In an effort to alleviate his transparency problem and questions surrounding his financial and business backgrounds, Mitt Romney spoke to NBC’s Peter Alexander in an interview Friday evening. Besides squelching hopes that he might comply with calls to release his tax returns, Romney responded to the Boston Globe’s Thursday report that he did not leave Bain Capital when he says he did, and a call from the president to explain his conduct at the firm.
“Harry Truman said 'the buck stops with you,” Obama said Friday in an exclusive interview with ABC7’s Scott Thuman. “Now, my understanding is that Mr. Romney attested to the SEC multiple times that he was the chairman, CEO and president of Bain Capital and I think most Americans figure if you’re the chairman, CEO and president of a company that you are responsible for what that company does. Ultimately I think Mr. Romney is going to have to answer those questions. If he aspires to be the president, one of the things you learn is, you’re ultimately responsible for the conduct of your operations.”
Peter Alexander gave Romney a chance to clarify exactly when he left the firm. The former governor echoed the statement his campaign released when the claim first surfaced:
“In February of 1999, I left Bain Capital and left all management authority and responsibility for the firm. I had no ongoing activity or involvement in affairs at Bain Capital, because I went out to run the Olympics," Romney said. "The president’s campaign has been outrageous in making the kinds of charges. I think the kinds of attacks are beneath the dignity of the presidency. I think the president needs to rein in his campaign and start talking about the real issues people care about, which relate to the economy.”
Alexander then asked Romney to again confirm that he hadn’t participated in a single meeting or decision, because according to the Salt Lake Tribune, he didn’t say he was leaving Bain until 2001.
“I don’t recall a single meeting or a single participation in an investment decision by Bain or personnel decision," Romney said. "I left the firm, I was full-time running the Olympics in 2002 and the years leading up to it.”
The timing of Romney’s Bain departure is important because if he did indeed leave in February of 1999, it would mean he’s not responsible for all the Bain Capital companies that laid off workers or went bankrupt after that time.
Romney also responded to the Obama campaign and Bill Clinton’s renewed call for him to release his tax returns, simply by reaffirming that he won't do it.
He told Peter Alexander, "I put out as much as we’re gonna put out, and it gives people more information than is required by law."
Interesting response from the man whose father promoted, and set the precedent for, politicians practicing full disclosure of tax returns. Finally, Alexander asked the former governor a question that continues to puzzle Americans: why does he have a Swiss bank account?
“The money that I have is managed by a blind trust. Now, you understand that, I hope your reporting will point that out – I don’t manage the money that I have. In order to make sure that I didn’t have a conflict of interest while I was governor, or while I was considering a run for national office, I had a blind trust established. It applies to all the investments made by me," Romney stated.
"Those, the assets held by me are managed by a blind trust and a blind trustee, his name is Brad Malt, he’s the head of a big law firm in Boston, he makes those decisions. And from what I’ve seen now in the financial disclosure statements, which now for the first time show me what the investments have been, the overwhelming majority, like 99.5%, of my investments are in US enterprises.”