Obama campaign attacks Romney's record as Bain Capital executive

WASHINGTON—The Obama campaign Monday unleashed its first ad attacking Mitt Romney’s record as Bain Capital executive, in which laid off steel workers in Missouri painted him as a callous “vampire” and “job destroyer” who is out of touch with the average working person.

The two-minute ad—to begin running in the key battleground states of Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Virginia—is coupled with a six-minute video featuring the story of GST Steel, a 105-year-old steel mill in Kansas City, Missouri that Bain purchased in 1993, saddled with debt, and shuttered eight years later after Romney and his partners reaped handsome profits. As a result, the ad said, 750 workers lost their jobs, health insurance, severance pay, even pensions.

“When their ledgers weren’t balanced, it wasn’t hard to see who got the short end,” said David Foster, lead negotiator for the workers of GST Steel who stars in the ad campaign, during a conference call with reporters. “They didn’t care about the folks who actually built things and made GST what it was in the first place.”

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The Obama campaign today also launched a new website, RomneyEconomics.com, to highlight Romney’s business philosophy focusing on wealth—not job—creation, a key message the president’s supporters hope will hamper Romney’s ability to tout his business experience as the reason he should be elected president amid economic turmoil.

Romney often repeated the hard-to-confirm claim during the Republican primaries that he helped create 100,000 jobs during his tenure at Bain.

The website features other companies that suffered under Bain management and breaks down the business practices, which the Obama campaign deems questionable, used by Romney and his partners.

Romney’s history at Bain shows that he is not about strengthening the middle class, but about creating wealth for himself, his partners and his investors, said Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s deputy campaign manager, on a conference call with reporters. It is telling of the kinds of values he would have as president, and calls into question whether voters should elect someone like Romney to the Oval Office, she said.

“The bottom line here is that GST workers really lost out, and Romney and his partners did not,” Cutter said. “Romney economics is not a prescription for a stronger country.”

The Romney campaign fired back by criticizing the president’s economic record, attacking him for using stimulus money to “reward wealthy campaign donors with taxpayer money for bad ideas like Solyndra,” said Andrea Saul, a Romney spokeswoman.

“If the Obama administration was less concerned about pleasing their wealthy donors and more concerned about creating jobs, America would be much better off,” Saul said.

The Romney campaign also pointed out that the bankruptcy and layoffs at GST Steel occurred after Romney left Bain Capital in 1999 to run the Salt Lake City Olympics. Romney has said he took “personal responsibility for making the investment” in GST Steel but not for managing the company.

Asked by a reporter whether it was fair to hold Romney responsible for the bankruptcy when he was no longer at the company, Cutter responded, “He set this in motion. It was his structure that put this in place. He was still making profits.”

Foster added that Romney’s most “grievous sin” was “walking away from the misery that he cost so many people.”

Joe Soptic, a former GST Steel worker who lost his job after 21 years when Bain closed the plant, accused Romney and his partners of cutting corners to save costs. As a safety observer, he said on the conference call, “I felt like I was going to war every day,” fighting for safety goggles and respirators. He likened the mill to a “sweat shop” for the eight years Bain managed it, with employees working 16 hour days because retirees were not replaced.

“It seemed like they would do anything to keep costs low and profits high,” Soptic said. “All they were concerned about was money.”

The ad also paints the now familiar theme that the Obama campaign has used to set the president apart, by focusing on Romney’s concern for the wealthy instead of the average worker, a message Obama supporters hope will resonate with middle-class voters.

“I think there will be a debate about what vision makes the most sense for the future of this country, and the president certainly believes that one that is focused on making sure everybody gets a fair shot and a fair shake, everybody plays by the same set of rules is one that is preferable and has a far better chance of succeeding than an approach that is basically—that says to the middle class, you’re on your own,” said Jay Carney, Obama press secretary, in response to a reporter’s question about the Bain ad aboard Air Force One en route to New York for the president to deliver the commencement address at Barnard College.