Mitt Romney's candidacy, and his willingness to just sit back for a month and let the Obama administration tee off on his record without much of a response, has well and nigh turned "Bain" into a "four-letter word." (So much so that there was that whole thing about the villain in the latest Batman movie being some sort of interlocking piece of the overall anti-Romney narrative.) One problem for the Obama administration, I guess, is that "Bain alumni" are everywhere, including -- hold on to your hats! -- the Obama administration.
The problem here for reporters covering this is that they're finding it hard to keep all of these "Bain" concepts separated. That shows up in today's big deal, from the Washington Examiner:
Obama picked Jeff Zients to lead the OMB earlier this year, as the attacks on Romney’s Bain Capital career were heating up in the Republican Primary. Zients worked at Bain and Company from 1988-1990, as The Washington Examiner first reported, although his White House biography made no mention of the fact. (Update: Zients’ White House bio now mentions that he worked at Bain, but the biography distributed to reporters when he was picked did not.)
Now Zients will be joined by another former Bain employee, as Obama appointed Boris Bershteyn to lead the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Bershteyn’s White House biography, like that of Zients before him, also makes no mention of the Bain connection.
Let's sort of get a few things clear:
Bain and Company: This was a management consulting firm that Mitt Romney worked for from 1977 to 1984. He did an excellent job there! So much so that he was approached by Bill Bain to head up a spin-off company called...
Bain Capital: This is the private equity investment firm that's become the flashpoint for all this election-year criticism.
Bane: This is the aforementioned villain from the 2012 Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises."
Now, all the stuff that's been piled up in front of the Romney campaign with the attendant accusations of "vulture capitalism" and "OMG you killed this lady, with cancer" has to do with Romney's work at Bain Capital. No one, as far as I know, has a problem with what Romney was doing at Bain and Company. Some people have problems with the stuff that Bane from the Batman movie was doing, but he is a fictional character, and so he probably won't impact the long-term policy trajectory of the country.
So, just to summarize, there was a Bain guy (Zients) who has been at the Office of Management and Budget, and now there is another Bain guy (Bershteyn) who is at the OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. However, both Zients and Bershteyn worked for Bain and Company, not Bain Capital.
Now, the White House may -- or may not! -- be strategically downplaying its connections to "Bain," because who knows, the entire election may hinge on swing voters who visit the biography pages of obscure government bureaucrats. If so, they are not doing a pretty good or consistent job at covering all of this stuff up, if that's their master plan. Sure, though, it is possible that with Bershteyn now in the administration's fold, someone made the political decision to keep from mentioning "Bain" in his bio.
But, here's a fun fact! Whoever makes these decisions about biography pages on websites nevertheless decided to keep this detail in Bershteyn's bio: "Before joining OMB, he was a litigator at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom, LLP." Skadden, Arps LLP is one of the king-daddy lobbyist outfits in the political world. Per Open Secrets:
Skadden, Arps et al, an international law firm, is perhaps best known politically in the United States for its lobbying arm, and as a clearinghouse for donors to the Democratic Party. Lobbyists working for Skadden, Arps represent some of the largest political players outside of elected office, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and U.S. Steel. And it’s the firm’s individual employees, as well as their immediate family members, who come out in droves for Democrats. Together, they routinely help the firm rank at the top of the lawyers and lobbyists industry in terms of campaign contributions. Though the firm’s political action committee has remained dormant recently, individual donors associated with Skadden, Arps have given hundreds of thousands to Democratic candidates and committees during the past 20 years.
So, maybe once everyone is done jumping up and down and waving their arms over the whole Bain irony, we can just note that no one's actually all that embarrassed about openly announcing the extent to which virtually every political appointment is plucked from some constantly churning favor-trading system.
Memo to journalists: I've heard tell that the Secretary of the Treasury himself was plucked from the Wall Street-friendly New York Federal Reserve. But I can't reveal anything more! I am in way too deep!
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