Axelrod Tongue-Tied Over Bain Hypocrisy

Even the liberal Andrea Mitchell confused over Bain donors good; Bain candidates bad

Senior Obama adviser David Axelrod struggled to defend the Obama campaign’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital in a Monday interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell.

Mitchell challenged Axelrod on the campaign’s willingness to accept donations from Wall Street fundraisers.

Axelrod argued that "not every deal is like" the cases the campaign has attacked in their ads, but said the campaign does not vet its Wall Street donors.

AXELROD: People admire success; they understand that their businesses succeed, businesses fail. But what they don't like is when people at the top walk away with enormous riches and people down the line are left holding the bag.

MITCHELL: Then why do you take money from them? Why does the campaign have fundraisers at hedge fund—

AXELROD: Because not every deal is like that deal. Not every investor operates that way. Not every investor as in the case of Ampad, which we've talked about today, files for bankruptcy, loads a company with debt, files for bankruptcy, makes $100 million on a $5 million investment and then stiffs their creditors 99 cents who are left.

MITCHELL: So do you vet your contributors so you’re not taking money from any Wall Street or hedge-fund guys who actually have been involved in bad deals?

AXELROD: No, because there's only one guy who's running for president of the United States and offering this as his credential to be president. We're having a fundamental debate about how we build the economy. Mitt Romney thinks the economy was fine in the last decade and wants to go back to those is policies--tax breaks for the wealthy, letting Wall Street write its own rules. That’s his economic prescription. And his business theory, his economic theory was reflected in some of these deals. That may work well for him—and he's been very good at making money for himself and for his partners—but the question is, is that good for the American economy? Is it good for the middle class? We're going to continue to prosecute that case.

Among the Obama campaign’s Wall Street donors is Jonathan Lavine, a Bain Capital managing director and the managing partner and chief investment officer of Sankaty Advisors, one of two hedge funds at Bain Capital; Lavine has raised more than $220,000 for the Obama campaign.

Lavine, unlike Romney, was still at the company when GST Steel—the subject of a recent Obama campaign ad—declared bankruptcy in 2001.

The Obama campaign released a second ad attacking Romney’s Bain record Monday, about the 2000 bankruptcy of American Pad & Paper. Lavine was a Bain managing director during this time; Romney, however, had left the company in 1999 to manage the 2000 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Although Romney has outraised Obama among Bain executives, 71 percent of overall Bain money this cycle has gone to Democrats.

The Obama campaign is under pressure for the ad campaign after campaign surrogate and Newark Mayor Cory Booker called the attacks on private equity "nauseating."