By ALEXANDER BURNS|
3/16/12 6:19 AM EDT
The Times takes a look this morning at Bain Capital’s role in expanding Chinese government surveillance programs, in another instance of the private equity fund linking Mitt Romney – however indirectly – to some politically undesirable activities:
In December, a Bain-run fund in which a Romney family blind trust has holdings purchased the video surveillance division of a Chinese company that claims to be the largest supplier to the government’s Safe Cities program, a highly advanced monitoring system that allows the authorities to watch over university campuses, hospitals, mosques and movie theaters from centralized command posts.
The Bain-owned company, Uniview Technologies, produces what it calls “infrared antiriot” cameras and software that enable police officials in different jurisdictions to share images in real time through the Internet. Previous projects have included an emergency command center in Tibet that “provides a solid foundation for the maintenance of social stability and the protection of people’s peaceful life,” according to Uniview’s Web site. …
Mr. Romney has had no role in Bain’s operations since 1999 and had no say over the investment in China. But the fortunes of Bain and Mr. Romney are still closely tied.
The financial disclosure forms Mr. Romney filed last August show that a blind trust in the name of his wife, Ann Romney, held a relatively small stake of between $100,000 and $250,000 in the Bain Capital Asia fund that purchased Uniview.
In a statement, R. Bradford Malt, who manages the Romneys’ trusts, noted that he had put trust assets into the fund before it bought Uniview. He said that the Romneys had no role in guiding their investments. He also said he had no control over the Asian fund’s choice of investments.
One of the key questions about Romney’s Bain record has always been over what span of time he’ll be treated as accountable for the company’s operations. Democrats would like that window to extend to the present, since Romney continues to draw substantial income from the company. Romney has emphasized that he hasn’t been tied to Bain’s day to day business in quite some time. The debate will play out in the general election, and the Times story is a reminder of why the stakes for Romney’s campaign will be considerable.