks, while showing pictures of Obama.

It's a question many undecided voters may end up asking themselves about both candidates as the election draws closer.

Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at rmetzler@usnews.com or follow her on Twitter.

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