How Did Romney's '10,000' Jobs Become '100,000'?

Saturday, at the GOP debate, Romney claimed that his company and those Bain & Co. invested in had helped create 100,000 net new jobs.

That figure was contradicted by a figure of 10,000 jobs Romney had previously given in his 1994 attempt at unseating Ted Kennedy.

In June 1994, Romney ran the following ad.

“Mitt Romney has spent his life building more than 20 businesses and helping to create more than 10,000 jobs,” says a narrator. “So when it comes to creating jobs, he’s not just talk. He’s done it. . . . Doesn’t it make sense for us to have a senator with real-world experience?” (“Romney ads key economic expertise; But rival says TV campaign is thin on details,” The Boston Globe, June 15, 1994).

It’s a theme he repeated to David Nyhan of the Boston Globe in a June interview. “[Romney] says he created 10,000 jobs,” Nyhan wrote. (“To Mitt, it’s a vision thing,” David Nyhan, The Boston Globe June 22, 1994).

And Romney repeated it again in another ad that his campaign ran in September 1994.

“The private investigators Ted Kennedy hired to dig up dirt got it wrong. The companies Mitt Romney ran provide generous health care benefits to all their employees and have helped create over 10,000 new jobs. But Kennedy’s in big trouble — so now he’s stooping to twisted attacks — distortions — already called ‘sleazy.’ Ted Kennedy is trying to destroy Mitt Romney even though Kennedy’s never held a job in the real world. After 32 years, the last thing he can talk about is change.” (MASSACHUSETTS: TED HITS ROMNEY ON MORMON RACIAL POLICIES The Hotline September 28, 1994)

Now, in 2012, he and his surrogates are claiming that he created 100,000 net jobs.

So when did that happen?

Romney retired from Bain in 1999, so it’s plausible that it happened in between 1994 and 1999, though it is unlikely. More likely, Romney just counted all of the jobs created by companies that Bain had been associated with.

Eric Fehrnstrom, the longtime Romney spokesman, sent a list of jobs added at three companies in which Bain had invested, saying that these three examples alone created over 100,000 jobs: Staples, which had 89,000 employees as of Dec. 31, 2010; The Sports Authority, which had 15,000 employees as of July 2011; and Domino’s, which has added 7,900 jobs since 1999. That’s hardly the sort of rigorous analysis that Romney had suggested in the presidential debate last night, though it is better than Obama’s jobs created or saved rhetoric. A call to Romney’s press office was not returned.

In any event, Romney’s record at Staples, which he has highlighted, was assailed by Ted Kennedy in their 1994 battle royale for the Massachusetts U.S. Senate seat:

Standing in front of a Brighton branch of Staples, an office supply store in which Romney’s venture capital firm invested, he said Sen. Kennedy’s lacked knowledge of the private sector. “I appreciate Ted Kennedy’s years of service, but I don’t think he has a clue to how to create jobs,” Romney said.

Rick Gureghian, Kennedy’s campaign press spokesman, countered that the jobs Romney has help to create at Staples are low-paying entry-level jobs that provide no health benefits.

“Mitt Romney is pocketing millions of dollars creating service-industry, $ 4.50-an-hour parttime jobs that do not pay health insurance. And Mitt Romney thinks that’s something to brag about?” Gureghian said. (Romney pushes business theme;CAMPAIGN ROUNDUP 94 The Boston Globe September 16, 1994)

Kennedy’s surrogate, U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, attacked Bain for being a “white boy’s club,” and noted that there were no blacks or Hispanics that worked there. Romney dumbly replied that of Bain Capital’s 40 employees, none are black, none are Hispanic and two or three are Asian-American. Expect to hear this attack again, only this time made from the first black president. Kennedy ran a devastating ad against Mitt Romney, where one of the lines was as follows: “In business, [Romney] made $11 million in two years while his largest company provided no health insurance to many workers.”

Kennedy made Romney’s business record front and center of the campaign, too. He pointed to the then- ongoing strike at a plant in Marion, Indiana. The plant, owned by Ampad Corp., a firm controlled by Bain, immediately cut wages and benefits when Bain bought the plant in July 1994. Kennedy repeatedly suggested that Romney put “profits over people.”

And in a way, he’s right. Like any CEO, the purpose of Romney’s stint at Bain wasn’t to employ more people, but to make a profit for Bain’s shareholders. Staples, which he frequently mentions on the campaign trail, returned $13 million on a $2 million investment while Ampad yielded more than $100 million on $5 million, according to reports to investors,” The Boston Globe reported in 2008.

You can also expect to hear the Democrats recycle the attack ad that they used against Romney in 1994 when they pointed out that Romney’s Bain & Co. financed one of its deals through Drexel Burnham Lambert which was a major Wall Street investment firm that was forced into bankruptcy in February 1990 over the illegal activities of its junk-bond trading employee, Michael Milken. Milken, who was indicted on 98 counts of racketeering and securities fraud, went to jail, but not after making over a billion in just four years, a then-record sum.

Still another attack that Kennedy waged against Romney was the sketchy provenance of the seed money for Bain Capital, some of which came from financial backers who supported the right-wing death squads in El Salvador. (This attack was recycled in 2008 by the Daily Kos.)

In November 1994, despite running even with Kennedy, Romney lost by more than fifteen points. Romney, when asked, expressed dismay about how nasty Kennedy has made the race. He told the Boston Globe:

“I wouldn’t say [I harbor] ill will, but I was surprised he went as negative on my character and I was very surprised he brought up my church. I was surprised he went after my business record with such variance with the facts.”

Romney said his most costly mistake in the campaign was his failure to respond quickly and convincingly to Kennedy’s TV attack ads linking the GOP challenger to a divisive strike at a Marion, Ind., plant controlled by Bain Capital.

“I never thought I would be taken to task for something I didn’t know anything about,” Romney said, noting he had taken a leave of absence as head of Bain when the venture capital firm took a controlling interest in Ampad Corp., which owns the striking plant.

“It left in the minds of voters I was a bad guy, a corporate downsizer and raider, and I should have responded more vehemently,” Romney said. “I am a big boy and I know how politics is played. But I thought it would play more to the facts.” (“Romney says he’d mull a run against Kerry,” The Boston Globe November 23, 1994.)

Will Romney be prepared for a facts-free campaign led by David Axelrod? Time will tell.