In a video made public today, but recorded sometime in the summer of 1985, Mitt Romney explains in frank terms how his then newly-minted private equity firm planned on making money.
"Bain Capital is an investment partnership which was formed to invest in startup companies and ongoing companies, then to take an active hand in managing them and hopefully, five to eight years later, to harvest them at a significant profit," Romney tells employees of Bain & Company, the consulting firm that spawned the new venture.
The clip, which was given to Mother Jones by a former Bain employee, comes off a 1998 CD-ROM released to commemorate the parent company's 25th anniversary.
Romney's campaign staked itself early on to a simple argument: Success in the private sector economy and, by definition, an understanding of how jobs are "created," made Romney the best person to steer the country out of its economic malaise.
Campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg defended Romney's record at Bain, saying in an email today that the candidate "helped build Bain Capital by turning around broken companies, creating and saving thousands of jobs. The problem today is that President Obama hasn't been able to turn around our economy in the same way."
But the president's campaign has for months argued that Romney actions at Bain showed a cold-blooded disregard for American workers, either by outsourcing jobs as companies were being restructured or simply selling off failing investments.
"If you're head of a large equity firm or hedge fund, your job is to make money. It's not to create jobs. It's not even to create successful businesses. It's to make sure you're maximizing returns for your investor," President Obama said during an interview with CBS in July, seeking to create a divide between Romney's private success and his potential to manage public economic policy.
Romney faced similar criticism during the Republican primary debates, when Texas Gov. Rick Perry accused Bain of engaging in "vulture capitalism."
Romney countered then, claiming that, "net-net," the firm had actually added more than 100,000 jobs over more than 25 years.
"There's a steel company called Steel Dynamics in Indiana, thousands of jobs there," Romney said. "Bright Horizons Children's Centers, about 15,000 jobs there; Sports Authority, about 15,000 jobs there, Staples alone, 90,000 employed. That's a business that we helped start from the ground up."
Fact-checkers have cast some doubt on those figures, noting that Romney doesn't account for jobs lost when companies went bust, but Bain's tangled web of interests and investments makes it almost impossible to calculate a defining statistic.