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The Real Mitt Will Not Stand Up


A Guest Essay By Martin Russell

October 29, 2012


Mitt Romney jokes that he tried a cigarette as a wayward teenager and didn't like it. As an adult, his Mormon religion prohibited him from smoking. "It's a religious thing," he said. But that didn't stop him from hooking millions of people on cigarettes.


As CEO for Bain & Company, he negotiated an extremely lucrative consulting contract with Philip Morris. Bain's marketing strategy for the Marlboro brand led to a big jump in smoking by American teenagers. But he made a real killing in partnership with British American Tobacco. Their goal was to dominate the Russian cigarette market. When Bain and friends started their marketing push, only 7 percent of Russian women smoked. 17 years later, 22 percent of Russian women had taken up the habit. Smoking among men now tops 60 percent. More than 400,000 deaths annually are attributed to smoking, precipitating what the Russian government terms "a health crisis."


Mitt Romney touts draconian solutions to the deficit. He might start by returning the $10 million he owes the American taxpayers. His own "deficit" occurred at a time when he was keeping afloat Bain & Company, and making a bad job of it. The FDIC came to the rescue with a $15 million bailout. But when the time came to repay it, Bain only had $5 million. Romney gave the feds an ultimatum. Take the $5 million and write off the balance, or he would give the money to Bain executives as bonuses and declare bankruptcy. The government surrendered to the blackmail and cut their losses.


Bankruptcy has been a key business strategy. For example, Bain took over two successful medical firms and merged them into a single entity called Dade Behring. They took out a $421 million bank loan in the company's name and paid Bain, Goldman Sachs and some top managers $365 million in dividends. Total investment by these participants: $85 million. Romney continued to profit from the deal until 2001, a year before Dade Behring went bankrupt.


Can we expect a high moral standard from a man who helped found Bain Capital mainly on seed money from El Salvadoran oligarchs, families with ties to death squads that killed 75,000 men, women and children? Bain's "limited partners" -- including members of the de Sola and Salaverria families -- put as much as $9 million into the fledgling Bain company. Unsurprisingly, Romney refuses to disclose the names of his original investors.


This is the man who is so pro-life that he supported the GOP platform calling for an end to all abortions, even in the case of rape, incest or when the mother's life is in danger. The man vowing to end government funding for Planned Parenthood whose pre-natal services save thousands of women's lives every year. The man who would abolish the Affordable Care Act, denying 35 million Americans access to health care and sending many of them to the Emergency Room instead of a doctor. Recently, Romney stated that "nobody has died because they didn't have health insurance." In the real world, studies show that 45,000 deaths a year are attributable to lack of insurance.


Romney also plans to cut Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Social Security, and just about any other program that provides a lifeline to the undeserving poor and elderly. All the while, hiding his own vast fortune in anonymous offshore tax shelters, and keeping secret all but the last two years of his tax returns.


If all this weren't bad enough, he continues to make statements that he knows are false. One of the most egregious is that "Obama cut $716 billion from Medicare." In fact, the Obama administration is saving Medicare $716 billion over ten years, much of it by negotiating cuts from health industry vendors -- mainly hospitals and drug companies. They willingly complied because of the millions of new customers the Affordable Care Act will bring them. Another lie: Romney stated in the first debate that his health care plan included people with pre-existing conditions. Of course, it doesn't.


Another tall tale that Mitt brings up regularly is his management of the Winter Olympics in Utah. His book, "Turnaround," trumpets his success in rescuing the games from financial disaster. But, as he admitted, it was "the enormous spending and services of the federal government" that rescued him. We, the people, delivered $342 million in direct federal funding and $1.1 billion in indirect financing. In all, he received more government aid than all seven Olympic Games held in the United States since 1904 -- combined.


One last distortion Mitt likes to trumpet: the President blocked the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. In fact, people in Nebraska called a halt to building a section over their Ogallala aquifer. They knew all about the disastrous 800,000-gallon spill in the Kalamazoo River. The pipeline in Michigan carried the same type of corrosive bitumen that Keystone will ship from Alberta's tar sands. A similar spill would be a disaster for the ranchers, farmers and citizens of Nebraska. Because one thing that will always be more precious than oil is uncontaminated water. But Romney promises to green light Keystone as soon as he ascends the throne.


And here's some late-breaking news from "get-tough-on-China" Mitt. The day before the election, Bain-owned Sensata Technologies will close and move its business to China. 170 high-tech workers will lose their well-paid jobs, jolting the economy of the town of Freeport, Illinois, population 25,000. Adding insult to injury, they are being forced to train their Chinese replacements. Why? Sensata is a successful company. Net income last year was up 16 percent from 2010 -- to $355 million from total revenues of $1.8 billion, up almost 19 percent -- both record levels for the company. It all comes down to a bigger slice of the pie for Bain investors. Sensata employees have appealed to Romney to intervene. He has not returned their calls.


Let's hope the light will shine on the real Mitt Romney before it's too late.




Martin Russell, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, has worked as a reporter, critic and columnist for local newspapers and magazines. He also has written about fifty plays, many of which have been produced locally and nationally.

Crisis Papers editors, Partridge & Weiner, are available for public speaking appearances