President Obama's election campaign is defending claims that rival Mitt Romney "outsourced" jobs as head of Bain Capital. The campaign has written a letter to Factcheck.org, which accused the campaign of making false statements about Romney's record.
The Obama campaign has been running ads in several important swing states accusing Romney of laying off workers in the United States and replacing them with workers in other countries. The ads also call Romney an "outsourcer" and "corporate raider."
"But," Robert Farley and Eugene Kiely wrote Friday for Factcheck.org, "some of the claims in the ads are untrue, and others are thinly supported."
The ads show direct quotes from a June 21 Washington Post article which said that Bain Capital, the venture capitalist firm Romney founded, invested in companies that moved jobs overseas.
Last week, officials with the Romney campaign held a private meeting with Washington Post editors asking them to retract the story. The Washington Post refused their request, but its own fact checker, Glenn Kessler, wrote that the Obama campaign ads misrepresent what The Washington Post wrote about Bain Capital.
"There is little in the Post article that backs up the Obama campaign's spin," Kessler wrote.
The Romney campaign had two main complaints, which are posted online here. First, the companies cited by The Washington Post were not replacing American workers with foreign workers, they were adding jobs overseas at the same time they were adding American workers. The companies were expanding overseas operations, not replacing American jobs. And second, Romney was not overseeing Bain Capital during some of the activities mentioned in the article. He had left the company in 1999 to lead the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Farley and Kiely largely agreed with the Romney campaign's complaints in their fact check. Though, in the case of one company, Holson Burnes, they say the situation is too complicated to tell whether or not jobs were sent overseas under Bain Capital. It did outsource the manufacturing of picture frames, but the company was already outsourcing before Bain bought Holson Burnes.
Farley and Kiely also noted the Obama campaign's incorrect use of the terms "outsourcing" and "corporate raider." In the business world, both of these terms have specific meanings and Obama is using them incorrectly, they wrote.
Obama recently mocked Romney for saying there is a difference between outsourcing and off-shoring.
Romney said "there's actually a difference between 'outsourcing' and 'off-shoring.' That's what they said. You cannot make this stuff up," Obama said at a campaign stop as the audience laughed.
"Well," Farley and Kiely wrote, "there is a difference between outsourcing and off-shoring" (emphasis in original).
Outsourcing is when a company gets services from another company, such as photocopying or public relations. Those services can be from a company in the United States or "off-shore" (outside the country).
Additionally, a "corporate raider" is one who engages in a hostile takeover of a publicly traded company. Bain Capital only worked with private companies with the consent of those companies. So Romney could not accurately be described as a "corporate raider."
In her letter to Farley and Kiely, Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for the Obama campaign, mostly addressed the issue of when Romney left Bain Capital.
"There is one particular 'fact,'" Cutter wrote, "that you cite repeatedly that is not a fact at all, not by any fair reading of the record, and yet it appears to be central to your position."
Cutter points to news interviews with Romney, his personal lawyer and his wife, Ann Romney, from 1999 and 2000 in which they said he would continue to provide input for Bain Capital while working for the Olympics. Cutter also notes that Romney did not give up full control of Bain Capital until 2001 and continued to receive a salary until then.
Cutter asked Farley and Kiely to revise their article in light of this information. At the time of this article's publication, no revisions had been made.
While some Democrats have been critical of the Obama campaign's attacks on Romney's business record, the ads may be resonating in the swing states where they have been shown.
Recent polls show Obama doing better than expected in some key swing states. Plus, strategists from both camps believe the ads are working, according to New York Times reporters Jim Rutenberg and Jeff Zeleny.
"Despite doubts among some Democrats about the wisdom of attacking Mr. Romney's business career, Obama commercials painting him as a ruthless executive who pursued profits at the expense of jobs are starting to make an impact on some undecided voters, according to strategists from both sides, who differ on whether they are causing any substantial damage," they wrote Saturday.