Book: Staples CEO and Founder Gave Romney Idea for RomneyCare

Mitt Romney at Staples

Mitt Romney at Staples

Tom Stemberg, the co-founder and former CEO of Staples, has been on the stump for Mitt Romney, telling Fox News last week that “[Romney] was the inspirational leader and while Staples may have existed without him, I doubt it would have been nearly as big or successful without him.”

But without Stemberg, it’s doubtful RomneyCare (and therefore ObamaCare) would have happened at all, a new book reveals. According to The Real Romney, released earlier this month, Stemberg is credited with coming up with the idea:

… Stemberg decided to challenge his comrade to think big. “We were talking about a bunch of stuff,” Stemberg recalled. “I said, ‘Mitt, if you really want to do a service to the people of Massachusetts, you should find a way of getting health care coverage to them.'” (263)

Romney was initially doubtful of the feasibility of what would become RomneyCare, but Stemberg was persistent, telling him, “You can find a way.” “The next thing I know, [Romney’s] hard at work, actually trying to do it,” Stemberg later recalled. “He called to tell me I gave him the idea.” (264)

Mitt Romney has trumpeted his involvement with Bain Capital and its investment in Staples, the office supply chain. Bain invested a total $650,000 to help Staples open its first store in Brighton, MA in May 1986. In total, Bain invested $2.5 million and when the company went public, the company reaped $13 million. To be sure, that’s a big success, but it was one of the smallest deals that Romney ever did, according to a new book,The Real Romney by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman. Romney sat on the board for about sixteen years. Stemberg isn’t bothered by Romney’s decision taking credit for the 10,000s of jobs created by Staples.

“Why not give him credit for every job ever created at Staples? One could argue that he was instrumental in Staples both getting started and, more importantly, being successful. It goes both ways.” (140-141)

It is obvious why Staples and much of corporate America would support an individual mandate that offloaded the cost of health care from their balance sheets to their employees’ pocketbooks. Wal-Mart, for instance, supported ObamaCare because they saw the offloading of health care on individuals or local governments.

But it less than clear why Romney thought it was a good idea politically. After all, at around the same time that he announced his plans to change health care in Massachusetts, Senator Ted Kennedy, Romney’s former rival, jumped onboard to give Romney cover from the Democrats. “We’re basically stalemated [in Washington], so that the states are going to have to try to come up with a response,” Kennedy predicted. Romney had provided Kennedy with an advanced copy of theop-ed he planned to release in The Boston Globe detailing what would become RomneyCare. (265)

Romney had backed an individual mandate plan designed by Sen. John Chaffee of Rhode Island in 1994 when running against Ted Kennedy for the U.S. Senate.