When Did Romney Leave Bain Capital?

For the past week, the Obama campaign has hammered Mitt Romney for (allegedly) outsourcing during his time at Bain Capital. Today, the Romney team responds with a single, simple message—Obama is lying:

Obama’s claim has been debunked by several fact-checking organizations. But if recent revelations are any indication, that may have been premature. Since his run for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, Romney has told a single story about this time at Bain Capital. He left the company in 1999 to run the 2002 Winter Olympics. If Bain invested in outsourcing, the story goes, it was well after he left to enter public service.

According to the Boston Globe, however, government documents filed by Bain Capital show that Romney was CEO and sole stockholder through 2002. This wasn’t a symbolic role; during that time, he created five new investment partnerships and continued to draw a six-figure salary from the company. In the timeline established by both The Washington Post and the Romney campaign, Romney was at Bain Capital as it invested in companies that outsourced jobs.

Even more damaging is the revelation from Mother Jones that, in 1998, Bain Capital invested millions in a Chinese firm that made significant gains from outsourcing:

On April 17, 1998, Brookside Capital Partners Fund, a Bain Capital affiliate, filed a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission noting that it had acquired 6.13 percent of Hong Kong-based Global-Tech Appliances, which manufactured household appliances in a production facility in the industrial city of Dongguan, China. […]

At the time Romney was acquiring shares in Global-Tech, the firm publicly acknowledged that its strategy was to profit from prominent US companies outsourcing production abroad.

Regardless of how you look at the picture, it seems that Romney was involved in outsourcing during his time at Bain Capital. More important, it also seems that—when it comes to his tenure as president of Bain Capital—Romney has been misleading the public for almost a decade. That this comes on the day he calls Obama a liar is, of course, hilariously ironic.

To a large degree, Romney's campaign for the presidency has been defined by lies. His core attacks on the president—that Obama has "apologized" for America, that he's responsible for net job losses, and that he has passed a government takeover of health care—are based on half-truths, faulty premises, and outright falsehoods. Liberal pundits and journalists have been obsessed with this for some time, but it hasn't caught on with the public. Most people are accustomed to dishonesty from politicians, and on the scale of things to lie about, your opponent's record seems relatively minor to most people. But this is something different. Not only is Romney in potential legal trouble—Factcheck.org suggests that he may have committed a felony—but like a Tetris block, it fits the broader story constructed by the Obama campaign: Mitt Romney isn't just a businessman; he's an unscrupulous financial manipulator who remorselessly outsourced American jobs.

Regardless of whether that's true, what the public will see is a presidential candidate who covered up his involvement in outsourcing but drew a paycheck from his investments and lied about it to voters. This, more than anything else, might cement the view that Romney is incapable of telling the truth. If that gains traction, it could—unlike everything else in this election—actually shift the direction of the race.