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BY: Michael Isikoff – National Investigative Correspondent for NBC
A pro-Gingrich “super PAC” is planning to air a blistering new attack video in South Carolina on Mitt Romney, depicting the GOP presidential front-runner as a corporate “raider” whose firm “destroyed the dreams of thousands of Americans” by buying up companies and firing its workers.
The film, titled “King of Bain: When Mitt Romney Came to Town,” — was made by a former Romney advertising adviser. Its contents mirror attacks that have been made for months by political surrogates of President Barack Obama on Romney’s years as the chief officer of the Bain Capital investment firm.
“For the first time, this film will show what Bain Capital actually did,” said Rick Tyler, a senior adviser to Winning Our Future, a pro-Gingrich super PAC that acquired the rights to the movie on Friday. The super PAC is posting a two-minute trailer from the 27-minute film on a website Saturday.
“They targeted companies … they raided them … and thousands of workers lost their jobs. This is not capitalism. This is predatory,” Tyler said.
Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for the Romney campaign, responded Saturday: “It’s puzzling to see Speaker Gingrich and his supporters continue their attacks on free enterprise. This is the type of criticism we’ve come to expect from President Obama and his left-wing allies at MoveOn.org. Unlike President Obama and Speaker Gingrich, Mitt Romney spent his career in business and knows what it will take to turn around our nation’s bad economy.”
The pro-Gingrich super PAC’s plans to air excerpts from the movie in South Carolina represents a major escalation in the war of rival super PACs that is shaping the GOP race.
The slickly made movie focuses on Romney’s years as the chief officer of Bain Capital, featuring interviews with workers who allegedly lost their jobs — and had their homes foreclosed — as a result of the firm’s corporate buyouts.
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“Then we have this company that comes in and destroys everything that we ever worked for,” says one woman talking about Bain Capital’s closure of plants run by American Pad & Paper Company in Florida. “He took away our livelihoods. He took away our future.”
Interspersed are shots of Romney saying “corporations are people, my friend,” a photo of Romney’s “$12 million California beach house” and a photo of a smiling Romney in a business suit having his shoes polished on an airplane runway.
In a sense, the hard-hitting ad is political payback. Gingrich saw his support in Iowa cut in half — from a front-running 26 percent in early December to a disappointing fourth-place finish with 13 percent in this week’s caucuses — after a three-week ad blitz by a pro-Romney super PAC that attacked him for ethics violations and political flip-flops.
Gingrich lashed out at Romney for not stopping the ads and initially vowed to run a “positive” campaign, saying he would disown any political supporters that ran negative ads. But after watching his campaign derailed, Gingrich has sharpened his own attacks — and Tyler, a former Gingrich spokesman who says he is taking his “cue” from his candidate, now says his group needs to “define” Romney.
“I think the voters will find this information very useful in making their decision and I think that’s a positive thing,” Tyler added when asked if we was now engaged in negative attacks. Unlike the “falsehoods” in the Romney super PAC attacks on Gingrich, the Bain Capital movie is “airtight, I’ve got all the documentation,” he said.
The movie was made by Jason Killian Meath, a former associate in the firm of Stu Stevens, Romney’s longtime chief ad man. Meath worked on ads for Romney’s campaign in 2008. (Meith did not respond to a request for email comment Saturday.)
As first reported Friday night by Peter Boyer of The Daily Beast, the movie was commissioned by Barry Bennett, a conservative activist who heads Alliance for America’s Future, a group whose principals include Mary Cheney, a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, and which does not disclose its donors.
A former associate of Meith, who asked for anonymity, said he was baffled by the ad man’s role in making the movie especially because, he said, Meith had previously expressed an interest in working on Romney’s 2012 campaign. “I have no idea what happened here,” said the former associate.
Boyer reported that Winning Our Future, the Gingrich super PAC, won a bidding war for rights to the movie on Friday, outbidding a super PAC associated with Jon Huntsman. Tyler said he did not directly “broker” the deal, but confirmed that Winning Our Future plans a major advertising buy in South Carolina to run 30-second excerpts from the movie.
But Tyler said he wants voters in New Hampshire — where Romney is the prohibitive front-runner — to see it as well. “I’m trying to save the people of New Hampshire from being embarrassed,” Tyler said. “When they see this movie, and see what a predator Romney is, they’re going to be embarrassed” for backing him.
Tyler declined to discuss where the Gingrich super PAC came up with the funds to buy its South Carolina ad spots. (Like other super PACs, which can take unlimited funds from wealthy donors and corporations, Winning Our Future is not required to disclose its contributors until the end of this month, after the early primaries are over.) But several political sources say that the super PAC has been in regular talks with Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire Las Vegas casino magnate. Adelson has been the principal financial backer of Gingrich in recent years, having pumped more than $7 million into Gingrich’s main political organization.