It took a while, but I think I've got it.
There is a lot of there there with the Bain story, and it's all about trying, over a number of years, to take the Bain era off the table, politically speaking. Here's the timeline:
1. Mitt Romney founds Bain Capital and embarks on a successful career in private equity, not particularly considering what a political liability it might someday become to be as ruthless as one often needs to be in private equity.Where have I gone wrong? It seems clear to me that Mitt Romney made up a story to mute attacks on his role at Bain during the 2002 campaign (it worked, for he was elected), and now he wanted to recycle that effort here in 2012.
2. In 1994, Romney runs against Ted Kennedy for the Senate. Kennedy wipes the floor with him through relentless attacks on Romney and his role at Bain.
3. In 1999, Romney goes to Utah to lead the scandal-plagued Salt Lake City Olympics. By all accounts, he does a bang-up job.
4. While in Salt Lake City from 1999 to 2002, Romney remains owner, chairman, CEO, and president of Bain Capital, all the while with a salary. The truth of this is demonstrated by SEC filings, which Romney signs. It's also later proven that Romney remained active, at least on a part-time basis, by his own testimony in front of the Massachusetts Ballot Law Commission in order to prove continuous residency in the state so he can run for governor. He testified to active participation in the affairs of Bain and several companies owned by Bain during this time, including Staples and LifeLike. He succeeds in convincing the Commission that he is eligible to run.
5. Romney -- and I suspect some of his advisers -- realizes in 2002 that he's vulnerable to the same attacks on Bain that he suffered in 1994. He must make Bain go away or risk losing his bid for governor.
6. In 2002, Bain gives Romney a severance package, retroactive to 1999, and the story is put forth and repeated that Romney left Bain in February 1999 and any attacks on Romney for his Bain years are "old news."
7. The only proof that Romney actually left Bain completely in February 1999 has come from Romney himself and his campaign. And, yes, an old crony or two from Bain say it's so, too. The required, legal documentation filed with the SEC says otherwise, as does Romney's own testimony he gave to prove his Massachusetts residency.
This time, people are sussing out his deception. It likely won't work, no matter how many times Romney says he won't release his tax returns. Until he does, I'd make book that he's likely to be hounded incessantly. Eventually, even Fox News might demand he release his returns.
For now, he's behind the eight ball, and if I'm right, his reasons -- beyond the possibility that there's more in his returns than just his role at Bain in the years in question -- for his continued stonewalling is just an attempt to get past Bain as he managed in 2002.