WASHINGTON — A Democratic group supporting President Obama’s reelection has asked the Department of Justice to investigate whether Republican Mitt Romney violated federal law by stating on a 2011 ethics filing that he was not involved with Bain Capital operations “in any way’’ after 1999.
The Globe, citing numerous Securities and Exchange Commission filings, reported in July that Romney continued to serve as chief executive and chairman of Bain Capital, as well as the principal in a number of Bain-related entities, until as late as 2002.
The organization MoveOn.org Political Action, a liberal group, seized on those discrepancies in a letter dated Thursday to the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section. The group, citing its own review of the public records, contends that Romney may have violated the False Statements Act by lying on his 2011 federal financial disclosure statement.
In the 2011 disclosure, which Romney was required to submit as a presidential candidate, the former Massachusetts governor stated that he “has not been involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way’’ since Feb. 11, 1999. MoveOn.org contends that appears to be false.
“There is substantial evidence that Governor Romney was in fact involved with the operations of Bain Capital after that date,’’ MoveOn.org said in its letter to the Justice Department. In a press release, the group asserts there is “substantial evidence that Mitt Romney may have committed a felony.’’
A Romney campaign spokesman, Ryan Williams, dismissed MoveOn.org’s move as a political attack. A standard to prove a felony under the False Statements Act is that a person knew the statement was false.
“This is nothing more than a political stunt from a liberal special interest group that is desperate to distract from the record unemployment and skyrocketing deficits caused by President Obama’s failed economic agenda,’’ Williams said.
Romney took a leave of absence from Bain in 1999 to run the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. But he did not relinquish his ownership stake or title. The timing is important politically for Romney, because a first line of defense for the Republican nominee against Democratic attacks over Bain business practices has been to say he bore no responsibility for Bain-owned companies that went bankrupt or laid off workers after 1999.
MoveOn.org, in an accompanying legal memorandum, cites a number of Bain documents regarding Bain investments that Romney signed after 1999. It says he bore ultimate fiduciary responsibility for the company after that date.
“Although Governor Romney may deny having exercised that power, that ultimate responsibility and authority over tens of millions of shares of stock of other companies, and his awareness of the acquisitions evidenced by his signing of the forms, is clearly inconsistent with his flat disavowal of ‘any’ involvement in the ‘operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way,’ ’’ said the memorandum.
The Justice Department also did not respond to a request for comment.
The MoveOn.org lawyer who wrote the memorandum laying out the group’s argument for the Department of Justice, Joseph E. Sandler, said in an interview Wednesday that Romney’s disclosure statement does not square with the facts.
“I think it’s pretty difficult to explain. He’s at the top of the chain — the sole shareholder, and director, and chief executive officer,’’ he said. “How can someone in that position have no operational involvement in that entity or any entity beneath it? It doesn’t add up.’’
Christopher Rowland can be reached at crowland@