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Published: Wednesday, 7/18/2012

Editorial

Don't complain -- explain

There are more important issues for the presidential contenders to address than what Republican nominee Mitt Romney did at Bain Capital more than a decade ago or how much money he has made since then. If Mr. Romney truly wants to shift the debate to other matters, as he says, he can defuse the questions about his leadership of the private-equity firm he founded and about his personal wealth by addressing them forthrightly rather than continue to talk around them.

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His appearance in Bowling Green today would be a good place to start.

At a town hall meeting in Cincinnati on Monday, President Obama repeated his now-familiar charge that Mr. Romney shipped American jobs to other countries when he ran Bain Capital. The President's campaign also accuses Mr. Romney of a lack of candor in describing when he ceded control of the company.

Mr. Romney says he cannot be held responsible for a Bain-owned steel plant that went bankrupt in 2001, claiming he had no active operating role at Bain Capital after 1999. But the Boston Globe, citing corporate documents filed by Bain with the Securities and Exchange Commission, reported that Mr. Romney remained chief executive of the company through 2002.

The GOP candidate has offered several hair-splitting attempts to resolve this apparent discrepancy, reminiscent of Bill Clinton's deconstruction of the word "is." He has demanded that Mr. Obama apologize for campaign ads attacking Mr. Romney's alleged outsourcing and accuses the President of having a worse record on the issue.

None of these attempts to change the subject suffices. If Mr. Romney can produce documents from Bain that show clearly when he left the company, he should do so. If he can't or won't, he has no room to complain if the questions, about outsourcing as well as his corporate chronology, persist.

Mr. Romney continues to make similar problems for himself with his refusal to make public his federal income tax returns. He has released his return for 2010 and pledges to do the same for his 2011 return. But he insists he won't release returns for previous years, including when he was CEO of Bain.

That is less disclosure than any other recent presidential nominee, of either party, has made. Critics raise dark suspicions about his use of foreign accounts and tax shelters to avoid paying taxes.

Again, Mr. Romney could dispel these questions by releasing his returns. His failure to do so raises legitimate questions about what he doesn't want voters to know about his finances.

Both President Obama and Mr. Romney are spending a lot of time campaigning in Ohio, including the Toledo area. That's understandable, because our state is likely to determine the outcome of the presidential election.

After he attends a private fund-raiser today at the Toledo Club, Mr. Romney is scheduled to preside over a town hall meeting this afternoon in Bowling Green. As he seeks Ohio voters' support in November, he is more likely to win it by leveling with them now.



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