Spotlight on Bain, Obama’s billion, and immigration madness

By Steven Brill
January 3, 2012

1. Bain in the spotlight:

Private equity firms like to be, uh, private. With the exception of mega-firms like Blackstone, Carlyle and KKR, we rarely read about them, and even in those cases the ink is typically confined to the business pages. However, as it become increasingly likely that the founder of Bain Capital is going to be the Republican presidential nominee, a bright spotlight is likely to turn on Bain.

A smart story about Bain — which is one of the most successful, hardest driving firms in the industry — would start with the culture and business strategies Romney tried to instill as its founder. What kind of reputation did the firm have (and does it now have) for how it behaves at the deal table? Is its handshake good? Does it push too hard, or not hard enough? Are there certain types of businesses that it has avoided for strategic or civic reasons, such as tobacco companies? Did it and does it have any distinctive characteristics when it comes to minority hiring, treatment of women, and  charitable, civic or public service activities? (I’m thinking about that because of Romney’s own record, he says, of tithing 10% of his annual income.)

Does Bain have any especially aggressive policies with regard to tax avoidance or labor relations when it comes to the companies it controls? Are there any issues related to the sources of its funds, such as taking money from sovereign funds of rogue countries? Have any limited partner investors ever sued? If so, for what? (I doubt this is a sore spot, because from what I’ve heard its results have been good and its investors happy.)

And what businesses does it now own that could present conflicts for a President Romney if he still holds an interest in those investments? One would be the giant Clear Channel radio station chain, which perpetually faces regulatory issues.

Finally, how many Bain partners are listed on the 2008 lists of John McCain and Barack Obama contributors, not to mention the 2012 lists of the current candidates?

I recently was at a lunch with a small group that included two Bain partners, and when I tried to make small talk about Romney, they seemed uncomfortable and quickly changed the subject. Yet two others I know tell me he is not only highly competent but a terrific guy. Someone ought to ferret that out.

2.   Obama’s fundraising:

Speaking of the campaign, am I the only one who has a sense that the talk of President Obama’s “billion dollar” war chest is just talk? Someone ought to see whether, despite the fundraising advantage enjoyed by any White House incumbent, Obama might be having trouble raising anywhere close to that, even including funds from the super-PACSs lined up behind him, such as the one started with much fanfare by former Obama deputy press secretary Bill Burton.

For example, can’t one of the legions of reporters covering the 2012 race get to George Soros or some of those close to him to provide the scoop on whether his big money is going to flow again? Or, why not call twenty or thirty people at random on the publicly-available lists of those who maxed out in Obama contributions last time to take their temperature?  (The public files, by the way, also include home or office addresses, so getting phone numbers shouldn’t be that difficult.) Last time Obama enjoyed lots of support from the private equity community along Route 128 and in Greenwich, Manhattan, and Silicon Valley. With one of their own likely to be the Republican nominee–rather than someone they might view as a scary, out-of-it right winger–isn’t this source of Obama funds likely to dry up?

A sidebar to this story should include a sketch of the ambassadorships and other goodies, or lack thereof, awarded to Obama 2008’s biggest contributors and bundlers.

3. The immigration reform that seems  a no-brainer but never happens:

In a recent CNN interview Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt referred to a U.S. immigration policy that, he said, “is madness.” It’s our policy of allowing foreigners to get first class college and graduate educations here but then insisting that they must leave the country once they graduate. Why have someone from India or China get trained at MIT or Stanford, both of which receive huge amounts of federal tax dollar support, and then make them go home to compete with us rather invite them to stay and become part of our brain pool and our next generation of immigrant entrepreneurs?

This does, indeed, seem like a no-brainer. So, can someone please do a story explaining which special interest groups and which people in the Congress under their sway have blocked this reform? New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who calls the current policy “national suicide,” has said the United States should attach a green card to every single advanced degree awarded to any person with a student visa. Who’s against that and why?

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally in Marion, Iowa January 2, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

While Reuters may “…welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data…”, when this particular blogger habitually lets comments build from one to over fifty over a period of days the interplay between posts is totally lost. Frequently that interplay is more mentally stimulating than the original blogger’s material.

In this case the direct result was that a big percentage of comments offered the same information…that 67%+ of foreign nations receiving an advanced degree from a U.S. institution DO stay here. Someone is being just plain lazy.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

The no-brainer is the reality that this country cannot continue to receive a never-ending flow of people, legal or otherwise. Not only do we currently have a high rate of unemployment but some of our major cities are running out of resources. In Texas, for example, we have water restrictions, and in the summer the threats of rolling (electrical) blackouts. More people equals more expansion, more wear and tear on our streets and highways, more demands on utility services, more demands for oil for which we already sell our souls. We are also losing our own culture and heritage as we seem to have an over-abundance of people who want to live in America but don’t want to be Americans.

Posted by vayanse | Report as abusive