WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney adviser Ed Gillespie said Sunday that the candidate "retired retroactively" from his job at Bain Capital, which Romney maintains that he left in 1999 despite evidence suggesting he remained involved with the company until 2002.
Gillespie said Romney may have been listed as "part-time" after 1999, but that he had no role in the firm's day-to-day affairs, a point the campaign has attempted to make repeatedly in order to separate him from Bain's activity related to outsourcing during that period. Romney has said he left the company completely in 1999 when he started working to plan the 2002 Winter Olympics.
"There may have been a thought at the time that [Romney's Bain work] could be part-time. It was not part-time. The Olympics was in a shambles," Gillespie told Candy Crowley on CNN's "State of the Union."
"He took a leave of absence and in fact, Candy, ended up not going back at all and retired retroactively to February 1999 as a result," Gillespie said.
Romney's involvement at Bain came under renewed scrutiny last week after additional reports surfaced revealing that he was listed as the CEO, president and chairman of the firm long after he had previously stated. He has insisted that he had nothing to do with Bain after 1999 in response to questions about its activities at the time, including investing in companies that sent jobs overseas.
Gillespie said President Barack Obama was hoping to shift the conversation away from the economy, and that it was working.
"It's sad to see," he said. "We now know that this president will say or do anything to keep the highest office in the land, even if it means demeaning the highest office in the land."
Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter said last week that Romney was misrepresenting his Bain tenure, which she suggested could be a felony.
Gillespie rejected those charges, laughing as he told Crowley that Romney was forced to respond to questions about Bain -- in five network interviews on Friday alone -- because of the statement that he may have committed a felony.
"We wanted to get to the issue at hand, which is the economy and jobs ... but there were questions that Governor Romney wanted to address to make sure people understood that he's not a felon," Gillespie said.
"That's what this campaign on the Obama side was reduced to. It's sad to see, and I think Americans now know you've got these baseless charges on moving jobs overseas, which independent fact-checkers have said are not true, they're indeed a lie, and then a completely reckless and unfounded allegation of criminal activity."
Romney told federal authorities in Aug. 2011 financial disclosure documents that he had "retired from Bain Capital on February 11, 1999 to head the Salt Lake Organizing Committee [for the 2002 Winter Olympics]. Since February 11, 1999, Mr. Romney has not had any active role with any Bain Capital entity and has not been involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way."
There's evidence, though, that he was still listed as one of two managing members at a Bain Capital entity much later, including on a filing form from 2002, and that he attended board meetings, signed documents and received a six-figure salary.
Gillespie said Romney couldn't have been involved in Bain during his time working on the Olympics, because it was "a 16-hour-a-day job."
"He was not involved in the day-to-day decisions. He wouldn't have had time," Gillespie said. "He left a life he loved to go to Salt Lake City to save the Olympics for the country he loves more, and somehow Chicago, in classic Chicago-style politics, the Obama campaign is trying to make this something sinister. It's not. It's patriotic and it's leadership."
Obama indicated this weekend that he won't be dropping the attacks on Bain.
"I don't want a pioneer in outsourcing," he said Saturday at a rally in Glen Allen, Va. "I want some in-sourcing. I want to bring companies back."
Obama adviser David Axelrod, also appearing on "State on the Union," said the Bain attacks won't be going away. He said the issue of Romney's tenure is important because of Bain's outsourcing record, and called on the firm to release board minutes if it hoped to show Romney was not involved in decision-making.
"We do know that he said he had no involvement with any of the entities that Bain was involved in, and yet he came back for board meetings for ... a couple of those entities," Axelrod said. "The larger point, Candy, is he was in charge when they bought these firms whose principal mission was to facilitate outsourcing and offshoring."