A day after the Obama campaign released an ad attacking Mitt Romney’s business record, a super PAC supporting the president’s reelection unveiled a similar ad Tuesday, focusing on the same Missouri steel company and running in four of the same states.
The 30-second spot produced by Priorities USA Action features a former employee of GST Steel decrying what he characterizes as the predatory business strategy of Romney and Bain Capital, the private investment firm Romney ran from 1984 to 1999.
But the ad relies, in part, on the dubious assertion that Bain Capital always turned a profit, no matter what happened to the businesses in which it invested.
“With Romney and Bain Capital, the objective was to make money,” says the steelworker, Pat Wells. “Whether the companies they came in and worked with made money or not was irrelevant. Bain Capital always made money. If we lost, they made money. If we survived, they made money. It’s as simple as that. He promised us the same things he’s promising the United States. And he’ll give you the same thing he gave us. Nothing. He’ll take it all.”
The super PAC is spending $4 million to air the ad in Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida.
On Monday, the Obama campaign released two iterations of its own GST Steel ad: a 2-minute version running in Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Iowa; and a 6-minute Web video.
Bain Capital invested $8 million in the steel mill in 1993 and turned an estimated profit of $8.5 million, despite the GST Steel’s bankruptcy in 2001. About 750 workers lost their jobs, health insurance and severance pay, and suffered pension cuts.
Bain Capital issued a statement Monday following the release of the Obama ad, saying GST Steel would have closed earlier if not for Bain’s investment. Less expensive steel imports eventually drove GST and almost half of US steel companies into bankruptcy, Bain said.
The firm also noted Romney was no longer Bain Capital’s chief executive when GST Steel went under.
Both ads are designed to discredit Exhibit A in Romney’s case for the presidency—that he is a job creator who would manage the nation’s economic recovery better than Obama.
But the argument advanced by the Priorities USA ad is partly based on Wells’ questionable claim that “Bain Capital always made money” “whether the companies they came in and worked with made money or not.”
When Deutsche Bank examined 68 of Romney’s major deals at Bain Capital for an investment prospectus in 2000, it found the firm lost money or only broke even on 33, almost half.
A Priorities USA official suggested Deutsche Bank’s evaluation understated Bain Capital’s return on investment in some cases.
“For hundreds of individual workers like those at GST, their experience was Romney and his firm always coming out ahead, even when their companies were driven into the ground,” said Bill Burton, the super PAC’s senior strategist. “Every year, Romney was able to celebrate massive profits, even as many of his former employees were left without a job and without promised health and retirement benefits.”Callum Borchers can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.