At times it’s been lost in the billowing dust resulting from the Battle For Glenn Kessler’s Soul, but the entire conversation over whether or not Romney was Bain Capital CEO from 1999-2002 is only important insofar as it relates to outsourcing. Romney’s tried to argue that since he wasn’t CEO of Bain Capital when the private equity firm did most of its investments in outsourcing, he shouldn’t be held responsible. As most of us have since been convinced, this is bullshit — twice over. But the focus has been largely on the first claim (that he wasn’t CEO) rather than the second (that he did not finance outsourcing operations).
Well, here comes Mother Jones‘ David Corn and Nick Baumann to inform us that — surprise, surprise — Romney most certainly did put his money behind outsourcing:
In March 1999, shortly after Romney left Bain to take over the troubled Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Brookside Capital Investors Inc., a Bain-related entity wholly owned by Romney, filed a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission that listed dozens of companies in which Brookside held a stake the previous quarter. The roster included investments in Singapore-based Flextronics International ($13 million) and Florida-headquartered Jabil Circuit Inc. ($41 million), two companies that were leaders in the fast-growing field of outsourcing electronics manufacturing and offshoring production to low-wage countries. Together, these two investments represented almost 10 percent of Brookside’s $559 million portfolio.
And remember how much outrage Republicans expressed over the Obama campaign’s describing Romney as an outsourcing “pioneer?” I suppose a motivated fact-checker could find ’cause, still, to find that claim outrageous after reading the following. But I doubt most the rest of us will:
Michael Marks, the American chairman and CEO of Flextronics at the time, was an outsourcing trailblazer and booster. “It is increasingly clear that outsourcing of electronics manufacturing is gaining momentum and acceptance in the world,” he declared in early 1999, noting that electronics firms “continue to divest [manufacturing] facilities.” Though Flextronics had operations in the United States, one of its key manufacturing facilities was in China—where it operated a 450,000-square-foot industrial hub.
A 1998 Flextronics prospectus reported: “We plan to significantly expand our industrial parks in China, Hungary and Mexico, and we recently purchased an 88-acre site in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where we plan to establish a new industrial park.” It also noted, “[O]ur growth is driven by the accelerating pace at which leading [electronics companies] are adopting outsourcing as a core business strategy.” Its key clients, it stated, were 3Com, Cisco, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and Philips.
In a profile in Chief Executive magazine, Marks dismissed concern about shipping US jobs overseas. “Outsourcing is good for America,” he insisted. The magazine crowned him the king of electronics outsourcing: “Marks, more than anyone else, is responsible for the outsourcing trend in the tech industry.” And Romney had provided him capital for his efforts.
Yes, Flextronics had other backers; Romney wasn’t the sole reason this “outsourcing trailblazer and booster” enjoyed such great success. But for the GOP to argue that Mitt had nothing to do with the boom in outsourcing over the past 15 years is now, inarguably, absurd.