WOLFEBORO, N.H. (AP) — President Brack Obama is keeping up a drumbeat of scepticism over Mitt Romney’s insistence — displayed in a blitz of TV interviews — that he stepped down from his private equity firm years earlier than federal records indicate.Obama planned another day of campaigning in Virginia on Saturday, a state he won in 2008 but before that last supported a Democratic presidential nominee in 1964. Advisers said he would remind voters of the discrepancies between Securities and Exchange Commission filings and Romney’s recollection of his role at the Boston-based firm.
The strategy follows calls by Democrats — and some Republicans — for Romney to release tax returns going back several years. Romney has said anew that he won’t go beyond releasing his 2010 tax records and, before the election, his 2011 taxes.
“You can never satisfy the opposition research team of the Obama organisation,” Romney told CBS on Friday. In the same round of interviews in which he defended his account of his role at Bain, Romney said Obama owed him an apology for a top aide’s suggestion that the SEC filings, if false, could bring a felony charge.
“This is simply beneath the dignity of the presidency of the United States,” Romney told ABC.
It wasn’t just Obama, though, pushing the presumptive Republican nominee to put the issue of his tax returns to rest.
“There is no whining in politics,” chided John Weaver, a veteran Republican strategist. “Stop demanding an apology, release your tax returns.”
Romney seemed unlikely to find any contrition from the Obama campaign — a spokesman said there would be no apology — as the president’s aides dug in on a storyline they see as a win for them.
The precise role Romney played at Bain between 1999 and 2001 raises questions about his credibility and whether he was in charge when Bain was sending American jobs overseas during that period.
At stake is Romney’s key argument that as a former businessman, he has the experience necessary to create jobs and spur a struggling economy. The Obama campaign has countered that Romney, in fact, ran a firm that pioneered job outsourcing and that his experience is that of an investor.
SEC documents have surfaced showing that Romney was listed as in charge of the Boston-based company from 1999 to 2001, the period in which Bain outsourced jobs and ran companies that fell into bankruptcy. Romney says he was at the head of the company as it transitioned to new ownership but did not manage it.
Obama said the questions raised in numerous media reports and highlighted by his own campaign aides were a legitimate part of the race for the White House.
“Ultimately, I think, Mr. Romney is going to have to answer those questions because if he aspires to being president, one of the things you learn is you’re ultimately responsible for the conduct of your operations,” Obama said in an interview with WJLA-TV in Virginia.
Romney called that “Chicago-style politics at its worst” and accused the president and his campaign of trying to shift attention from the persistently sluggish economy and unemployment of 8 per cent or higher for more than 40 months.
In trying to put the matter behind him and return the campaign to his economic arguments, Romney declared he had “no role whatsoever in the management” of the company after he left to take over the Salt Lake City Olympic games in early 1999.
Romney acknowledged that he would have benefited financially from Bain’s operations even after he left management of the firm to others. That could open him up to criticism that he gained from investment in companies that sent jobs overseas.
“All of the investors participate in the success or failure of various investments, just like you do as a shareholder of an enterprise,” Romney told CBS.
Bain Capital issued a statement earlier saying that Romney “remained the sole stockholder for a time while formal ownership was being documented and transferred to the group of partners who took over management of the firm in 1999.”
Obama aides went to work to raise doubts about that, as well.
“I don’t think it takes three years to clear up a technicality or a clerical error,” spokesman Ben LaBolt told Univision.
Kuhnhenn reported from Hampton Roads, Va. Associated Press writer Stephen Braun in Washington contributed to this report.
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