Who's Lying? Obama, Romney and the Bain Debate

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Can someone legally own a company and yet be fully divorced from its activities?

That's the central question in parsing the debate between Team Obama and Team Romney over "lies" about the business career of the former Bain Capital CEO.

Romney's answer is yes. Obama's answer is no. And each side accuses the other of lying.

On paper, Mitt Romney remained the firm's "sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president" until 2002. That is a fact, according to public filings with the SEC reported today by the Boston Globe.

Romney left Bain Capital to run the Salt Lake City Olympics in 1999 but did not finalize his severance agreement until 2002. So the filings show that he remained legally in charge during that three year period.

But Romney insists he did not have any active role or involvement in the company during that time. Essentially he owned the company on paper, but in legally binding documents says he had no say in its business dealings.

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The Romney campaign points to a signed, sworn statement by Romney on his presidential financial disclosure form: "Since February 11, 1999, Mr. Romney has not had any active role with any Bain Capital entity and has not been involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way."

They also note this statement from Bain Capital: "Mitt Romney retired from Bain Capital in February 1999. He has had no involvement in the management or investment activities of Bain Capital, or with any of its portfolio companies, since that time."

Democrats say it defies common sense that someone who technically owned Bain Capital could have no say whatsoever in its investment activities and operations.

But, as fact checkers note , Team Obama does not provide any specific evidence to back up claims that Romney was actively managing Bain between 1999 and 2002.

If they had, Romney could be liable for felony charges in court for lying in sworn statements.