A day before Staples founder Tom Stemberg stepped onto the stage at the Republican National Convention to praise Mitt Romney and Bain Capital, Rolling Stone released an article purporting to tell "the true story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital."
The article, by Matt Taibbi, suggested that the "incredible untold story of the 2012 election so far is that Romney's run has been a shimmering pearl of perfect political hypocrisy, which he's somehow managed to keep hidden, even with thousands of cameras following his every move."
The hypocrisy at the heart of Romney centers on debt, Taibbi wrote. His article, which appeared in magazine issues on newsstands Friday, accused Romney of "borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back," and said that by making debt the centerpiece of his campaign, Romney was making a calculated bluff, placing his bet on the "rank incompetence of the American press corps."
"A takeover artist all his life, Romney is now trying to take over America itself. And if his own history is any guide, we'll all end up paying for the acquisition," Taibbi wrote.
Private equity firms aren't necessarily evil by definition, Taibbi said, but Romney works business like a gangster, taking over a company, running up giant debts on the company's credit line and then torching the business and collecting the insurance money.
In another Rolling Stone article, this one by Tim Dickinson, the magazine said that the "legend" of Bain Capital Romney talks about is "basically a lie." The article goes on to accuse Romney of engineering a federal bailout that "screwed the FDIC" out of at least $10 million.
While the Rolling Stone story stands to gain steam, the Romney campaign went on the Bain offensive during the final night of the Republican National Convention Thursday, releasing a series of new videos from people whose businesses were impacted by the company, launching a new website and putting Tom Stemberg, the founder of Staples, front and center at the convention.
"For me, as a founder (Staples) was the realization of a dream," Stemberg said. "So you can imagine my dismay, when I see this White House and their campaign demonizing Mitt Romney. Demonizing Bain Capital. Demonizing the private equity industry that created so many new jobs. Over and over again: Fiction. Half truths. Down-right lies. You have to ask yourself: why would an administration that can't create any jobs demonize someone who did? I've got a theory. I think when it comes to jobs, new businesses, and economic growth — they just don't get it. They say that Mitt Romney is out of touch with ordinary Americans. They just don't get it."
The Obama campaign will say that Bain Capital was a form of "vampire capitalism," where they would drain the blood of a company and move on, Stemberg said.
"Where were they when Mitt stayed with Staples for 15 years — long after Bain Capital had sold its stock?" Stemberg asked. "Where were they when Bain Capital helped start Steel Dynamics, when most people had given up on the American steel industry? Eighteen years later that company employees 6,000 people. But this administration, they just don't get it."
The new Romney website, titled, "Romney's "Sterling Business Career" — a compliment voiced by former President Bill Clinton — highlights a number of businesses Romney was involved with, including Staples, Steel Dynamics, Alliance Laundry, Bain & Co., Brookstone, Wesley Jessen, GoCom and GT Bicycles. It includes a description of each company and a testimonial from current or former employees.
"When you look at today how Bain's being treated in the media, it's really unfair," said Michael Anthony, a former Brookstone CEO. "Bain takes risks, and not all risks are going to work. Not all risks that you take work, but more did than didn't, and I'm part of one that did."
Mike Haynes, former CEO of GT Bicycles, said that the people he worked with at Bain were honest and working with them was a good experience for his company.
"When Bain came in we had basically whatever line of credit we needed," Haynes said. "We didn't need to worry about that that so much anymore. They were great partners and they kind of recognized that we were an innovative company and they let us really kind of run. The guys do their homework at Bain."