The available evidence still supports this picture: When Romney left to run the Olympics, he intended to continue his work at Bain in a limited role. But the Olympic gig took up more time than he anticipated, and the part-time work at Bain didn’t happen. Still, Romney and Bain expected he’d return to the company once the Olympics were over. He was even compensated in his role as an executive after 1999, as both the Globe article and the Obama campaign note. But his success in Salt Lake City raised his profile and created new opportunities in politics—and when he decided to pursue them, his de facto departure from Bain was formalized.
Admittedly, that picture is murky. To the extent that the truth about this period matters—because of Bain’s actions, or because Romney’s claims speak to whether he’s trustworthy—there’s plenty here to warrant further investigation. Maybe Karmel, the former SEC commissioner, has the better of the argument, after all. And, as Marc Ambinder notes on Twitter, it’s about time for Romney or Bain to identify who was making the decisions if he wasn’t. More reporting can help here.
Meanwhile, there’s a case to be made that Romney bears an ethical responsibility for Bain’s actions during this period, even if he wasn’t directly involved. He was, on paper, in charge of many of Bain’s investments—and being paid for that role. (Business Insider’s Henry Blodget has been tweeting up a storm this afternoon arguing that that makes him responsible.) And he was, indisputably, profiting from those investments—a line of attack that Jackson, in a phone call today, agreed would put the Obama campaign “on better footing,” and that some in the president’s camp have in fact recently leaned on.
No doubt to some observers, the question of Romney’s responsibility in this larger sense is the only issue that matters, and the factcheckers’ objections seem pedantic. But it’s the job of factcheckers to be pedantic about what politicians are saying, while leaving political debates to the political sphere. In this case, the factcheckers have done that job. And while future reporting may prompt a reassessment, their conclusions—about the specific claims under scrutiny—look sound so far.
Update: Before this post was published, Primack posted a new item, which sheds some light on, at the least, how Bain was portraying Romney’s role to investors during this period. Primack obtained offering documents for a Bain fund from 2000 (from whom is not specified). Regarding the section on fund management, he writes:
It then goes on to list 18 managers of the private equity fund. Mitt Romney is not among them. Same goes for an affiliated co-investment fund, whose private placement memorandum is dated September 2000.
Then there is Bain Capital Venture Fund — the firm’s first dedicated venture capital effort — whose private placement memorandum is dated January 2001. Romney also isn’t listed among its “key investment professionals,” or as part of its day-to-day operations or investment committee.
Why these documents are just now finding their way to a reporter, I have no idea. And these details won’t change the minds of people who believe Romney, even if not operationally involved, bears responsibility for Bain’s actions. (As Primack notes, “no longer having operational input at Bain… is different from no longer having legal or financial ties to the firm.”) But they do seem to add more support to the picture painted by the available evidence.