Monday, May 21, 2012

Obama Launches New Bain Attack Ad

by Alana Goodman

Note to Cory Booker: don’t watch this latest Obama ad while eating lunch. The Obama campaign has released another distorted attack on Bain Capital, this time targeting the company’s acquisition of a textile firm called American Pad and Paper (Ampad):

The Ampad story was one of Sen. Ted Kennedy’s most effective attacks against Romney in the 1994 Massachusetts Senate race. Paul Barrett has a detailed long read on the background, but here’s a summary: Bain Capital bought Ampad in 1992, and used the company to buy and restructure struggling paper supply manufacturers. In 1994, Ampad bought a small paper company in Marion, Indiana, with Bain’s approval. As part of its plan to rebuild the flailing business, Ampad cut pay and benefits for the 258 workers. The union initially attempted to negotiate with the new management, but ended up walking away from the table and calling a strike. Ampad responded by laying off the striking workers, several of whom blame Romney for their job losses and have actively tried to foil his political ambitions ever since.

The stories of layoffs may strike an emotional chord with some viewers, but Bain and Ampad aren’t the ones to find fault with here. You could just as easily argue that the union bore responsible for the job losses, because it decided to play chicken with Ampad and call a risky strike instead of negotiating. Or you could argue that the plant’s prior management was to blame for driving the plant to financial instability in the first place.

Here’s another glaring problem: Romney took a leave of absence from Bain in January of 1994, in order to focus on his Senate campaign. Ampad bought the Marion paper company in July of 1994. So not only did Romney have no control over Ampad’s actions, he wasn’t even technically at Bain when the Marion company was acquired.

And as the Wall Street Journal argues today, the liberal critique of Bain is illogical. If Bain really was a “vampire” firm that preyed on companies and then unloaded the carcasses onto unwitting buyers, how in the world could they still be in business? Why would any sane investor buy a company from them? How could their acquisitions still manage to get loans if they were consistently defaulting?

The Obama campaign likely hopes voters don’t ask themselves those questions. And while the campaign may hope the Ampad ad works as well for them as it did for Ted Kennedy, there are reasons to believe it won’t. The laid off workers from Marion also helped campaign against Romney when he ran for governor on a job-creation platform in 2002, with much less success. The story apparently wasn’t as convincing to voters the second time around, years after it originally happened.

Alana Goodman


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