President Obama has accepted $92,270 in his last two campaigns from employees of Bain Capital, the private equity firm formerly led by Mitt Romney, which he has villainized for profiting on failed companies that laid off workers.
Romney has taken $229,650, more than any other politician. But together, Democratic candidates and committees have received more than $1.3 million from Bain Capital workers since the 2008 election cycle - double the amount collected by Republicans.
The willingness of Obama and his party to fund their campaigns with Bain Capital money threatens to undermine their protests against the manner in which it was earned. Two recent Obama campaign ads have cast Romney and the firm he ran from 1984 to 1999 as “just the opposite of Robin Hood,’’ as one featured worker described them.
“Mitt Romney takes from the poor and the middle class and gives to the rich,’’ said the worker, Jerry Rayburn, a former employee of SCM Office Supplies Inc. in Marion, Ind.
But even as the Obama campaign has been linked to Bain Capital donors - first by The Hill on Saturday - and fielded intraparty criticism for its portrayal of Romney and his company, the campaign has attempted to clarify its message. The issue is not whether Romney is a good guy or a bad guy, the campaign now says, but whether running Bain Capital qualifies him to run the country.
“We’re not challenging the virtues of the private equity business, or Romney’s right to run his business as he saw fit, or even his right to run other businesses into the ground while turning a profit for himself and his investors,’’ Obama campaign spokesman Michael Czin said. “Instead, we’re pointing out that Romney economics puts short-term profit for himself and his investors ahead of long-term growth for the companies - and their employees - that he bought and sold.’’
The president on Monday defended the legitimacy of his campaign’s Bain Capital scrutiny. The point, he argued, is the mentality needed to succeed in private equity is not - as Romney claims - similar to that needed to succeed in the White House.
“If your main argument for how to grow the economy is, ‘I knew how to make a lot of money for investors,’ then you’re missing what this job is about,’’ Obama said. “My job is to take into account everybody, not just some.’’
The Romney campaign has used the phrase “character assassination’’ to describe the president’s strategy of spotlighting blue-collar workers who lament jobs, benefits, and pensions lost under Bain Capital management.
Bain Capital, too, has taken offense, issuing a statement Monday to defend itself against “political attacks that emphasize the few companies that have struggled.’’
“The facts are that during Bain Capital’s ownership, revenues grew in 80 percent of the more than 350 companies in which we have invested,’’ the firm said.
If accepting campaign contributions from Bain Capital has opened the president to charges of hypocrisy, the problem may be resolving itself. Bain Capital employees’ donations to Obama have dropped precipitously in recent months. The president has received just one gift of $1,500 this calendar year, after getting $32,500 in 2011 and $58,270 in the last election.
Romney, also, seems to be doing less well with Bain Capital donors. He received $114,000 in 2011 and $110,650 during the 2008 primary season but has gotten only two donations totaling $5,000 this year.