How Bain Capital enriches Obama's base
Thursday , August 30, 2012 - 3:12 PM
As Democrats convene Monday in Charlotte, N.C., they likely will double down on their claim that Bain Capital is really the Bain crime family. They will accuse Republican nominee Mitt Romney and Bain’s other "greedy" co-founders of stealing their winnings, evading taxes and lighting cigars with $100 bills on their yachts. But Democrats will ignore this inconvenient truth: Bain’s private-equity executives have enriched dozens of organizations and millions of individuals in the Democratic base — including some who scream most loudly for President Barack Obama’s re-election.
Government-worker pension funds are the chief beneficiaries of Bain’s economic stewardship. New York-based Preqin uses public documents, news accounts and Freedom of Information requests to track private-equity holdings. Since 2000, Preqin reports, the following funds have entrusted some $1.56 billion to Bain:
• Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund ($2.2 million)
• Indiana Public Retirement System ($39.3 million)
• Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System ($177.1 million)
• Los Angeles Fire and Police Pension System ($19.5 million)
• Maryland State Retirement and Pension System ($117.5 million)
• Public Employees’ Retirement System of Nevada ($20.3 million)
• State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio ($767.3 million)
• Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System ($231.5 million)
• Employees’ Retirement System of Rhode Island ($25 million)
• San Diego County Employees Retirement Association ($23.5 million)
• Teacher Retirement System of Texas ($122.5 million)
• Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System ($15 million)
These pension funds aggregate the savings of millions of unionized teachers, social workers, public-health personnel and first responders. Many of them would be startled to learn that their nest eggs, or even their current pensions, are incubated by the company that Romney launched and the financiers he hired.
Leading universities have profited from Bain’s expertise. According to Infrastructure Investor, Bain Capital Ventures Fund I (launched in 2001) managed wealth for "endowments and foundations such as Columbia, Princeton and Yale universities." The Wall Street Journal’s James Freeman noted July 18 that Harvard "has also invested with Bain."
Thus, Michelle and Barack Obama’s undergraduate campuses (Princeton and Columbia, respectively) and the university where they earned their law degrees (Harvard) all have enjoyed Bain Capital’s financial prowess.
According to BuyOuts magazine and S&P Capital IQ, Bain’s other college clients have included Cornell, Emory, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Notre Dame and the University of Pittsburgh. Preqin reports that the following schools have placed at least $424.6 million with Bain Capital between 1998 and 2008:
• Purdue University ($15.9 million)
• University of California ($225.7 million)
• University of Michigan ($130 million)
• University of Virginia ($20 million)
• University of Washington ($33 million)
Major, center-left foundations and cultural establishments also have seen their prospects brighten, thanks to Bain Capital. According to the aforementioned sources, such Bain clients have included the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Doris Duke Foundation, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Ford Foundation, the Heinz Endowments and the Oprah Winfrey Foundation.
Why on Earth would government-union leaders, university presidents and foundation chiefs let a company with Bain Capital’s reputation oversee their precious assets?
"The scrutiny generated by a heated election year matters less than the performance the portfolio generates to the fund," California State Teachers’ Retirement System spokesman Ricardo Duran said in the Aug. 12 Boston Globe. CalSTRS has pumped some $1.25 billion into Bain. Since 1988, Duran says, private-equity companies like Bain have outperformed every other asset class to which CalSTRS has allocated the cash of its 856,360 largely unionized members.
So, what really is Bain’s reputation? Is it a gang of corporate buccaneers who plundered their ill-gotten gains by outsourcing, euthanizing feeble portfolio companies and giving cancer to the spouses of those whom they fired? If so, union bosses, government retirees, liberal foundations and elite universities — including the Obamas’ — thrive on the wages of Bain’s economic Darwinism.
If, however, these institutions relish the yields that Bain Capital generates by supporting start-ups and rescuing distressed companies, 80 percent of which have prospered, then this money is honest — and Team Obama isn’t.
Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with Stanford University’s Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace. Email Deroy.Murdock@gmail.com. New York financier Brett A. Shisler contributed research for this piece