Democrats highlight Bain at convention

Former Bain Capital portfolio company employees lashed out at Mitt Romney and Bain Capital in remarks at the convention, blaming the firm for lay-offs and bankruptcies.

Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital was back in the spotlight at the Democratic National Convention Wednesday night. 

Three former employees of the private equity firm’s portfolio companies formally addressed the Charlotte, North Carolina convention in a series of statements that described their experiences at Bain-owned businesses. The remarks, though brief, were decidedly negative in their depiction of Bain and Romney, who was characterised as being out of touch with the plight of laid-off workers. 

“When Romney and Bain took over the mill, they loaded it up with millions in debt—and within months, they used some of that borrowed money to pay themselves millions. Within a decade, the debt kept growing and was so large the company was forced into bankruptcy,” said former GST Steel employee David Foster. “They fired 750 steelworkers while they pocketed $12 million in profit. A steelworker at GST Steel would have had to work 240 years to make $12 million.”

Those comments were reflected by Cindy Hewitt, who had worked at Dade Behring, and Randy Johnson, formerly of Ampad. 

“Of course I understand that some companies are successful and others are not—that’s the way our economy works,” Hewitt said. “But it’s wrong when dedicated, productive employees feel the pain while folks like Mitt Romney make profits.”

The presence of former Bain portfolio company employees at the convention was unsurprising. President Barack Obama’s campaign and political action committees dedicated to his reelection have hammered at Romney’s history with the firm in recent months, focusing specifically on investments in which employees were laid off or companies that filed bankruptcy. The attacks rely heavily on testimonials from former portfolio company employees, echoing former Senator Ted Kennedy’s strategy in defeating Romney’s bid for the Senate in 1994. 

Romney founded Bain in 1984 and led the firm through 1999, when he left to manage the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. 

Bain Capital issued a statement in relation to the speeches: “Bain Capital grows companies and improves their operations. It is disappointing to watch the distortion of our record and the political hyperbole that often occurs during campaigns. We are extremely proud of our employees and management teams who have grown over 80 percent of the more than 350 companies in which we have invested over 28 years.”

The firm declined to comment beyond that statement. 

Romney was aggressive in his defense of the firm in his speech at the Republican National Convention last week. While he conceded that some of Bain’s investments had failed, he held up the firm’s successful investments in Staples, The Sports Authority and Steel Dynamics as examples of private equity’s ability to build companies and create jobs. 

The Democratic and Republican conventions are held for the purpose of officially designating candidates as nominees for the presidency. The Republican National Convention was held in Tampa, Florida.