Liberal blogs are abuzz with what's been billed as a newly-surfaced audio recording of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney instructing small business owners to "make it very clear" to their employees who they are voting for on November 6.
"I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections," Romney had said. "And whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama, or whatever your political view, I hope you pass those along to your employees."
But the comments were not surreptitiously recorded or delivered out of the public purview – in fact, they were made during a town hall call with Romney and the National Federal of Independent Business that was open to the media and reported on by U.S. News on June 6:
Mitt Romney is hoping business owners will "make it very clear" to their employees what their political views are and how the November election results could impact their jobs.
At least that's what he told about 100,000 members of the National Federation of Independent Business during a Wednesday tele-townhall.
"I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections," the Republican presidential nominee said. "And whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama, or whatever your political view, I hope you pass those along to your employees."
Chuckling a bit, Romney added, "Nothing illegal about you talking to your employees about what you believe is best for the business, because I believe that will figure in to their election decision, their voting decision."
Romney spent the majority of the call answering questions from business owners on topics such as healthcare, regulation and taxes. He vowed to halt all "Obama era" regulations upon assuming office and said Congress should approve all substantive federal regulations, which would cede a decent amount of power from the executive branch to the legislative.
"I was at a printing shop where a guy was telling me that the [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] regulator came in and fined them for not teaching their employees how to lift a bar off a door," Romney said. "It's like, well, just pick it up. These are the kinds of silly things that regulators are doing, I think, to justify their existence in too many instances."
Romney's tax plan would lower the burden on small businesses by allowing them to invest more in themselves, but he pushed back on the idea that he supports reducing the tax burden for the wealthy.
The former businessman also mocked criticism of his leadership of a private equity firm leveled by President Obama's campaign.
"I heard the other day that the president's spokesman said that, 'You know, Mitt Romney was in business, but he was trying to earn a profit, not just trying to hire people,'" Romney said. "It's like, well, I have to tell you, that's sort of what business is about. The free enterprise system is about people taking a risk to earn a return to earn a profit and if they do, they are able to hire more people. Profits and people go together, if you're talking about creating new jobs."
While he emphasized the importance of shrinking government and cutting regulations, Romney said the government does have a role to play.
"We all want clean air and clean water," he said. "Unfortunately the [Environmental Protection Agency], along with a lot of other regulators, has gone well beyond the bounds of what's healthy and has instead taken on a posture which seems an awful lot like being anti-business, anti-enterprise and anti-growth, and that's going to have to end."
The comments were interesting then, and interesting now, but they shouldn't be seen as akin to the secretly recorded private fundraiser, in which he seemed to disparage 47 percent of the population, that did Romney so much damage when made public earlier this year.
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Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at email@example.com.