A political action committee backing Republican Newt Gingrich, whose presidential campaign has been hurt by 30-second attack ads, is spending almost 30 minutes targeting rival Mitt Romney’s record in the private sector.
The trailer for the documentary posted on a website calls Romney a “corporate raider” and says he’s just like others on Wall Street motivated by greed. The documentary, funded by Winning Our Future, takes aim at Romney’s argument that he should be the Republican presidential nominee because he created jobs in the private sector and can turn the U.S. economy around. A senior adviser to the PAC, Rick Tyler, said the documentary will run in South Carolina, though no date has been scheduled.
“Mitt Romney is not a capitalist,” Tyler said. “He is a predatory corporate mugger. If you ever wonder why so many manufacturing jobs are overseas, you need to look no further than Mitt Romney. He can claim thousands of jobs created, only those jobs were created in Mexico and Southeast Asia.”
Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Romney, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Clash at Debate
Gingrich and Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, clashed over the documentary at today’s candidates’ debate in Concord, New Hampshire. Enhancing the PAC’s ability to run the documentary is a $5 million donation the group received from longtime Gingrich backer Sheldon Adelson as it tries to play the same role for the former U.S. House speaker that the pro-Romney Restore Our Future PAC undertook before the Iowa caucuses: go after the poll leader.
“Somebody’s got to take Romney down,” said Tobe Berkovitz, a communication professor at Boston University. “Romney has so far been pretty adept at dodging the attacks during the debates. Now there just isn’t a choice for these other Republican candidates.”
The Adelson donation to Winning Our Future was confirmed earlier today, on condition of anonymity, by a person close to the chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corp.
Republican political consultant Eddie Mahe, who isn’t aligned with any candidate, said the Adelson donation would enable the pro-Gingrich forces to run the film time and time again in South Carolina, the next stop for the Republican contest after the Jan. 10 New Hampshire primary.
‘Saturate South Carolina’
“They can buy prime time with that kind of money on every station in South Carolina two or three times,” Mahe said. “Clearly, they have the financial capacity to saturate South Carolina and maybe even tough Florida.”
A Gingrich spokesman, R.C. Hammond, said he couldn’t confirm the Adelson donation, though he said it would help close the fundraising gap with Romney.
“It certainly helps balance the weight on one side,” Hammond said.
Through Jan. 5, Romney and the Restore Our Future PAC spent an estimated $3.7 million, according to New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG. Gingrich and Winning Our Future spent $628,640.
In December, 45 percent of all ads airing in Iowa criticized Gingrich. After leading opinion polls from mid-November to mid-December, he finished fourth in Iowa.
During today’s debate, Gingrich insisted that his side was engaging in “fact-based campaigns” while ads aired by Romney’s side distorted his record. Gingrich said “yes” on Jan. 3 when asked by CBS if he was calling Romney a liar. In addition, Tyler has said Romney’s actions were predatory.
Gingrich said he hadn’t seen the film, though there have been reports on job losses after Romney’s firm, Bain Capital LLC, bought and restructured companies. For example, Bain cut at least 1,600 jobs at Dade Behring Inc., a Deerfield, Illinois-based medical-testing company.
“I do think the rhetoric, Mr. Speaker, I think was a little over-the-top,” Romney said during the debate.
“You think my rhetoric was over-the-top, but your ads were totally reasonable?” Gingrich responded. “That’s what I don’t understand.”
Gingrich later said, “I hope that the super PAC runs an accurate movie about Bain. It will be based on establishment newspapers, like the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Barron’s, Bloomberg News. And I hope that it’s totally accurate and then people can watch the 27-and-a-half minutes of his career at Bain and decide for themselves.”
‘Story of Greed’
The almost three-minute trailer, now on a Winning Our Future website, kingofbain.com, calls the documentary “a story of greed” and includes interviews with people who worked at companies taken over by Bain.
The documentary was made by Jason Meath, president for advertising and advocacy for Xenophon Strategies, a public relations and advertising firm. Previously, Meath was a partner with the political consultancy Stevens & Schriefer Group, which worked for Romney during his 2008 presidential primary campaign.
Tyler said the PAC bought the film from Meath.
“Wall Street’s corporate raiders made billions of dollars,” the narrator says. “This film is about one such raider and his firm.” The film said Romney took seed money from Latin America and “began a pattern of exploiting dozens of American businesses.”
Berkovitz said that the late Senator Edward Kennedy used similar arguments against Romney during their 1994 Senate race, which the Democratic incumbent won.
“It is a reprise of what Kennedy used to beat Romney in Massachusetts,” Berkovitz said. “Romney has gotten much more adept at parrying these types of attacks. He’s been pretty good during the debates answering the charge that he’s a corporate raider and a cutback guy.”
For Gingrich, the documentary ends his pledge to run a positive campaign, said Rogan Kersh, associate dean at New York University’s Wagner School.
“This is the umpteenth case of a presidential candidate promising to remain above the fray and run a positive campaign, then turning viciously negative once the poll numbers start to break the wrong way,” Kersh said.
Adelson, the $5 million donor to Winning Our Future, has been a longtime financial backer of Gingrich. He was the biggest donor to Gingrich’s former political committee, American Solutions for Winning the Future, contributing $7 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group. He already gave the maximum $2,500 to Gingrich’s presidential campaign.
Adelson has made more than $350,000 in political donations since Jan. 1, 2007, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. He was a financial backer of the last two Republican presidential nominees, George W. Bush and John McCain, and also contributed to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 campaign for the White House.