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How Mitt Romney and Glenn Kessler Swift-Yachted Themselves

More extraordinary even than the Mitt Romney saga here is the Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post saga.

David Weigel on the Mitt Romney saga:

David Weigel: What confounds me about the Bain Capital/Romney story's current iteration is that there's such a long, uncontested record describing Romney's ties to the company through 2002…. So who gave people the idea that Romney had completely severed ties with Bain in February 1999? The Romney campaign! On May 14, bristling at the first Obama/Bain attacks, the Romney campaign (via spokeswoman Andrea Saul) sent out a kitchen-sink debunking statement. The argument, made VERY LOUDLY in bolded sentences, was that Romney "left Bain Capital" in 1999. The sentences in question:

The Bankruptcy And Layoffs At GS Industries All Occurred AFTER Governor Romney Had Left Bain Capital in February 1999. 

After Agreeing To Head The Salt Lake Olympic Committee In February 1999, Romney Said He Will Leave Running Day-Today Operations To Bain’s Executive Committee.

Fact Checkers Have Stated That The Facts “Exonerate Romney” From Allegations Relating To Any Bain Deals In The Early 2000s. 

You can see how people got the idea that Romney was out, see-ya, exit-state-left when it came to Bain. But here's the weird part. The articles being cited clearly said that Romney had left the company but would provide some advice when it was needed.

Here, for example, is the article referred to in the second bullet point.

“Romney said he will stay on as a part-timer with Bain, providing input on investment and key personnel decisions. But he will leave running day-to-day operations to Bain's executive committee.” (Greg Gatlin, “Romney Looks To Restore Olympic Pride,” The Boston Herald, 2/12/99)….

This is a truly bizarre scandal. At base, we're seeing a candidate get shamed because he took a (paid) leave of absence in order to successfully turn around the Olympics. But the way he described that decision in his 2006 book Turnaround made it clear -- he kept up some Bain Capital ties. "When I talked to my partners at Bain Capital," he wrote, "I opined that it wouldn't make sense for me to come back to the company at the end of my tenure at SLOC as I had following my [1994] campaign." They disagreed and came to a different arrangement -- not as much control as he'd retained in 1994, but not zero influence…. The reason that Romney's having trouble escaping this language trap is that it was built and baited by hasty "war room" responses.

UPDATE: I can't put the entire Herald piece here, for rights reasons, but here's a longer quote.

Asked why he decided to leave his post at the helm of Boston venture capital firm Bain Capital Inc., Romney replied: "My son Josh asked that same question . . . I think I'm either blessed or cursed with an overactive public service gland. Now and then it compels me to do things that don't make sense on an accounting basis." He described the Olympic games as "one of the very few powerful symbols of peace on the world stage." Romney said he will stay on as a part-timer with Bain, providing input on investment and key personnel decisions. But he will leave running day-to-day operations to Bain's executive committee.

But even more bizarre than the Romney story is the Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post saga.

Somehow, Glenn Kessler manages to fact-check without actually doing any fact-checking. One cannot help but think that a real reporter would have read the Boston Globe and Boston Herald stories--would have gained a sense of how Romney's highly-public three-year exit from Bain went--before writing things like this:

Glenn Kessler: If Romney left Bain in February 1999, when he departed to run the Olympics, then a number of business deals that went sour (such as KB Toys) can’t be counted as part of Romney’s tenure. If he actually left in 2002, as the Obama campaign alleges, then those deals are fair game.

We have looked at this issue before, back in January, and thought we had settled it.

But now the Boston Globe has raised the issue again. The story seems to hinge on a quote from a former Securities and Exchange Commission member, which would have more credibility if the Globe had disclosed she was a regular contributor to Democrats….

[I]t really feels like Groundhog Day again….

[O]ne would have to believe that Romney, with the advice of his lawyers, lied on government documents and committed a criminal offense….

We are standing with our assessment that Mitt Romney left the helm of Bain Capital in 1999, when he departed to run the Salt Lake City Olympics….

We concluded that much of the language saying Romney was “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president” was boilerplate that did not reveal whether he was actually managing Bain at the time. (For instance, there is no standard definition of a “chief executive,” securities law experts say, and there is no requirement for anyone to have any responsibilities even if they have that title.)… [T]he titles are basically meaningless, that someone can be listed as a chief executive and actually have no responsibilities whatsoever….

In 2011, Romney, as a presidential candidate, filed a public financial disclosure form, under pain of perjury, that stated:  

Mr.  Romney  retired  from  Bain  Capital  on  February  11,  1999  to  head  the  Salt  Lake Organizing Committee.  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.

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Glenn Kessler claims that describing yourself as a company's president, chair, sole stockholder, and CEO does not mean that you are an "executive", let alone the "chief" executive, and does not mean that you have any responsibilities. It appears that Glenn Kessler's describing himself as a "fact checker" does not mean that he will devote any time to checking any facts.

And when caught out by events, he won't admit that he was snookered--like Romney, he will simply double down and try to brazen it out.