Obama: A Man Named Tony
Obama caught heat in November 2006 for some supposedly shady real-estate transactions he made with an actually shady guy. In 2005, Obama paid $1.65 million for his current home — $300,000 less than the asking price. On the same day, the wife of Antoin "Tony" Rezko — a politically connected fund-raiser and slumlord, who was under investigation for influence peddling at the time — bought the adjacent parcel of undeveloped land from the same owner for the asking price. (The owner had required that both lots be sold at the same time.) A year later, Obama bought a slice of Rezko’s land for $104,500 to expand his yard. While it might carry the whiff of genuine corruption, there’s been no proof of it to date. “Of course, there's just one problem with the scandal (Baragate? Obamawater?): No one is seriously accusing Obama of any wrongdoing,” Conor Clarke wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times. "The accusation bar for titans like Obama is low," he continues, "and a more slippery charge is readily available: Obama has created the appearance of having done something wrong." Obama has defended his actions, saying they were "aboveboard," but admits that even creating the perception of shady deals with Rezko was "boneheaded." But the Rezko issue won’t go away — there have since been suggestions that Obama, as a state senator, pushed one of Rezko’s real-estate projects as a favor, and represented him in his real-estate dealings. "From the start, Obama's approach to the Rezko situation has been to minimize and avoid, as if it would eventually just go away," wrote Mark Brown in the Chicago Sun-Times. "It won't."
Romney: Bain Capital
If you read Mitt Romney's books or any profile on him, a lot is made of his time as the head of Bain Capital. It's where he made his fortune. It's where he gets all this "I've been in the business sector" and "I know how to create jobs because I did just that at Bain Capital" stuff. But there's a darker side to private equity — the buying up of companies in order to saddle them with debt or break them apart, earning the investors millions and destroying the company and the lives of its (former) employees. At least seven companies that Bain Capital bought or invested in, mostly during the nineties when Romney was there, went bankrupt despite generating profits of over half a billion dollars for the fund. Several thousand people lost their jobs in the process. What's more, some of those companies were actually successful before Bain Capital showed up. American Pad and Paper, GST Steel, DDI Corp the list goes on and on. This history of layoffs — at odds with Romney's "I've created jobs" mantra — was partly what helped sink his 1994 bid for Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. Responding to a question from NBC's Brian Williams, Romney said: "We tried to make these businesses more successful. By the way, they didn't all work. When it was all said and done, we added tens of thousands of jobs to the businesses we helped support." There were success stories, to be sure, particularly office-supply chain Staples and Indiana-based Steel Dynamics. But Romney’s rhetoric ignores the fact that private-equity companies like Bain are better known for destroying jobs than for creating them.