— The Huffington Post reports that Bain & Company, while Mitt Romney was there, made lots of money helping bring Big Tobacco to post-Soviet Russia. As HuffPost notes, lots has been written about Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, but little has been written about his time at Bain & Company.

Bain’s Russian business wasn’t about family-friendly products. Those deals were about cigarettes. And that work sent Bain into the shadows of the post-Soviet economy — including helping to orchestrate anonymous, convoluted cash transactions to keep major deals hidden from regulators and competitors. It was part of a free-for-all that involved wholesale looting of major industries, as Western technocrats helped facilitate the transfer of Russia’s wealth into the hands of a few oligarchs. That set in motion a populist backlash that helped sweep Vladimir Putin into power, giving the Kremlin dominance over a country Romney has lately called our “number one geopolitical enemy.”

Bain was in the middle of all of this, putting to work the same skills it had sharpened in the U.S. — using taxpayer money to help it gain footholds in Russia. In March 1993, the American government gave Bain & Co. a $3.9 million contract to advise Boris Yeltsin’s administration on the privatization of the Russian economy, according records detailing the arrangement uncovered by The Huffington Post. Romney’s consultants helped foreign firms and aspiring oligarchs decide how to corral Russia’s riches — including writing an official manual that outlined how best to navigate the process. At the same time, Bain leveraged its contacts with senior Russian officials to arrange sweetheart deals for its tobacco clients.

If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.

 

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.